Affirm This–Grow in Confidence and Love Dressage MORE


By Sally O’Dwyer

Riders need to be more intentional about building confidence and a positive mindset, which is the stuff we need to stay the course, keep our focus, and bravely stride down centerline.  

A sure-fire method to boost confidence is the use of affirmations. Affirmations are mental dynamite that blow-up self-doubt and fear.  They are especially useful in competitions, when negative thinking can hijack us.    

An affirmation is a statement of truth that helps us harness internal POWER, screen out negative thoughts that hold us back, cause indecision, unnecessary worry, inhibition and doubt. US Navy SEALS are trained to use affirmations under extraordinary and dangerous battle situations. If it works for the SEALS, it will work for you as you enter the sometimes-terrifying show arena. Scientific studies show that, thanks to the neuroplasticity of our brains, we have the lifelong ability to rewire our brains with the use of positive, repeated affirmations.

How to use affirmations

  1. Own It. Focus on your truth.  Think about what keeps you coming back to the barn, day after day. Affirmations must mean something to you, and have emotional heft, for them to have power. They lose their magic if you can’t get behind them. They must be sincere and credible, not pie in the sky.
  2. Repeat often, keep them visible and at the ready.  Write them down on sticky notes and post them on mirrors, the fridge, your car, barn, saddle, tack box, trailer etc. Create a vision board with pictures of you and your horse, and include your affirmations. Affirmations must be well internalized and at the ready for when your brain starts up with its negative crap, for example, in the show area.
  3. Use Present Tense.  Like it’s happening now.

Affirmation Examples That Might Ring True to You.

Be a Confident Competitor

  • I compete now because the future is promised to no one.
  • I am most alive when I am competing in the dressage arena.
  • Whatever the outcome, I will learn and become a better rider.
  • Win or lose, I still have my amazing horse!
  • How I ride today does not define me, my life, or my future.
  • It IS possible!

Bust Out in Dressage Confidence

  • I am exactly where I am supposed to be in my dressage journey.
  • What I learn today in my lesson will improve my tomorrows.
  • Every time I ride, I get fitter and stronger.
  • My relationship with my horse is what matters most to me.
  • When I am riding, I am living my best life.
  • I have what it takes to be a great rider.
  • I am successful because I persevere and never give up.
  • It will take as long as it takes to succeed in dressage.
  • My dressage riding makes me remarkable.
  • Whenever I swing my leg over and sit in my saddle, I am calm and relaxed.

Kill Your Fear of What Others Think

  • The only people who fail are those that never attempt anything.
  • I refuse to measure my progress by looking at others.
  • I have immunity from negative talk or gossip.
  • The only opinion that matters is my own.
  • I ride for myself.
  • No one is watching me and judging me, except the judge!   
  • I am surrounded by people who want the best for me.

Affirmations keep at the forefront of our minds why we love dressage, help us stay motivated, and prevent burnout. They boost confidence and are magnetic in that they attract success.  Sometimes, my best affirmation is simply YOLO-You only live once!

About Me: I am a boomerang rider, like so many other amateurs. I began as a kid with backyard ponies and horses.  Then college, family, and career consumed me, and horses took a back seat in my life.  I attribute, or blame Megan, my youngest daughter, for getting me back into horses about ten years ago.  She expressed interest in riding, and I jumped all over it and leased a horse for her.  Turns out, she was a lot less interested in horses than I was.  But it got me going again and now I have two horses, an Off the Track Thoroughbred and a young Warmblood.  I am loving the journey, especially all the wonderful people I have met, and am currently working on earning my USDF silver medal. I call myself a dressage passionista and enjoy sharing with others what I have learned, offering encouragement and support to others.  Dressage can be intimidating, and we need to hold each other up and build a nurturing, supportive community.  We ARE good enough! I have started a new blog called

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