Overcoming One's Fear of Horseback Riding
When spending time riding horses it does pay to be aware of the dangers and have a fear of the potential risks and injuries which could happen. However, if that fear grows into one which prevents you from enjoying horse riding then it needs to be resolved.
Many horse riders experience fear, particularly after a fall or other incident, however, rather than put an end to your riding career, try out these tips first to get back into the saddle.
1. Don’t push yourself too far
With horse riding it can be tempting to try to gallop before you can walk but it’s important to take it all at your own pace and only work with what you are comfortable doing. Trying to do too much can mean you end up losing control and this is what can cause the fear.
Focus on staying within your comfort zone for as long as you need to. Stay at the pace you are happy to ride in, until you are really ready and prepared to step up to the next gear. If you are really suffering with fear then stick to stable work and contact with horses to start with.
Try grooming and lunging for a while until you feel truly ready to get back into the saddle. The important thing is to get you feeling comfortable around horses again, however long that might take.
2. Always wear the right safety equipment
There is always a possibility that your horse might get spooked and throw you off, no matter how confident a rider you are, but to save that fear from paralysing you into not riding at all, make sure you are always protected by wearing the right safety gear.
Ensure your saddle is correctly fitted and comfortable for you and make sure you are wearing an appropriate riding helmet. Having the right kind of footwear can help to stop your feet from slipping in the stirrups so always ensure you are fully kitted out before heading out for a ride.
3. Choose an understanding horse
Some horses can smell and respond to fear so if you are feeling afraid make sure you work with a horse which ignores your fear and doesn’t react to it. When you start back in the saddle again you need to work with a calm, collected horse which will take your fear in its stride.
Once you have your riding confidence back from dealing with a good horse, you will be able to move onto more difficult animals to challenge yourself and grow further as a rider.
4. Take good risks, eliminate bad ones
While staying in your comfort zone can help to fight fear on one level, you will only increase your confidence and abilities in riding by recognising good risks to take. Moving from trot to canter, or trying a different route from where you had a fall, are all good risks which might help you to grow and move past your fear.
On the other hand, going against your instincts and riding in a reckless and inappropriate way can lead to bad risks which not only add to your fear but could have incredibly serious consequences. The important thing is to understand the difference between the two types of risks and to recognise them.
5. Try using positive techniques like visualisation
Visualisation is a well-known technique for helping to overcome fear and improve confidence when facing a situation. You need to sit somewhere quietly, and mentally imagine the whole ride which you are planning to do that day.
Literally picture yourself on the horse and imagine every detail including how the horse moves and reacts, and how your body and mind will be at the time. Successfully completing the whole riding in your head, before you actually start to do it, can really help to calm a fearful mind and reassure you that there is nothing to be scared of.
6. Get stronger through exercise
There is no doubt that horse riding takes its toll physically so the stronger and fitter you are, the easier it will be for you to balance, stay with the horse, and hold on to him if anything did make him spook and then buck.
Exercising regularly to keep yourself strong and physically fit will help to boost your confidence when you venture back out into the saddle. Being stronger means you are more likely to be able to stay on board the horse, so less likely to suffer an injury.
7. Work with a riding instructor
If you are really scared one of the easy ways to get over that is to work with an expert so find a really good riding instructor and get them to help you overcome your fear of horse riding gradually by learning new skills and techniques.
A good instructor will help develop your confidence gradually and help you get back to enjoying the activity once more, rather than dreading it.
Mike Shortridge is a freelance writer who contributes regularly for Horseseller.com.au blog. During his spare time, he likes to binge watch on his latest TV obsession and go hunting for obscure vinyl toys.