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You’re about to go into the canter. Your instructor has asked you to trot to the far side of the arena and then ask for canter in the corner. Your mind races with thoughts:

What if my horse spooks at that bush…

Sometimes he really jumps into canter, I hope he doesn’t do that this time…

Which rein do I need to use again…

How far back should I put my leg…

What if he doesn’t canter right away…

I hope the other rider gets out of the way, because I don’t know if I’ll be able to steer…

What if I lose my balance…

And on and on…

Your stomach starts to feel knotted, your shoulders hunch up…

Then you hear your instructor shout, “stop overthinking this, just ask for canter in the turn!”

We’ve all been there, a skill we know can do or are at least ready to try, but our brain holds us back, analyzing every part of the scenario and sapping the fun right out of it.

How do we get past this overthinking and just get into the feel of riding?

The simple answer is to come into the present, to notice what’s happening now, so that you can react and adjust.

But this is easier said than done.

In today’s video, I’m going to share three tips for getting out of your head and riding better.

Click Below to watch: “Stop overthinking and just ride!” – Tips to Get Out of Your Head


p.s. If this topic resonates with you and you would like to ride with more confidence and less anxiety, then Click Here for more Free Training.


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100 Responses

  1. Great video Callie and some good tips. I am the classic over thinker and get very anxious because my brain is always thinking about what can go wrong, how might she react to something up a head or a noise I can hear etc etc, where should my hand be and on it goes. I am still very much learning how to deal with this as it is holding me back. I will try using these in my lesson tomorrow.

  2. Your voice!!! always calm and reassuring. The biggest difference I have found is going into the arena with purpose, counting, focus on what I’m doing for the next 10 minutes and finishing with both of us feeling positive. I’m novice rider and still quite nervous and you always make it sound like it’s the most natural thing in the world and to just do as you say and it will all be fine. I love it!

    1. Maybe just play our videos in your head as you are riding 🙂 Glad to hear you enjoy the videos!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  3. Thank you Callie! Great advice. It is sometimes very difficult to shut the mind down and feel! I continue to work on this and use my yoga breath to help me.

  4. When I feel myself tense, which is often, I sing a slow Ray Charles blues song. The words can be calming but I think it is really the breathing it takes, the rhythms needed, that gets me over the hump and gets my horse’s ears tilting away from straight up.

  5. Wow….every thought you wrote was me, literally every single line. Unfortunately it took over so much that the fear overcame everything, I sold my horse and all my equipment, just kept my saddle. Now 3 years later, I’m thinking of getting back into it as I do miss those nice rides on a beautiful day. It would be nice to get back to the days when trail riding was a relaxing time…starting to look around for a good affordable coach, not an easy thing. So true abvout the zone, never put that together but I do remember often being bored in the arena doing the same thing over and over, which of course then alloweed my mind to wonder even more. Being often alone I used to bring my Ipod with me to try and concentrate on the music. As usual, great video. Thank you!

    1. Lucie, I hope you do get back in the saddle! Try finding a coach who understands the fear you have been dealing with and has some nice, quiet horses for you to gain some of that confidence back with!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

    1. Nancy, I would recommend writing out a rough ‘plan’ for what exercises you would like to work on each week and then follow the schedule you have written out!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  6. Hi Callie, As usual another great video filled with very helpful suggestions. For me, I improve my riding confidence by riding bareback and playing soccer with my horse! Through this game I’m able to obtain a nice relaxed rhythm in maneuvering the ball. I feel playing with a large soccer ball allows me to practice hand/leg coordination and balance, and I feel it helps supple my horse.

    1. Playing soccer?! How fun, love how you have added rhythm into that game that is beneficial for both of you 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  7. Thanks, Callie! This was a much needed video. I am just starting out and definitely need to get outside of my own head. I have been struggling to get my horse I train on to trot and I am certain he feels me tense up as soon as he starts to get going. Appreciate you and your training videos!

    1. Melissa, I’m happy to hear that this video came at a good time for you 🙂 He is probably picking up on a cue you may not even realize you are giving him!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  8. This is SOOOOO me! I’ve often been accused of thinking too much – “just let go and ride” they say. But I’m the type that needs to understand the biomechanics of what I’m trying to do so I can “reason” my way through problems. To get out of my head, I concentrate on diaphragm breathing and sending that weight into my seat, open and close my hip joints, and just go with the horse. Sometimes I give up steering and simply let him go where he will – concentrating on ME and not him.

