Answer the following yes-no questions to help determine if you or one of your students is a fearful rider:
Avoidance and/or Anxiety
♦ Do you schedule rides with friends and then cancel?
♦ Do you feel guilty for not spending more time with your horse?
♦ Do you worry if your horse makes the simplest mistake or change in gait?
False Bravado and Comparison
♦ Do you find yourself doing risky activities around friends just to keep up?
♦ Do you always compare yourself or your horse to others?
♦ Do you long for the “good old days” when you were a carefree kid and could ride like the wind?
Behavior on these two extremes can be signs that you may be a fearful rider.
The good news is that you can truly learn to ride fear free. How? The first step is to identify the times when you feel anxious. One of the fastest ways to become fear free is to start a journal. Record the reasons you avoid your horse. Once you identify when you feel fear, you will know where to start.
You can learn to control the impulse part of your brain, but right now, you are conditioned to think negatively about you and your horse. You can change your state of mind by doing something physical and then taking control of your thoughts. Ask questions like: Is my first reaction is based on fear or reality? Why don’t I want to ride with my friend or enter that event?
Once you find the core reasons for your anxiety, you can decide to change your circumstances. If you realize that your friends want to force you out of your comfort zone, then maybe you need to set some boundaries or find someone who is willing to go your pace. The first step in riding fear free is to identify the times when you feel fear. Then, capture your thoughts and decide to do something about the real problem.
This article was originally published in Northwest Horse Source.