What I say to Encourage a Rider Struggling with Confidence in the Saddle After An Injury

Hey there friend,

If you were curious, it’s not just show folks who work with me. Sure, I coach competitive reiners, barrel racers, cow horse folks… But that’s not all there is to the horse world, is it?

There’s a lot of folks struggling with fear, who feel embarrassed about feeling fearful and anxious. They may have been in the horse world for decades, even, when the fear gremlin comes a knockin’. 

Imagine this: 

You can’t wait to see your horse!

You practically skip to their pen, and your horse greets you at the gate. 

You hold out the halter and your horse dips their nose in the halter; eager to work with you. 

You lead them back and groom them. Carefully currying their muscles, and brushing till the shine comes out in their coat.

You confidently tack up and swing your leg into the saddle. 

You take off and feel peaceful as you walk, jog, and lope around. 

Your heart swells with satisfaction as you finish your ride and unsaddle. You pat your horse on their neck, and scratch their mane. Your horse nuzzles into you, and you sigh out. Pleased with the bond you have with your horse, and the progress you made today. 

You can’t stop smiling as you head home for the rest of your day. 

This is the dream. We want to feel happy, safe, and connected with our horse. 

And it’s totally possible. 

But if this isn’t you (yet!) that’s ok. I’ve worked with folks whose heart started pounding when they went on their porch, and they couldn’t even handle haltering their horse. Folks who couldn’t even imagine loping-but who were paralyzed by guilt and shame. 

(Know I will never shame any of my clients. I am literally always SO PROUD of them for being so brave and courageous to tackle their fear head on!)

If your feelings came from an injury, know it's totally normal to feel shaken up after an injury, especially when it comes to riding. You're not alone in this, and there's absolutely no shame in needing a bit of a confidence boost. 

I get a lot of DMs about this, and I wanted to share the number one thing I share with folks who reach out for help with fear around working with their horse. 

First and foremost, recognize the courage it takes to even think about getting back in the saddle. That's a huge step in itself. You're brave, and that bravery is a powerful foundation to build on.

Ok, so what’s the number one thing I tell everyone who’s struggling with fear and horses? ⤵️

the best football GIF by SportsManias

Start Small and Celebrate Every Win

Seriously, start small. No. smaller.

No. Even smaller than that!! 

If you don’t feel a little embarrassed by how small the step is-it’s not small enough. 

What does this look like in action? It means for example, on Day 1 you pick up your horse’s halter. 

Day 2 you walk to the gate. 

Day 3 you open the gate and step inside. 

Day 4 you walk up to your horse. 

Day 5 you halter your horse. 

Day 6 you walk to the grooming area. 

Day 7 you brush your horse. 

We’re a week in and you haven’t even saddled up or done any ground work. 

I get so much push back when I propose a schedule such as this. “It’s too slow,” “How am I ever gonna get riding if I’m not even attempting to mount up after a week?” 

But with this slow and steady schedule you can be up and confidently riding within a month.

If you DON’T take baby steps, where are you going to be at the end of that month? The time will pass anyway. 

If you don’t take those baby steps you think are beneath you, you’ll be stuck at the gate. Paralyzed by fear. Overcome with shame and guilt. 

Or, you can take those embarrassingly small baby steps and be proud of the crazy progress you’ve made in a month where you’re doing more with your horse than you’ve done in years! Calmly and confidently mounting up and enjoying yourself with your horse. 

Time after time I see the same pattern. Someone is fearful and I coach them to start taking itty bitty action steps. They think it’s too small to make a difference, and push back. 

Then they take a leap of faith and are shocked at the incredible progress they make! 

Let’s go realllll deep on this for a moment. 

Why take 1cm steps? Why not “push yourself out of your comfort zone?” Why not big and grand?

When something is familiar to you, even if something is unhealthy, it can feel comfortable. 

When something is unfamiliar, it can feel uncomfortable even though it’s healthy and good for you. 

So, let’s say your horse is a saint, but you fell off and now you’re afraid to mount up, or ride faster, even though nothing bad is happening at the moment.

Growth is learning to choose differently. Learning to choose what is best for you, even if in the moment it doesn’t feel like it’s best for you. 


Growth GIF

When you make each movement forward just 1cm at a time, you make it a little easier to make a different choice. Instead of being scared and overwhelmed at mounting up, you make it so small, it’s practically comfortable instead of uncomfortable so you can’t help but have success. You don’t have to ride around and win the race today. You just have to brush your horse. You can handle that, right? Of course you can.

And even if it is a little uncomfortable, it’s not too uncomfortable, so you think maybe, just maybe you’ll give it a try. 

It is hard. But this is the work. To choose growth. To choose you. To choose love.  

Don't pressure yourself to get back to where you were immediately. Start with small, manageable goals. Maybe it's just spending time grooming your horse or sitting in the saddle at a standstill. Every small step forward is a victory, so celebrate it!

If you like this, and want me to create more content around handling fear, write me back, and let me know. 😀

You've got this. Your strength and resilience will guide you through, and before you know it, you'll be back to enjoying your rides with the confidence and joy that brought you to the saddle in the first place.

Keep believing in yourself, and take it one step at a time.

Happy Trails,


PS- Prefer to listen instead of read the Newsletter? I got you! The Resilient Reiner Newsletter also comes as a podcast! 🎙️ Tune in to the latest episodes now!

PPS - Ready break down the steps to conquer fear, rebuild confidence, and transform your riding experience. Come join us in RRA to ride and compete with confidence, not self-doubt.  —  Resilient Reiner Academy


or to participate.