Riding Fear Free Help for Fearful Riders and Their Teachers

How to Ride in a Clinic the Fear-free Way

If you’re a fearful rider planning to attend a clinic, training session, or another equestrian learning opportunity, there are a few steps you can take to help you ride in the clinic the fear-free way. It’s easy to let the confidence of the instructor or the energy of the group carry you through activities that would normally cause you to feel fear. If you allow this momentum to carry you, you are still riding despite fear. Once you return home, you may discover that your anxieties return and may even be stronger. By adding a few small steps to the clinic routine, you can help make your clinic experience a resounding success.

Preparing for the Clinic

Fearful riders can achieve a whole lot at a clinic if you go with set boundaries and plans to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed and shutting down. The clinic is an excellent place to build amazing memories to take home and help you reach the next level on your fear free journey.

Riding Fear Free

Steps for Preparing to Ride in a Clinic

  • ♦ Choose to put your fear journey first and prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for what will be asked of you and your horse at the event.
  • ♦ Review the principles of Riding Fear Free before the clinic.
  • ♦ Prepare a list of go-to techniques to use if you begin to experience fear at the clinic.
  • ♦ Consider sharing your copy of Riding Fear Free with the clinician so they know where you are coming from.
  • ♦ Remember that you are in control of what you and your horse do. Give yourself permission to stop at any point.
  • ♦ Decide that you will not allow yourself to be pushed, belittled, or bullied into any exercise or obstacles that are too far outside your comfort zone. Be prepared to leave the clinic if you feel pressured to do something you do not want to do.

Interacting with the Clinician

It can be never-wracking to meet and interact with a trainer you admire. You probably want to impress them and don’t want to admit your fears. But don’t forget that you are there to learn, so be sure to take your thoughts and concerns to the clinician before the event begins. Let them know about your concerns. A good clinician will understand and support you during the clinic. Make sure the clinician understands that their role is to encourage but never force an encounter throughout the day.

The clinician’s job is to teach you. Do not hesitate to ask questions or seek clarification or help with each new concept.

Riding at the Clinic

Clinics focus mostly on physical performance, and they do not emphasize the mental and emotional work necessary to truly reach fear free. But as a fearful rider, you need to notice, process, and let go of your emotions, especially while at a clinic.

Resist the urge to just push past the fear and go along in the moment. A short moment to release the pressure you feel can keep you overcoming the fear and replacing it instead of stuffing it. Feel the fear as it comes, process it, and let it go.

Steps for Riding in the Clinic Fear Free

  • ♦ mentally dismounting
  • ♦ taking a short walk around the arena
  • ♦ taking a water break
  • shaking off the excess energy
  • ♦ writing a quick journal entry in your phone or clinic notes
  • ♦ talking with a friend or audience member about something other than what’s happening in the arena
  • ♦ helping someone else understand the task by talking about it
  • ♦ writing down the lesson concept
  • ♦ writing out your emotions in your journal during every break
  • ♦ walking completely away for a few minutes
  • ♦ physically dismounting

As you tackle each new exercise, you may feel your emotions rise. Here are some steps you can take to make sure your emotions stay in proportion to what is really happening.

  • do the exercise from the ground before trying to do it from the saddle
  • review the steps of a new exercise or obstacle before doing it physically
  • plan on using a sidewalker
  • follow a seasoned horse rider through an obstacle or exercise when first introduced
  • celebrate every small victory
  • do simple exercises to stay calm and build more positive memories while you wait your turn to do the next exercise
  • mentally break the clinic into segments or short rides so that the day doesn’t feel so overwhelming.

Riding Fear Free

Journal Your Clinic Experience

Use the Riding Fear Free Journey Tracker to record your experience at the clinic. Write down and process your emotions. Celebrate your successes. And write lesson plans for each new maneuver or exercise you learn!

Wrapping up the Clinic

Immediately after each session of the clinic, purge the events of the day in your journal. Take special note of each area of stress and be sure to record each accomplishment.

After the clinic ends, make it a point to write out each concept, maneuver, obstacle, or exercise that you learned. Be as detailed as you can so when you return home you can master each one.

If you go into your clinic with open eyes and good questions, you will be sure to rewrite your emotions instead of just surviving the experience. Journal your fears and keep the lessons of Riding Fear Free in mind at each stage of the clinic.

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Laura Daley

Laura has a God-given passion for horses and for helping riders in their horsemanship journeys. She grew up on a large-scale Arabian breeding ranch and has spent her entire life learning about horses. Her first horse-training experiences came as a child, but she never stopped learning. As an adult, she became a Brandi Lyons Certified trainer. Laura firmly believes in continued education and shared experiences, and she often attends clinics with highly respected trainers such as Pat Parelli, Richard Shrake, Ken McNabb, Raye Lochert, and John and Josh Lyons. In addition to her horse training experience, she is knowledgeable about natural hoof care, equine massage, and chiropractic care. She believes in and merges conditioned-response training methods with physical therapies to create a balanced, peaceful, and willing equine partner.