Work through physical fear and gain more confidence.

Recently I did a one question survey on Facebook and asked riders what their biggest block to confidence in riding was. I had several choices including fear of making mistakes, fear of being judged by others, self- judgment and physical fear. Physical fear was the most chosen response, with fear of making a mistake next. I did not ask people their age, sex, or riding level. So I can’t talk about specific groups and compare them. But that doesn’t really matter for this post, as what I want to discuss are some ways to work through physical fear and gain more confidence.


Fear prevents us from making foolish and dangerous choices.

The first thing to understand about fear is we all have it and it serves a purpose. Fear prevents us from making foolish and dangerous choices. You may wish that you were fearless, but if you were, you would probably do things that would get you hurt when riding. So use the fear to help you rationally decide if you are doing something you are not prepared to do. Remember, I said rationally decide. What often happens is our fears can overtake us and become very big in our minds through the scary stories we tell ourselves. Often we snowball our fear because there has been a bad experience in our past or because we are not as strong a fit as we used to be and we have more responsibilities to consider in our lives. The responsibility to care for others and bring in our livelihood from a career or business becomes bigger as we age. Not being as brave a rider as you were when you were younger because you have these responsibiities has very valid justification. Fear because of a bad experience is also justified and needs to be worked through without self-judgment.


Be honest with yourself.

It’s best to try and understand your fears when you are off the horse. Mediation, journaling, walks in nature, talking to a friend or coach are some ways you can use to discover what is driving the fear. When you can understand it and lean into the fear and really study it the fear begins to loosen its grip on you. Be honest with yourself. Are you reaching for goals that are beyond your abilities Do you spend enough time in preparation and practice for you and your horse? Is it time to give yourself permission to lower your expectations and/or ask for help from others?


Understand the best program for your horse.

It is important to understand the best program for your horse in order to have the horse quiet and ready to give you the best ride. Pay attention to the differences in your horse during different seasons and with or without turnout or a lunge. If for some reason your horse has been in more than usual, and you can’t do a turn out or a lunge, have someone more experienced ride your horse first and prepare him/her for you. Don’t get into self-judgment around this. It is a smart thing to do. If you have fear of jumping or doing more advanced exercises start small as you practice with good flat work preparation and training for both you and your horse. If your horse is green you can practice on a made horse while your trainer or someone else works with your green horse. Then you can apply what you have learned on the made horse to your well prepared green horse.


Take the pressure off yourself and enjoy your riding in this moment.

When it comes to jumping, start doing poles, cavalletti and small jumps once you are well prepared on the flat and then begin to do more complicated courses with bigger jumps. But only do so when you are ready. If for some reason you or your horse have had a setback or time off, give yourself permission to go back to basics and move slowly. Most of the time accidents happen when things are rushed or when we want to do more before we are ready or prepared. If you have a bit of doubt in your head before you do something, stop and take a breath and think about what is happening. Are you spinning a story that has gotten out of control, or is the doubt or fear very rational and telling you that this is something you shouldn’t do? If so, maybe it is just for that day, because you have too many things on your mind. Maybe you need to practice more or maybe it is something that will always be beyond your reach. That is okay. Don’t compare yourself or your progress to others. Each of us has to progress at our own rates and be satisfied with being good enough. Take the pressure off yourself and enjoy your riding in this moment. Understand that you won’t get rid of fear, but you can with practice, mindfulness, and an honest rational plan loosen fear’s grip.