Dealing with Fear When Riding
Jul 22, 2021
On dealing with fear:
A little bit of fear is normal when it comes to riding. If it begins to prevent you from doing the things you love, there are tools to help shift that.
Here are some ideas to assist when fear arises:
- Ask yourself what you are afraid of in the moment. If you can pinpoint a specific thing, talk it out (even to yourself) and decide if it is worth it to continue on. You might just lack knowledge for what you are afraid of doing. If that’s the case, ask for assistance. Ask for ways to help break down the issue until you find a solution. If you can’t figure out where the fear is coming from, you might need to simply take a step back from what you’re doing. Begin a journaling ritual, talk to friends, ask if anyone else feels the way you do, and go on a quest to find out where the fear is rooted. It could be time for a guided meditation practice or a licensed therapist to assist. I’ve also had amazing results from hypnotists. Be open to limitless solutions!
- If you are afraid of a specific movement while you’re riding, ask another rider to hop on and ride that movement on your horse. Watch carefully. If they are able to do this without any problems, imagine you are that rider when you attempt the movement. I’ve had huge boosts of confidence when I imagine I’m an Olympic rider, warming up for a competition. Let your imagination help you step into the role of the most amazing rider that you have ever known.
- If you are afraid to get back on your horse after a fall, it might be worth it to find a different
horse that is a proven schoolmaster and can build up your confidence again. If your horse is making you nervous, you may want to have your instructor or another rider work with your horse before you get back to riding together.
- Be honest with yourself. If you are trying to do something that you just haven’t practiced much, go back to the basics. The more you focus on what you know, and perfect that, the more challenging things will begin to unfold naturally. Fear will arise when your body is trying to protect you from something you should reconsider.
- If you’re afraid of falling, it might be worth it to consider that you are actually just afraid of getting injured by the landing. It’s important to strip down the fear to the most basic element. This way, by examining your fears at the basic level, you can feel more confident about shifting them. So if you’re fearful of the impact with the ground, it might be beneficial to seek out classes that teach you how to land safely, with minimal impact. Look for local martial arts schools (ie Judo, Ju Jutsu, etc.) that can assist. You may even want to ask them to design an entire clinic for horseback riders! Make it a group class to have more fun.
- Be okay with going slow. The world around us often encourages us to go faster and push ourselves, but what if you decided that taking your time could actually be the best way to combat fears? If you slow down and get really quiet, the fear might subside. Sometimes rushing around and pushing yourself before you’re actually ready causes more fear and tension than is necessary. Don’t be ashamed to come back to the basics anytime you feel like you need to take a pause and reassess.
- What if you get a tiny bit of fear while you’re riding? It’s common to have things bubble up, especially when you have had less than happy experiences. Speaking of bubbles, I will often imagine that my horse and I are surrounded by a big bubble of white light, protecting both of us. It might seem silly, but it can really help shift your energy and get you to settle into being in the moment. I also like to see a picture of myself with my horse in the next section of my ride, going along safely and beautifully. I focus on that picture, rather than what is scaring me. However, please be easy with yourself, if you simply can’t get your fear to calm down, there is nothing wrong with hopping off and trying again another time! Your horse would rather feel you being honest about your feelings, rather than trying to mask your fear. Faking your emotions could cause more tension with your horse. Horses sense all of your emotions. Strive to be clear and consistent, no matter what you are feeling.
- Fear can arise when you are riding alone. Create a buddy system! Either find someone to ride with you, hang out and watch you ride, or perhaps even set up your phone for a video call if you don’t have anyone nearby. I often will text a friend before and after my ride, just to have the reassurance that someone out there knows what I’m up to and can send for help in case anything was to happen. They even have some pretty cool apps that you can get for your phone and even your helmet (I sure hope you wear one, always) that can detect if something is amiss. Do some research!
- Do you fear the opinions of others? This is more of a subtle fear, but it can really be a doozy! Remind yourself that you are continually learning and striving to be your best. No matter what someone else thinks or says, remember that they are projecting whatever it is that is programmed inside of them. Be confident enough to send love to the ‘less than kind’ humans and realize that we are all going through something. You might need to ask if they need someone to listen to them. Focus on kindness and you might be surprised by how things can shift. If that’s too much to ask, at least focus on the amazing experience of riding and the love you have for horses. Shift your thoughts to something positive and don’t be too hard on yourself!
- Are you fearful all the time? As hard as it is to imagine, it might be good to figure out whether the horse you are riding is indeed the right horse for you. Look at the big picture of your life and decide if what you continue to do will give you an overall sense of satisfaction or feel detrimental in the future. Also, please consider what is best for the horse you are riding.
Sometimes it’s good to imagine you are someone else giving yourself advice. What would they suggest? Be open to different perspectives!
May the horse be with you. Always.