You were fortunate enough to attend a riding clinic. You worked hard the entire time and made huge progress, maybe surpassing many of your fears. Then you got home. As you headed out to the barn—maybe right after you got home or a few weeks later—you found yourself right back where you were…or maybe even a tad more fearful than before the clinic! Why, after such a successful clinic, would the fear come rushing back or even intensify?
There are many reasons why your fears may be worse after a big clinic, mostly based on how you approached the clinic…or how you made it through the clinic. Many fearful riders rely on group excitement and the clinician’s confidence to carry them through. Watching everyone work together to do the exercises, obstacles, and maneuvers can carry you through despite your emotions. You might not even have time to feel any fear! Once back home, the group energy and outside support are gone.
The horse’s herd mentality also helps you and your horse do the maneuvers and obstacles during the clinic. Your horse feels comfortable because the other horses are also participating in the clinic. He can follow the herd. His herd mentality gives him the confidence to try new, difficult, or scary things.
Once home, the horse is alone and may hesitate to do the same obstacles and maneuvers that he willingly did at the clinic.
Riding despite Fear
During the clinic, you may have pushed past your fear without doing the emotional work of processing your emotions and replacing your fear memories. By going nonstop at the clinic, you had very little downtime to focus on your fear. The constant stimulus from the trainer, other participants, and even the audience kept your mind too active to feel fear. And the positive feedback of the group immediately overrode any fear you may have experienced.
The reason your fear returns is that clinic focuses mostly on physical performance, and they do not emphasize the mental and emotional work necessary to truly reach fear free.
I Already Did the Riding Clinic, So What Now?
For those that already attended a clinic and are struggling with fear at home, it’s not too late. You can still journal your emotions.
- ♦ Write down everything you remember from the clinic.
- ♦ Be sure to purge every misgiving and negative thought you had during and after the clinic.
- ♦ Recall your horse’s positive reactions and how they made you feel.
- ♦ Review and materials presented, but this time emphasize your mental and emotional states during the clinic.
- ♦ Write a lesson plan for each concept, exercise, or maneuver practiced at the clinic.
The Riding Fear Free Journey Tracker will help you record and process your emotions as you work through your clinic experience. It also gives you space to write lesson plans for the maneuvers you learned in the clinic.
Redo the Clinic
- ♦ Redo the whole clinic from start to finish at home.
- ♦ Take the time to master each lesson before going to the next one.
- ♦ You may need to start from the ground before getting back to the big victories during the clinic.
- ♦ Repeat these exercises until they are habits. Then you can use them as confidence builders as you move on to new challenges.
Connect with Other Clinic Participants
- ♦ Ask them what they remember.
- ♦ Retell the positive moments, especially the little victories.
Taking the time to process your emotions after your clinic can help you prevent your fear from returning once you get home.
Next week, we’ll talk about how to attend a clinic the Riding-Fear-Free way.