Managing Fear

Manage your horseback riding fear by staying in the moment.

Taking in the views will help you forget about your fears and live in the moment with your trusted partner. Journal photo.

Fear is a very real issue for many horseback riders. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, it would be surprising if you never felt afraid when riding.

After all, you’re dealing with an animal that greatly outweighs you. In addition to their size, horses are not always predictable. After all, they’ve survived all this time because of their flight instinct. The fact that they’re reactive creatures rather than logical ones can be scary.

So what do you do about the fear that stops you from totally enjoying your riding and your horse?

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First, understand that when you’re afraid, your mind isn’t in the present. It’s on what might happen in the future.

Then consider the fact that 99 percent of what you fear never happens. Why use up so much energy and emotion worrying about things that might happen but usually never do?

Here’s a quick tip to help you cope with horseback riding fear. Use it not only when you ride, but also for any other area in your life when you’re immobilized by fear.

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Learn how to manage your fear by staying in the moment.

To bring yourself back to the present moment, involve as many of your five senses as you can. Hear the rhythm of your horse’s footfalls. Look at the trees outside your ring. Feel the texture of the reins. Smell the fly spray.

Stay in the moment by adding emotion, too. Remember a time when you felt calm, relaxed and connected to your horse. Recreate that feeling when you start to get nervous.

If you have a hard time conjuring up that feeling, borrow the emotion from another time in your life. Maybe you’ll remember being totally relaxed at the beach. Or maybe you’ll feel the sense of peace you have when you’re petting your dog or cat. Or maybe you’ll experience the calmness you feel as you rhythmically curry your horse during grooming.

Manage your fear using your five senses and including positive emotion. Doing so will get you out of “future thinking,” which is where fear lives, and bring you back to the present.

Jane Savoie is a renowned dressage competitor who has been a member of the U.S. Equestrian Team. She is also a well known trainer, coach, mentor, author and speaker. Learn more at www.janesavoie.com.