    1. Patricia, I think the metronome would be a great tool for you to use!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  9. Hi Callie, I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate your videos. I’m 75 and just started back with lessons. I last rode at 17 and now I’m super critical of myself. I have a wonderful instructor and between your videos and my instructor I’m starting to relax and just enjoy. Thank you for all your time and effort that you put into all these videos. I so appreciate them!

    1. Lorene, that is awesome! I am so happy you found our videos and enjoy them 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  10. This is so me…..i want to get over this and ride….on a good note to u guys I did ride horse out and he did fine until other riders told me to hold horse ditch coming up. Well u can guess what happened I stressed and horse did he did not rear this time going up other side but loped, I turned him a round and we did it correctly 2 times….they kept taking me up more ditches and finally I said no more I will ride the long way, making me too anxious and I have to ride horse 1 he back to ranch….he did fine going back…..thanks for help look forward to learning more…..

    1. Tracey, great – so glad to hear that it went better with him! Saying no to doing something you are not comfortable doing is the right decision if you feel like it is above your skill or comfort level!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  11. I just started riding (second ride) after an accident. Both my horse and I are out of shape, which is a good thing so we can get into shape together, however our accident started at the mounting block. This video is perfect timing as I “over think” at the block instead of just getting on and riding. Thank you so much.

    1. Hi Patricia,

      At least you are both starting back together! We have done a video on standing still at the mounting block you can watch by clicking here.

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  12. I have to laugh, becaue my trainer said more or less this to me last Lesson. “You’re Always thniking are my hands in the right position, am I sitting deeply, are my shoulders square, but just let go and ride” she said!!! Well, I do actally do a mixture of thinking and “only riding”. One thing I LOVE doing on trail rides is to close my eyes, (sometimes feet out of stirrups) and feel the horse’s mouvements. (Of course.. I’m doing this on a safe horse, in a safe place, at a safe time). And I have confidence in the two mares I ride! On tip is to practise being more body and feeling aware in daily life (like brushing your teeth, or eating your meal, or Walking to the car. I learnt this as MINDFULNESS and it is a boon in daily life and carries over to riding.

  13. Thank you for addressing this issue of overthinking. I can relate to what others already said. It is so frustrating and happens to me every time I have a lesson. When I try to hear and understand what my trainer is saying and implement it, I become tense and feel out of control. I can’t focus on her instruction, myself and my horse all at the same time. So what happens is I look like I don’t “get” anything, my horse starts to do her own thing, I sort of freeze, my friend tells me again what to do, my brain can’t translate, and on and on it goes. When I practice what she told me by myself, I usually do fine because I can relax and not worry about it so much. I only have a lesson once or twice a year now since my trainer moved away, and I sure wish I could relax and not cause my her to feel like she is not explaining things well enough, because she is really awesome!

    1. Katrin, are you able to maybe take one private lesson then a group lesson? That way you can practice both? Or perhaps a ‘practice ride’ with one or two other riders to practice your skills with other riders in the ring?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  14. Hi Callie. Lot of things happening in my life as work. I am hoping to get back in to your program as your videos help me a lot. I do find my comfort zone i s walk & trot. Thinking about canter makes me overthink… And out of my comfort zone although I know I CAN. My thoughts then start – what if he bucks, what if I fall off and get hurt Again. I will try to start thinking and focus on positive I can do this. Look forward to next video. Thamks

  15. Thankyou Callie, I remember the days I used to ride without fear, before I turned 60. I think I’m carrying other people’s fear when I ride.o.k. so I don’t bounce well after a fall, I didn’t fall much in the beginning, so I have to trust myself to ride well now withy beautiful new horse..

    1. Diane, Callie talks often about how the learning curve isn’t a perfectly straight line of progress, it has it falls and peaks…you may be in one of those falls until you reach the next level in the skills you are working on!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  16. Thankyou Callie for these helpful 3 tips. Sometimes its so easy to get caught up in overthinking what if this, what if that, then you find yourself doubting or just putting it off all together. So thanks for giving those tips to help focus on when this happens. Enjoyed your explanation as well.

  17. Trail riding gives you a chance to just *be* with the horse without having to *do* something all the time: ride the corner, keep on the rail, etc. etc. Riding over uneven terrain, at the same time, will improve your seat and balance automatically.

  18. Love this video! Thanks for asking to share one of our own tips tip. I find when I’m overthinking, a mantra helps a lot. I repeat it to myself in the horse’s rhythm. There is a lady at my barn — she is 70! — and rides with such calm and grace. I picture her relaxed, vertical back and gentle, deep-looking seat. It sounds silly but I’ve coded this as a mantra to myself: “Bretta’s butt.” I say this to myself to keep my mind from racing. It helps me!

