Fear and Self Doubt
Fear and self-doubt can be two of the most crippling things when it comes to enjoying your horse!
I’ve found that it is not a subject commonly discussed among the equine community but I feel that it should be acknowledged and spoken about openly in order to help those who find themselves feeling this way, to believe in themselves and ultimately have fun with their horse while feeling safe.
I have my own personal demons in these areas so I know first-hand just how some of you might feel! In 2005 I had a horse flip over on me and I broke several vertebrae as well as punching my spine into my sacrum, needless to say it was enough to put me in hospital for a few months with lots of rehab to be done afterwards. Three years after the accident the Dr’s decided a spinal fusion was required and a further 18months worth of physical recovery proceeded that! It was sheer torture and although my body healed physically, the mental and emotional scars remained.
I was so scared of riding my horses that I didn’t put my foot back into the stirrup until 4yrs after my accident. I was literally crippled by the fear of being injured again! This was what my brain was telling itself but all my heart wanted to do was to get back in that saddle and ride again.
Everyone has different levels of fear and for different reasons, for the most part though I find most fear related thoughts are around being hurt, they can be extreme or they can be mild. If these thoughts aren’t acknowledged and you keep pushing yourself past your own thresholds then you can become overwhelmed and ultimately end up in a situation of frustration, shut down and or give up riding, which is sad because at one stage we loved our horses and riding them otherwise we’d never have started in the first place. Let’s face it you don’t have a horse unless you love them right?
This is so similar to the horse it isn’t funny, whenever I am working with a horse I am always attempting to work with them on the edge of their thresholds but being very cautious not to push them over the cliff so to speak. In order to make progress with either our own fears or that of our horses we need to get to the learning zone which is just outside of the comfort zone, it will feel uncomfortable and uneasy at the time but then as you progress you will find it gradually becomes your new level of comfort, therefore allowing you to continue growing and making progress.
This is the strategy I used to eventually get back in the saddle which led to getting the opportunity to train with some of the world’s best horsemen, enjoying my horses and now I start young horses under saddle, work with problem horses and love sharing my knowledge with folks who want to gain confidence and be progressive with their horsemanship.
I was literally shaking in my boots at the thought of being hurt again and the thought of putting my foot in the stirrup, so you know what, I didn’t!
I took myself to my threshold and that was simply standing on the mounting block with my horse who I’d trained to stand patiently and wait next to me and then I stepped down, I repeated this until I no longer felt anxious about the idea of putting my foot in the stirrup, it didn’t take too long for the nerves to settle until I was ready to actually lift my leg and put my foot in the stirrup.
Do you know what I did next, I took it out again and stood on the mounting block, no longer having to step down, rinse and repeat until I felt like I was ok to stand up in my stirrup, happy in the knowledge that again I had trained my horse to stand still with groundwork and that he wasn’t going to walk off when I was half way on.
After a few repetitions I was happy to put my leg over and sit on him for about 2 seconds and then hopped off again, BREATHE!!! Rinse and repeat and you probably get the idea of breaking it down into achievable steps but do you know what at the end of that first session I was happily trotting around the round pen on a loose rein! WOW what a day that was
My message to you is this, don’t let the fear stop you from doing something you love, whether you’re like me and struggle with simply getting on your horse or you have a fear of cantering or whatever you struggle with, break it down and work on it step by step, find people who can help support you through your journey, love your horse, learn to step outside of your comfort zone without leaping that learning zone all together, embrace the fear and use it to help you achieve your dreams with your horse!
Fear is simply: