Fear, anxiety, and concern can be a sensitive topic and common challenge for many horseback riders who face a variety of unwanted scenarios with their horse. Irrelevant of being a novice, experienced, or a returning rider, or if they have taken up the sport later in life, multiple factors can limit the enjoyment of time spent with the horse.
The #1 concern I hear is the fear of getting hurt.
The #2 concern is the worry as to what might happen during interactions with the horse.
The #3 concern is the overwhelming emotional flooding that sabotages the rider's progression and enjoyment.
Irrelevant to the chosen riding discipline, whether a competitive or pleasure rider, equine enthusiasts are often burdened with negative emotional flooding. These emotions include Anxiety
These emotions are often a catalyst in what I call Trigger Thoughts or the unhelpful beliefs that hinder the rider's clarity before interactions with the horse. The following are common limiters:
Fear of falling off of the horse.
Fear of getting hurt when the horse responds unexpectedly.
Concern, even if the horse is not behaving badly.
Fixating on a previous scary experience with the horse.
Mental exhaustion after a short ride.
Expressing fear even when "nothing" has happened.
General nervousness at the thought of riding.
The rider’s Trigger Thoughts also lead to what I call Mind-Set Mayhem™. These are the counteractive non-committal thoughts influencing passive, reactive, or after-the-fact critique of the horse. This can create insecurity and defensiveness in both the equine and human. This includes things like:
Patterns of mentally rushing through scenarios with the horse to avoid potentially concerning moments.
Mentally checking-out and leaving it up to the horse to "handle" a scenario.
Bullying oneself to "power through" the ride.
Fixating on other riders, which then adds to their concern.
Self-critique and self-shaming towards their fears.
A rider's past physical experiences with the horse can also contribute to the future undesired domino effect of Triggering Thoughts and Mind-Set Mayhem™. Scenarios include:
*Misunderstanding horse behavior and the connection between his thoughts, emotions, and the physical behaviors that follow. Not recognizing the correlation creates anticipation in the rider with the horse's behavior appearing unexpected.
*Lack of balance in the saddle. Enthusiasts can ride for years without having body awareness as to how to first find, then remain, centered in the saddle. Often due to ill-fitting tack, and/or because of the lack of understanding of the biomechanics required to remain centered while riding, causes riders to ineffectively/unintentionally communicate with the horse because of deficient independent aids. (The ability to use one body part to communicate with the horse without another also moving- i.e. seat, leg, hand, energy, etc.) The imbalance in the saddle limits the rider’s quality, timing, and clarity of communication with the horse. It also contributes to fatigue due to constant “compensation” as their muscles continually grip in an attempt to “hold on.”
*Lack of consistent breathing. When a rider is distracted, anticipative, or fearful, their breath shortens, causing tension throughout their body. This leads to an “immobility” or lack of independent aids, which affects their balance, energy adaptability, their mental clarity to stay present during the ride, and perception of time.
What can riders do to change their experience and enjoyment of time spent with their horse? First, they need to recognize (without self-critique) undesired emotions, patterns in their mental triggers, and the root cause(s) of their mental fixation on potential negative outcomes.
Secondly, rather than addressing the symptom, riders need to discover and address the root cause(s). Skills like learning how to understand horse behavior (i.e. not filtering what they see in a horse’s behavior with human emotions, learning to recognize the source not the symptom of behavior, and believing the horse,) increase and refine their usage of the mechanics and specificity of how/what/when they are communicating with the horse, and to raise their awareness in the energy and balance in their body. Prioritizing refining the quality of the communication with the horse boosts the rider's confidence. This helps them learn to think through scenarios rather than trying to solely "survive" the ride.
The emotional perceptions of the rider affect the quality of the experience. It can build or diminish the stress and confidence levels in both the human and horse. I often suggest the ride “begins” when thinking about going for a ride and to practice becoming mentally present before interacting with the horse.
It takes intention and time to change one's mindset. Having a "support system” can increase the likelihood of making long-term, positive, and lasting transformations. Seeking the guidance of a quality, non-ego based equine professional can help address and improve a rider's skill-set and understanding of the horse. This will help eliminate overwhelming and debilitating reactive riding behaviors which will be replaced with pro-active decision making. This builds the foundation of a respectful equine partnership based on clear, supportive, and specific communication.
The reality is having a support system increases the likelihood of making positive and lasting changes. Having guidance to help you raise your awareness, acknowledge your negative thought contributors, learn positive alternatives, clarify your intentions, and practice pro-active partnerships.
I'd love to help you on your journey just as I've helped hundreds of other riders. I have created various options to help you on your journey to becoming an Empowered Horse Enthusiast.
Distance and Online Learning Options for your journey-
Intro Consultation - 1 on 1 Choose from a 15, 30, or 60-minute Personal Coaching Telephone Consult
Empowered Equine Partnership Series 1 on 1 Personal Coaching Series
Mindful Horsemanship Significance Webinar Series 3-Part Webinar Series
Horsemanship: Mechanical vs. Mental Engagement Webinar- 1-hour group Webinar
"Reading the Horse" Online 7 Video Series Horse Behavior Course
"I have been around horses most of my life and I learned a lot of new skills which I have been practicing in my mental approach when I'm with my horse. I never prioritized addressing the "me" factor or acknowledging the effect of my thoughts on my horse handling skills. Seeing the change in how my horse has responded to my 'new' mind-set was incredible. A great balance between self-awareness and clear expectations has allowed me to enjoy being with my horse again. I can't thank you enough for your patience and support." Laurie K. Australia 2020
"I completed one of Sam's Equine Behavior Courses in June and was really impressed with the presentation, which was easy to understand and immensely enjoyable. She is very thought-provoking and it has lead me to consider the conversation my horse has to off and listen for his responses. Thank you Sam." Chantelle J, UK, 2020