All riders experience fear at some point in their riding careers. I have felt fear more times than I can count, and at so many stages in my riding career. Even nowadays, there are things that make me nervous. Overcoming fear for riders, including myself, is sometimes the biggest barrier to developing our skills.
I want you to think about the last time that you experienced fear.
Maybe you were riding. Or perhaps you were thinking about riding. Maybe you were even thinking about competing for the first time, or at a higher level than you ever have before?
It can feel impossible to overcome your fears at times.
Two exercises for overcoming fear for riders
So, I want to share two quick and simple exercises that I try to implement whenever I feel nervous. These have really helped me in the past. They have been so useful when I’ve hit road blocks and experienced a lot of fear towards something I wanted to achieve with a horse. I really hope they can help you too.
#1. Dealing with the pain of being afraid is not as bad as dealing with the pain of regret if you don’t try something that you really want to do. Either way, you have to deal with pain. I would always choose the shorter-lived, easier pain.
#2. Don’t let yourself slip into “I should” or “I have to” mindset. That puts you in immediate conflict with yourself. Part of you is saying “you should do so and so…” which immediately means there’s another part of you saying “but I don’t want to…” Instead, try thinking “I choose to do so and so…” Really mean it and notice how your attitude almost immediately shifts towards more confident as your whole body unconsciously prepares for the task at hand.
Overthinking things and building up anxiety in your head almost always comes from inner conflict – at least it does for me! – when I adopt this almost authoritarian “I should be doing so and so..” or “I have to do so and so…” attitude.
Sometimes overcoming fear for riders can be as simple as changing goals that are too big or out of your control. Have a look at my tips for setting goals for riders here.
Happy (and less fearful) riding!
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