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How to Create a Confident Team with Your Horse with Nancy Cahill


Among many other emotions, confidence is a feeling that is crucial to riding, no matter the discipline. Nancy Cahill views having confidence in your horse as “You and your horse, growing towards being a team, with honesty and fairness. To be a good team, you must be able to communicate and trust one another.”

Nancy Cahill is a devoted performance horse trainer from Madisonville, Texas. Although she grew up as your typical horse-crazy kid in South Texas, Nancy’s training philosophy has taken her far in her horse training career. Cahill has released a series of training videos with all her riding tips and tricks. She is the Team U.S.A. AQHYA Youth World Cup Coach of twenty-one years and was awarded the AQHA Professional Horsewoman of the Year. Today, she takes pride in working and showing with clients and friends in the all-around AQHA events.

Three ways to increase your horse’s confidence in you

When asked her advice on this topic, Nancy responded, “First, if you want to have confidence in your horse, you must ask him questions fairly.”

Cahill continued, “Second, respect and fear have a very fine line. For your horse to have confidence and trust in you, you can’t instill fear. To gain his respect, you need to show your strength, but let him know he’s safe around you.”

“Third,” this accomplished horsewoman moved on to say, “you must give information in the correct order. It’s like learning rocket science when you can’t even do one plus one. Let the horse tell you what he knows. Ask questions like – Can you turn your head left or keep a straight line? Can you do a haunch turn or back up straight? Are you bad about picking up a lead or do you like to drop your shoulder around turns?”

These questions will help you learn your horse’s strengths and weaknesses. After you ask these questions and you know the horse’s answers, it’s up to you to figure out how to solve these problems.

Become a confident rider

Cahill says, “Confident riders push to the edge. If you watch the best of the best in a horsemanship class, you’ll see they never look down. The best performances look like the rider thinks it and the horse does it. Daring riders are almost out of control in their extended gaits. It’s so pretty to watch because they’re aggressive and good at what they do.”

Becoming a confident rider takes some homework. If you don’t know your horse and his strengths and weaknesses, you won’t be able to set your horse up for your next move properly. Nancy remarked, “You can’t ride your horse once a month and expect to be perfectly connected and trusting in one another.”

Obstacles in the show pen

Nancy Cahill believes that your nervousness is the biggest challenge you can face when showing. Your horse knows when you’re nervous because you’re not nervous at home. This seasoned professional says to remember, “It’s a horse show. We’re not curing cancer. Showing is important, but it’s not the most important.”

When you’re nervous, you’ll be tenser and not entirely focused on your performance, thus, more mistakes. When you make a mistake, Cahill recommends, “Keep riding, start to finish. You never know what mistakes other competitors have made, so keep a poker face and ride through. Your job being an effective rider is never done.”

“Confidence is a two-way street. I can’t be confident in my horse unless he’s confident in me,” Nancy Cahill says. If you want to excel in the show pen and perform at your highest potential, you must be unflappable and focused with clear thoughts and a positive attitude. If an unexpected issue comes up in a class, your confidence in your horse should be able to help you overcome your challenges.

Take Nancy’s advice and show the world your newfound, beaming confidence. Confidence equals excellence.


About the Author – GoHorseShow Intern Lauren Pursley is a devoted youth equestrian showing in the all-around events with her horse Lovin Some Lazy Lola. Lauren is the current Texas Quarter Horse Youth Association Reporter. In addition to competing in AQHA shows, Lauren competes in Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) horse shows, 4H Horse Judging and is a member of the 4H Veterinary Science Club. Lauren enjoys working with horses, writing about horses, and equine photography.

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