    1. I love the idea of a mantra! She sounds like a great person to base a mantra after as well 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  19. Very timely video! I am an “over thinker” by nature, and this has been exacerbated by the fact that I was thrown by a horse and fractured my L1 vertebrate almost 2 years ago. I was an adult beginning rider with only a year of experience riding at the time. My anxiety is negatively affecting my progress in lessons and my enjoyment of riding. My instructor suggested counting beats, as you mentioned, and that does help. I also repeat my own personal mantra of “I am an athlete” to remind myself that I am not weak for having these feelings. I like any other athlete who has to return from an injury. The recovery isn’t only physical.

    1. Recovery is most definitely not just physical there is a huge mental component that usually takes much longer to heal.

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  20. I love your videos! I am a musician and I love your advice about using a metronome. I do count especially when cantering to get my seat right and it really works. I over think everything so I am going to put your words into action on Wednesday when I go for my ride. Thanks so much

    1. Hope it goes well during your next ride! Let us know if you give the metronome a try 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  21. This is where I am with my riding right now – overcoming fear and trying to get out of my comfort zone, after a few mishaps. Really good information, and I am going to apply it this week. I already shared it with my riding instructor.

    1. Awesome! That is fantastic that you also were able to share with your instructor so that she/he has a better understanding of what you are feeling!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  22. I like (and learned from you, Callie) to time my breathing with the horse’s steps feel calmer.
    Honestly I like the idea of music too. But I think using a metronome app would cause me anxiety because I would never be able to match it with the horses steps and I’d be so busy trying to keep in sync with the beat of the metronome while being out of sync with my horse, lol!

  23. Those are some of the exact thoughts that go through my mind every time I ride! It definitely hampers any progress, takes some of the joy out of riding, and with the sensitivity of horses, I’m sure he feels my tension, hesitancy, and insecurity which in turn diminishes his performance. We owe it to our horses to be the one they look to for support, security, and confidence …to be in the moment with them physically AND mentally. I know I need to work on this. Thank you, Callie, for bringing it to the forefront, and for another excellent video.

    1. Glad you found this video helpful Diana! The first step is just being aware that the horse is picking up on those feelings, it sounds like you are observant of that!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  24. I really find your videos helpful. Thinking too much creates fear. Rhythm is so important and I love the metronome app idea and the awareness of breathing. Thanks! Also, I totally agree with the idea of pushing a little past your comfort zone because you and your horse need challenges that will make you sa better pair and help to alleviate fear.

    1. Happy to hear you enjoyed the video Susan! Great point you made as well in “thinking too much creates fear”…

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  25. Yes, yes , yes to everything. I’m an over thinker and get stressed in lessons because they are so short. I am able to apply my lessons better on the trail, more relaxed, practice my breathing and counting, etc. This is one thing I do with my instructors agreement, whether it is my fault or the horse’s. If my horse is diving into the arena instead of staying on the rail, I don’t fight him if he ignores my aids but direct him into the arena , making his idea mine but on a small circle back to the same spot where we left or close to it, then ride him straight on the rail. It gives me time to settle, keeps him moving and he knows that not staying on the rail doesn’t get him any rest. In the meantime my instructor will give me feedback and if I have to do it more than twice we will switch directions or something else.

  26. I find what has been working for me to lower my stress level when riding is to do patterns. I will try dressage tests or patterns from online or from Cherry Hill and I study it and then work on it with my horse. Sometimes there are a few of us in the arena all doing the same pattern. This helps me stay focused on what I am doing and not what may happen. It is also wonderful for my horse as he is learning to be more supple and learning to stay in rhythm. I start doing the patterns at a walk in both directions and then trot. My biggest fear right now is canter and so for canter, I am adding patterns that have a few strides or one circle of canter so that my horse and I can find a rhythm in canter as well.

    1. Teresa, this is awesome! Great structure for learning for both you and your horse 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

    1. Bridget, that is a great way to maintain rhythm 🙂 What kind of music do you like to listen to while you ride?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  27. I definitely over think all the time and my new horse can read your thoughts – before you even know you are having them so really interested to learn more. Thank you

  28. Thanks Callie, love your videos, I have tried the 1,2 and then 1,2,3, going from the trot to canter transition and find it works really well.

