Many riders know the feeling all too well; that unpleasant nervous feeling that pops up when riding, or even when just spending time around horses. It’s the last thing you want to associate with horses and riding; horses are in your heart! You look forward to your time at the barn and your next lesson, but for some reason, as soon as you step inside the barn, those familiar jitters come back. Whether you’re feeling this way because of a bad fall, or it’s something that has crept up on you over time, there are a few different effective ways to work past your anxiety or fear as an equestrian. Continue reading for more information on overcoming your anxiety or fear so that you can go back to enjoying your time riding.
How Fear And Anxiety Affect Your Riding
A constant fear or nervousness when riding or even when just being around horses can be extremely uncomfortable, and it can make it hard to want to make it out to the barn. This is the last thing that any equestrian wants to feel, and let’s face it; when you’re stressed or anxious around horses, they pick up on it immediately. Horses can sense when we are scared or anxious, and they will quickly reciprocate your feelings as they try to determine what it is that is causing you to feel that way. Horses are flight animals, so the slightest bit of fear has the ability to throw them off entirely. It is for this reason that it is important for us as riders to try and manage what we are feeling; a nervous horse and rider can be a recipe for disaster!
Face The Problem Head-On
If your fear or anxiety is stemming from a fall, injury, or mishap with your horse, the best thing for you to do is face the problem head on. The old saying, “when you fall off the horse, pick yourself up and get back in the saddle” is absolutely true! The worst thing you can do, for your mental stability as well as your relationship with your horse, is to avoid riding or even horses in general.
Identifying the problem that is causing your anxiety or fear is the first step in overcoming it. Once you identify what you are afraid of, you can start taking steps to facing and overcoming whatever it is. After you identify what it is that you are afraid of, it is also important to identify negative outcomes that you may be expecting to come out of the situation. For instance; if you are experiencing nervousness about dealing with a young and rowdy horse, you may consider that you are afraid of being injured if the horse makes any sudden or unexpected movements. Understanding exactly what you are afraid of can help you build an effective plan to manage your fears. In this case, it would be helpful to take a moment to do some groundwork with the horse in an enclosed area, perhaps an indoor arena or a round pen. This would allow you to spend one-on-one time with the horse and learn more about his or her behavior. This will also let the horse learn more about you, allowing them to relax.
Fear or nervousness is also a large indication that you may be stepping outside of your comfort zone. Which is completely fine! In fact, in riding, stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals is encouraged. It’s only natural to feel nervous or scared about attempting to do something that you have never done before. The most important thing to do in this case is to confide in your trainer or an experienced equestrian to see what they advise you to do in your situation. Sometimes, in order to reach our goals, we have to step outside our comfort zones, and as long as you do it safely with the guidance of a professional, you will be just fine.
Methods And Exercises To Overcome Fear And Anxiety
A good way to manage how you are feeling is to practice deep breathing, counting the moments while you breathe in and out. Imagine all of your stressors while you breathe in deeply, and while you breathe out, imagine all of your stressors leaving your body with the breath. You would be surprised at how effective this method can be in calming yourself and taking a moment to consider your situation.
Taking a step back from whatever you’re doing also has massive potential in easing your mind and allowing you to return to your original mindset. If you’re experiencing anxiousness or fear over attempting something new, take a step back and return to things you know you excel at and enjoy, such as groundwork, trail riding, or even a simple ride around the farm. Spend time bonding with your horse outside the saddle with grooming sessions or long walks on foot. Finding the bond that brings the two of you together and working on strengthening it can make a massive difference in the way you approach your interactions with your horse.
You’re Not Alone
Many riders may feel that they are alone in their feelings of anxiety or fear when it comes to being in the saddle or around horses. The fact is that it is very common to feel anxious; keep in mind that being an equestrian means that you are working with a half-ton animal! While it may seem that some riders have nerves of steel and could never experience anxiousness or fear from riding, this could not be further from the truth. Everyone, even professional riders, has experienced anxiety or fear at some point in their riding career; it is only natural. As equestrians, we are undoubtedly tough by nature, but it can sometimes be easy to forget this!
Managing anxiety or fear as an equestrian can seem like a daunting task at first, but with the proper precautions and mindset, you will soon be back in the saddle enjoying every moment with your horse.