All barns and farms provide different atmospheres for dealing with your fears.
A Goal-Driven Atmosphere
Some equine facilities have specialties, such as western or English showing, hunter jumper, reining, dressage, or working cows. These facilities usually have a great structure to their operations. They are often places with high activity levels and goal-driven riders. This sort of atmosphere can be very helpful when dealing with horse training or physical riding skills, but it can be rather intimidating for people who are working through fears.
Specialty barns can certainly offer support, but the well-meaning boarders or trainers may offer advice tailored to confident, goal-oriented riders: buck up and work through it. Because they are confident riders themselves, they do not realize how difficult it is to overcome paralyzing feelings and fears. If you are a fearful rider and are boarding at a specialty barn, you need to have the strength to be in a goal-driven atmosphere and still be able to work at your individual pace. You need to hear well-intentioned advice, thank the person who offered it, and then go right back to your specific schedule and written lesson plan. You will be tempted to focus on physical tasks instead of doing mental and emotional work to become fear free. While a predictable schedule can bring comfort, riding fear free means learning to adapt and work though different situations so keep changing your routines. That way, when your horse does something out of character and “all of a sudden,” you are able to think through it and handle anything, including your fears.
A Laidback Atmosphere
Other farms tend to be more laid back, and some have additional animals to contend with. These sorts of facilities have less goal-driven activities and a more relaxed atmosphere. This can help a fearful rider, but the unpredictability and chaos associated with more animals and less structure can be intimidating. The ever-changing pace and activity levels can produce an underlying anxiety. It may seem as if there is no place to settle and just have peace. There is always an animal doing something distracting, even if it is just scratching in the farmyard for bugs or crying for its herd mate. This constant activity can be great to help the fearful rider get used to change. However, until you are in control of your emotions, it can be too much change and activity to build confidence. You will need to rely on your written plans while taking the distractions in stride.
Finding the Right Barn Atmosphere for You
Because dealing with fear is very personal and emotional, there is no perfect, specific step-by-step formula that will magically work for everyone, and there is no perfect barn or farm either. Knowing your situation, your strengths, and your weaknesses and remembering to work on all three areas—physical, mental, and emotional—will help you reach your goal of Riding Fear Free no matter what sort equine facility you choose.