    1. Awesome Judy, really glad to hear you are finding that helpful in your transitions!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  29. At times I find myself concentrating so hard, nearly “trapping” my thoughts and visual focus internally, that I have to sort of “snap out of it”. I find it helps to soften and broaden my visual focus. I have to sort of (figuratively speaking) shake my head and let my eyes “see” past the tiny bubble of concentration I’m in. I literally look up and around more at the fencing and the trees, or the indoor ring rafters or the windows or the woodwork… and try and be more aware of the soft focus in my peripheral vision. Yikes it’s scary sometimes to concentrate so hard I forget to see my own surroundings!

  30. Thank you Callie for these great tips. I’ll try riding with music as it helps to ease my mind so I don’t think so much! Finding my seat will also be on the top of my list. I watched your videos on that as well. Would love to come to any seminars or clinics that you may have in the future. Is there a way I can be notified of them? Thank you so much for everything. Lauri.

    1. So true! And one of my favorite instructors many years ago would just call out to me, “Ride like you’re a kid again!” and it would work for me instantly. That idea can be a great help in overcoming overthinking, and allowing yourself to ride by feel, too! The sense that you can trust your instructor is key, too, I think.

  31. Thank you for this video Callie! I’m excited to see more! I struggle with the “what if’s” and often use music to help relax me while riding. I have a playlist called “quiet ride”…haha! It really does help!

    1. Tammy, music can be a great way to focus on the rhythm instead of those pesky ‘what-if’s’!

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  32. Love all of the CRK videos! They always seem to come to me right when they are needed. 🙂 I try visualizing whatever I’m attempting ahead of time (i.e.: a calm, relaxed transition from trot to canter, walking successfully past a scary thing, me and horse both happy and enjoying our time together, etc.) I also tend to hold my breath, so I’m working on that, as well as releasing any tension I am holding in my body throughout my ride.

    1. Hi Jacquelyn, visualization is a fantastic exercise for rebuilding confidence!

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

    1. Cynthia, no rider is ‘perfect’! Therefore we shouldn’t put that pressure on ourselves 🙂

      Remember to always enjoy the ride!

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  33. Thank you Callie,
    you have made me realise why I like to lead another horse when riding a hot or anxious horse out and why riding with one hand rather than two makes me feel so much more comfortable – Its the fact that I have something else to think about that stops my mind from overthinking all that could go wrong. I am more relaxed and therefore so too is the anxious horse. Staying in the comfort zone too- thanks for reminding me. Really enjoy your videos all the way over here in NZ.

    1. Hi Diana, thanks for sharing with us what works for you! I’m glad to hear you enjoy our videos 🙂

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  34. Focusing on footfalls, particularly the inside rear. Feeling where that foot is helps me feel my horse’s entire body position, and helps me NOT focus so much on his head.

  35. Riding a confident “been there and done that lesson horse” can really build skills, hopefully transferring to my own less experienced horse.

    1. Having the right equine partner is definitely key in rebuilding confidence Brenda!

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  36. Hee hee…”Baby Elephant Walk” (Henry Mancini)…I whistle that for any variations of speed at a walk or trot-it goes up and down well! 🙂
    “Santa Baby”…only with my horses name in there instead of “Santa” as hers is two syllables also…just the tune humming helps for a nice flat walk or a slower trot. If you are singing, humming or whistling-you CAN’T hold your breath! 🙂
    Strauss Waltzes for canter…Just find something that matches your horses natural or desired paces…helps you with your body language too! Anytime I start to feel stressed-I automatically hum, sing or whistle…Seems I can fit most “silly songs” into the rhythm frame of any given gait…helps a lot! And NO-I am NOT a good singer…don’t whistle too badly-but the point is for me that I have to breath-and think of something else besides how paranoid I am at the moment! 🙂 good one Callie-as usual!

  37. Thank you for this, Callie!
    I´ve had a lot of problems loping off on the left lead from the trot. It is my bad side and also my horse’s bad side. Both me and my horse got very stressed when we did not get the correct lead. Lester Buckley’s prase “just throw your heart into a lope” helped me overcome that. I am a very analytical person and an overthinker. I want to understand everything and get erything right and make it look perfect. I noticed that I was kind of afraid of loping on the left lead, because I had less balance there. So you could say my heart was not in the lope, therefore my body could not follow.
    I rode in the roundpen the first few times trying it and just had the reins on the saddle horn. And I just threw my heart out there into the lope. Of course it did not look pretty the first few times, because I was doing way too much with my body. But my horse started to get comfortable with the left lead and he also became a lot calmer when he took the wrong lead. We just tried it again, because he just did what my body was telling him. Even tough I thought I asked for a left lead, my body was doing something else.
    Also I felt less pressured because I quit taking lessons from a trainer that just did not fit for the both of us anymore. I am less critical to myself and I also don’t care what other people think anymore. Therefore I am not emotional with my horse anymore and simply try again when he does not give the answer that I asked for.

