Fear!!! What a terrible word. We can deny it all we want but there are those moments when that fear takes over and we cannot get past it no matter how hard we try. We try to beat it, scare it, hide it, ignore it, but it often comes back and rears its ugly head when we really don’t want it to. Are you a fearful rider? Are you dealing with inner demons both in your head, and on your shoulder who keep telling you to stop, to hold off, hold back, or to give up. I deal with those too. I would even venture to guess that most professional riders have some sort of fear of their own as well. What is the recipe for success? What makes a rider a fierce competitor, or should I say, what makes a rider brave enough to battle through the scars, or the inner feelings deep down? How do you change your thinking to help yourself believe that you can do it? As you climb the scale to higher levels of riding there is no doubt in my mind that you are going to hit road blocks. If you haven’t already they are sure to come along. Those are the moments when our fears become reality and the vulnerability that we thought we always had under control comes out when we least expect it to. So how do we deal with it? How do we keep on competing or how do we keep on riding? The mind is a powerful computer that stores information and records data for processing. The brain is our savior in some cases, and allows us to make educated, common-sense decisions that keep us from getting hurt, or putting ourselves in dangerous situations. Let’s face it, horseback riding is dangerous. Anyone who says it isn’t has not witnessed any horrific accidents. That being said, riding can also bring us great joy, and excitement. I have moments of triumph, moments of determination, and moments of inspiration that have helped me shape and become who I am today. I owe a lot of that to my horses. So in reality if the thoughts of fear or anxiety are harnessed correctly they can become great motivators to move on, and defy what you thought you could never do. Those same thoughts sent in the wrong direction can hold us back, and keep us from ever reaching our dreams, goals, or even the most simplest of tasks with our horses. I encourage you to make a list of your goals. They can begin with something so simple, and move onto the reach for the stars goals. Fill in the blanks, and make it as complete as possible. Then once your goals are written, it is then time to complete one skill on your list. Once that skill is complete you can add in what I call deflector goals. Those are the other goals that you can add in at any point in time before you reach a higher goal that is potentially scary to you. The deflector goals are the goals that keep you going and keep you striving to reach the goals that are red light goals, or the goals that stop you in your tracks. They also add to the steps on the ladder as you climb to the top. These goals are what build up your confidence, and keep you motivated. You will find over time that you are getting braver, and reaching for a bigger realm in your riding and training. Time is of no importance in this exercise. You go at your own pace. I find that a helper such as an instructor or trainer can enhance your goals once you learn as an individual to harness your target area of what makes you feel like you are an achiever. Do not depend on an instructor to push you to your goals, or a horse. I have been on both sides of this teeter totter. I have been the student that was pushed too hard to the point of setting me back, and I have also been the instructor that a student has relied on to push them past what they thought they couldn’t achieve. I have found over time, that a student must overcome mental blocks on their own. They are the only one who can give the green light to move on. They must make that decision to push through to get better through constant positive situations. What makes riding hard is horses are potentially unpredictable in the grand scheme of things. They are a living, breathing beings with feelings, emotions, good and bad days. That means we cannot rely solely on the horse to give us those positive moments. Yes, it is true that a great lesson horse or a so called reliable horse can give a rider confidence, but the rider must be the pilot and choose to be a thinker, and an active rider. When it comes down to it, a rider that is truly scared, will hear nothing that is happening around them, they will freeze up, and tense up, making reaction time diminish, and the horse left to handle the situation. This is why a green horse and green rider is never a good combo. The green horse does not have enough experience under saddle to make a reasonable decision to keep itself and the rider safe. This is why a good solid lesson horse, or older horse, is a good mount. They will choose to keep a level head in a potentially dangerous situation. That can be a great confidence builder for a scared rider as they survive a scary situation. If you are a scared rider the most important thing to realize is that your fear is real. Identify it first. Do not sweep it under the rug, and do not ignore it. You need to face it head on, and learn to deal with it. It is o.k. to be scared, and that fear is nothing more than your common sense telling you to slow down, and deal with the present situation. Find role model. This person or ride is the vision you will play and replay in your head. It is the picture you see in your mind that will override the scary monster thoughts that creep in. If you have experienced a scary fall, or an accident, sometimes that is all your see when you try to get back in the saddle. It is now time to erase that thought, and replace it with something good. The role model should be a precision rider, a detailed-oriented rider who you aspire to be. Watch them ride, view videos, view pictures. Let that vision overflow your thoughts. The power of picture thinking as I call it, can overcome those terrible thoughts. Learn to be a confident thinker by envisioning yourself as a top level rider. You will find that you see all the details and incorporate them into your riding. Lastly, educate yourself. Knowledge is a powerful thing. When you don’t have the answers, research the topic, and form your own opinion. Seek the help of a professional who can encourage you and send you and your horse on the right track. There is no clock you have to punch. Take as long as it takes. You gain knowledge and confidence on your own schedule. Chances are, if you are scared of a particular situation then you probably were not ready to face it in the first place. Once you back track a bit, and gain ground with your deflector goals you will work up to the end goal you dreamed you would reach. Be honest about your intentions and true to your intuition. You already know deep down inside when something is not going to work. Trust your instincts. Your fear of falling, may be nothing more than a fear of failing, and the only way to fail, is to never try in the first place.