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Riding In Fear
 By Winniefield Park   •   29th Jan 2017   •   1,125 views   •   0 comments


Is it possible to both love something while being terrified of it? It doesn't sound like it should, but it can happen. Many people love horses but are afraid of them, or they love riding but are scared to get into the saddle. Many others have more specific fears. They may be happy and confident riding in a ring or arena, but break out in cold sweats at the thought of heading down the trail. Lots of people have bad show nerves, some to the point of losing their breakfast and other symptoms of an anxiety attack. Others would love to just be able to pet a horse, but when they get within arm’s reach, are simply terrified. Terrors around horse come in big and small sizes. But all can be conquered with some effort and some help.

The first step to getting confident around a horse to determine just what exactly scares you. Is it trail riding, picking up hooves, jumping ditches, or fear that the horse will spook? Or did you have a fall that ruined your confidence? This gives you a starting point. How you’ll deal with fear from falling and getting hurt is going to be a bit different from dealing with being fearful of a horse because it’s an intimidating large animal.

You’ll also want to get support. When people are afraid of flying, or have other fears, they often get a coach or counselor to help them through. No reason why you shouldn’t do the same for your riding or horse fear. At very least, surround yourself with people who are supportive. Being told you are acting fearful because in your heart you really don’t want to ride or be around horses is demoralizing and unproductive. This type of reasoning might work with someone who has a strong “I’ll show you” attitude. But it might destroy someone with less overall confidence. A good coach will know when to encourage and when to give a little push.

Knowledge is power. The more you know about how your horse thinks, is likely to react and how you can deal with those reactions, the more confidence you can build. Take lessons with a coach or instructor that will help increase your riding skills along with your confidence.

Riding or working with the right horse is also essential. Horses are emotional sponges. The combination of a nervous rider and nervous horses can create a lot of negative energy. Your skill level may be advanced enough that you are a very capable rider. But you may need to ride a quieter horse than you normally would until your confidence is back on track. This is where more advanced riders need to keep pride out of the way because sometimes moving forward means taking a step or two back. You might decide that the horse you’re afraid of isn’t right for you. No shame in making a change if that’s what it takes to keep you in the saddle.

If your fear is situational, such as fear of hacking out or going over that ditch or wall, having someone along side you can really help. And, chunk the task down, just as you would for your horse. Ride outside the ring fence at first until that feels good. Then head out into the pasture. Then you can go a short piece down the trail. A series of small successes can be very confidence boosting.

If your fear has accelerated into a phobia, you might want to get professional help. Your riding fear may be linked to something else in your life that is going awry. Or, it’s simply gotten beyond the point where a good riding coach is what you need. If you’re carrying a lot of fear, but are otherwise a capable rider, medication may be appropriate. This is something you'll want to discuss with your doctor.

There are alternative therapies for conquering fears as well. Herbal remedies such as 5-HTP, valerian or even a cup of chamomile tea might help. Educate yourself on the claims and dangers of using these types of remedies, especially if you’re taking any other medication. Emotional Freedom Technique is easy to learn and many people find it quite effective. You can find tons of tutorials on YouTube. Neurolinguistic Programming can help focus and calm the ‘brain chatter’ you can get when faced with an anxious moment.

And don’t discount the power of positive thinking. Many athletes use visualization. You’ll see runners visualizing a race before they get into the starting blocks. Figure skaters envision their routines, partially acting it out before going on the ice. They’re not visualizing falling or tripping or missing a step. They are visualizing the perfect performance. When we’re riding scared, we’re not visualizing the perfect ride, but the worst ride. Picture yourself skillful and confident.

Overcoming a fear can be a lot of work. Go at your own pace. Work with people that support you and ride a horse you can enjoy without fear. Don’t be afraid to try different things. There is no quick fix but, the results will be worth it.
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