  38. A question not about video, but I don’t know where else to ask it – where and when can I sign up for Andrea Wady Clinic?!!!!!!!!
    About video – I did have a trainer, she has passed away, that when she instructed me to do something, even if I had doubts, I had so much faith in her judgement, that I figured if she said do it, I can do it. It always worked and I’ve been some what lost since she passed away.

  39. As wise as ever , Callie. Thank-you.
    I think a big part of this confidence thing is the relationship between pupil and instructor. I am lucky enough to have an instructor who is calm and reassuring and seems to know exacty where that limit to the comfort zone that you were talking about is for me. In the past I’ve had instructors who adopt a hectoring tone which can sap your confidence and I have had instructors that themselves ‘over-think’ things which kind of fills your mind with just too much stuff. My current instructor, Hannah, is moving me on and challenging me at just the right pace – a ‘natural’ teacher. A few weeks back I was riding a fast trot when my horse broke into a canter without any aids. Because I had not planned to do this and think about it beforehand I just went with the flow and suddeny I ‘got’ the canter. What a great moment that was!

  40. I’ve used the one rein stop but learned not to pull too hard or too fast, as you can flip your horse. However, last week I had an incident in which neither technique would hav worked. I’m learning to barrel race ( at 75 LOL!) and last season was in the walk trot class… fun and helpful but I am trying to up my game and enter novice which in our group means we can lope if we wish or intermittently. At a small group trains last week, I was encouraged to lope after turning the last barrel which was going well until my zippered nylon vest caught on the horn and I was pulled well forward onto my mares neck. The reins were too loose to use and as she loped on, I kept creeping up the neck until I finally came off. Fortunately, I was wearing my helmet as I heard a loud “crack” as my head hit the ground…fortunately our barrel racing arena is well maintained and deep enough that I didn’t hit hard ground. I can usually lessen a fall of any kind by doing a tuck and roll which is ingrained in my muscle memory, so all I suffered is a bruised elbow and some bruising on my lower back and was able to remount and try again…at a trot only.
    However, I tried to think of what else I could have done and realized my mare has been trained to respond to breath “commands”. If I raise my breath, she will pick up speed and if
    I breath out long, slow and loudly, she usually slows down and stops. I think I will try this as a training activity at a lope…and… I WILL NEVER WEAR A ZIPPERED ANYTHING LOOSE WHILE RIDING AGAIN. BIG LEARNING CURVE. No wonder cowboy prefer shirts that have snaps!

    1. I’m sorry to read about your accident Chris! I hope you aren’t too sore after that fall!

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  41. Excellent advice,
    Counting has helped me get out of my head .
    Focusing on Rhythm really works for me , and my horse stays interested in the beat!
    Thank you again for your insight!
    Susan Mandell

  42. Thanks for the video again, useful as usual!) I often start to talk with my horse, if I am a bit nervous or have a fear, I just talk to him and it helps cause I believe he understands mostly what I am saying,at least seems like he becomes more relaxed as understands I am addressing to him, moves his ears and I have less thoughts “what if…” ) … not always it works, but still…. Sometimes I just repeat to myself “we can”,”I can do it”, “all is going be alright “…)

  43. Really helpful video (as always) Callie. I seem to overthink much of the time when riding. Especially ‘Are my legs positioned right in rising trot, am I sitting right? etc etc! Funnily enough I dont seem to overthink as much in the canter, probably because I’m concentrating more on keeping my horse going! I have 2 half hour riding school lessons per week which is all finances will allow unfortunately, and I’m so determined to do everything well in that short time, that I get annoyed with myself if I don’t! I will definitely try to do what you advise in the video tomorrow at my lesson, I’m sure it will be very helpful as all your videos are.

  44. Again, very helpful video! I discovered that I have a tendency to get ahead of my horse resulting in her rushing or wanting to transition from rising trot to a canter. Now I hum to the rhythm of her footfalls to keep
    tempo and stay with her.

    1. It is easy to anticipate the movement and it can confuse the trot to canter transitions! Your awareness is the first step to finding a remedy 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

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