Do You Have Riding-Related Anxiety?
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By Sarah Weideman, Back to Basics Horsemanship
You show up to your riding lesson feeling great and ready to tackle anything that comes your way. As you sit in your warm car rocking out to your favorite music, you feel as though nothing can touch you and this ride is going to be the best ride of your life! Then as you open the door and step into the barn…you freeze and a feeling of dread washes over you. What the heck happened in those few moments?
Lots of things happened in your brain in those few moments as you opened the door and left your happy, music-filled car and stepped into what should be your equine-filled sanctuary. In our amazing, complicated and often frustrating brain, we have a section called the amygdala. This fun little part of our brain controls our Flight or Fight Response or the (FOFR). As horse people, we all should be well aware of this response, since we work with creatures daily and this is the primary brain function aside from them asking for food…
So what happened? Chances are that at some point in one of your past lessons, you have had a bad experience during a ride. It could have been that you had a bad fall or something as simple as an instructor chewed you out for something that happened during a show, lesson, or practice ride, causing you to feel uncomfortable. When you stepped out of the car, your nose picked up smells, your ears picked up sounds, and your brain had a flashback causing your FOFR to kick into high gear. Your brain decided that you’re putting yourself into the “danger zone,” and it needed to protect you. If you have kiddos, think about Pixar’s movie Inside Out and how emotions have a mind of their own.
Now chances are you managed to calm yourself down and made it out to the paddock and tacked up your horse. During your lesson, your instructor hopefully coached you though your nerves and you had a great lesson – just like you planned all along.
What about those riders who have had major accidents, the trainers who have yelled, screamed, and left their students crying in the middle of the arena, or those who are just nervous to begin with? Is there any way to help overcome these fears? The answer is yes! There is always something to help you overcome your fears. This does not mean you will not have fear; you will just have more skills to help cope with your fears and accomplish your goals.
I encourage you to speak to your trainer about your fears and work with them to make a plan to help you build confidence. If your trainer doesn’t feel comfortable or is at a loss as how to help you, seek other help. There are counselors that specialize in anxieties and fears. The level of help you may need to seek out will depend on what is the root cause of the fear or anxiety.
To help you better understand fear and anxiety, Back to Basics Horsemanship is hosting a clinic on January 5th to help you kick off 2019 with less fears to help reach your New Year Goals!