The Problem: It's Difficult to Fix Riding Fears
Why is it so hard to fix my fear?
Fear issues are heartbreaking when they get in the way of our relationship with
our horses, and our enjoyment of riding. They can even be bone-breaking when they result in serious accidents!
Yet, the techniques and advice given to riders to manage their fear rarely
work in "real life", for one or more of the following reasons:
Many amateur riders have limited time to spend on their horses.
Many professionals have limited time due to the number of horses they train and work. For example, I'm a pleasure rider
and exhibitor--it's my hobby. It's a passionate hobby, but it's still a hobby. I want to have fun learning and
trying new things. The typical approach to fear uses some form of progressive desensitization. It can take hours,
days or weeks to overcome fear this way. Some people spend months trying to overcome mental and emotional blocks to
riding the way they want, or give up their goals completely. When you have to spend weeks working on a fear, not making
progress on your riding, it takes away from your overall experience. If you're an equine industry professional,
likewise, your time is money in the bank. You don't want to spend weeks or months trying to overcome
fear. What if there were a better way?
- They are easy to prescribe, impossible to do
How many times, when in the grip of fear or show nerves, have you heard "Don't be afraid" or "Relax,
don't be nervous?" If only it were that easy! Fear is your body's way of keeping you safe. (Ok, sometimes
it's your mind's way of keeping your ego safe, but it has the same effect!) People have spent hours in the saddle practicing
relaxing their muscles or breathing deeply. But many times they are still not able to canter, jump, go out on trails,
or whatever their heart desires. Fear is deep-seated in the non-reasoning portion of your mind--and
in your body. It can be very hard to reach and resolve through willpower alone. Your goal is to ride without
crippling fear. Is there a simple way to do that?
- They work on the mind alone, not the body
The recommended fixes for fear include things such as "get more information", or "build more skills,
then what you're afraid of won't happen", or "ride with confidence, and you won't have a problem with your horse",
or, "trust your horse". What if the process of building the skill actually increases the fear?
What if simply imagining cantering again after a bad accident makes you break out in a sweat? If you are nervous
and tense when you ride into the show arena, how do you gain confidence in the show ring? If your living depends on horses,
how do you ignore anxieties about lost income or inability to work in case of a riding accident? Most of
us can't reason our way out of fear patterns that are embedded in the mind and body together. Is there a method that deals with the fear at a root level?
- They don't work when your horse is part of the problem
As riders, we value our partnership with our horse. We're a team, and we rely on our teammate--our horse--to
do his part. But if your fear has already been communicated to your horse, or if your horse is inexperienced, soured,
in pain or has his own issues, fixing your fear may be inextricably tied to the partnership with your horse. Sometimes,
the recommendation is to send your horse off to a good trainer, or let a more experienced rider ride him for a while.
While the advice is sound, this often feels like failure to riders. Then self-blame is
added to fear. Even when your horse performs well for another rider or a trainer, that may not eliminate your
fear the next time you're on his back. How can you eliminate fear for yourself AND your horse?
But, can't you "just ride through it"?
can be a very destructive myth, for amateurs and professionals alike! Certainly, there are times when we all have to
push beyond our comfort zones, or we wouldn't learn. (And by the way, EFT can help you do that, too!) Riding a new horse
or trying a new skill can bring on a normal level of nervousness, and it's ok to ride through that.
But too many times, professionals ride when their
gut tells them not to because their livelihood depends on it...amateurs ride with crippling fear because they're
expected to tough it out...self-taught riders try to conquer fear alone...or everyone is in the grip of the No Whining complex,
where even mentioning a real fear is labeled as weakness.
That might be ok in other sports, but
our horses KNOW when we're tense or afraid. They react accordingly. As we hear over and over, they're
prey animals. Horses' instincts rely on being able to detect danger instantly and react to it immediately. Studies have shown that horses react with fear when their human partners feel it, even if there is no actual danger present.
So, are you really making progress by "riding through" a strong physical fear?
The smartest, safest, and savviest thing to do is learn a way to quickly collapse fear, THEN ride your horse. You're doing yourself, your horse and your instructor a favor.
Fear is not the only problem riders have. Other things get
in the way of our riding too. Some of these are
- Poor riding habits
- Impatience and anger
- Performance anxiety
- Negative self-talk
- Grief over the loss of a horse
in the blank for yourself _________________
Will EFT help us with these? Absolutely.
Disclaimer: All information on this website is offered as
educational, and is not, nor intended as, diagnosis or treatment. EFT, MTT, and other techniques are self-help
modalities and are offered as such. Although there is data on the effectiveness of some of these modalities,
they are still considered experimental. If you use these techniques, you agree to take full responsibility for their
use and for your own health, exercising common sense in practicing self-help techniques. This information is not
intended in place of regular medical care. Please consult a doctor or mental health care professional as
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Dickson Finn, All Rights Reserved.
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