Training The Fear

Does the emotion of fear sometimes take over and run your life? Make it hard for you to train or ride your horse? And if so, is there something you can do about it? Can we train our emotions? Control them so they don’t control us. Training your emotions to work for you instead of against you is an interesting idea that I have been thinking about for some time now and I think I have some ideas.

It seems logical to think that if we can train ourselves to do things like ride a horse, we should be able to train our emotions to do what we want. For most riders this would be very beneficial especially for the ones that are fearful or scared. Of all the emotions fear is the one that shuts most riders down from reaching their goals. And here are the reasons why;

  • If you are afraid of getting hurt while riding you will not ride to your full potential.
  • If you are afraid of the horse you are riding you will be at the horses mercy and the horse will have the upper hand and this can turn into a safety issue.
  • If you are afraid to admit that you don’t know how to do something you will just be posing (pretending you are a good rider) and setting yourself up to never ride or train at a higher level. Some people are ok staying in their comfort zone, but true winners or achievers aren’t.
  • If you are afraid of being judged by others you will hide in the background and never show anyone what you are capable of doing.
  •  If you are afraid to hear the truth about your riding or training skills you will miss out on improvement through lessons, schooling or clinics.
  • If you are afraid to change your ideas about training or riding you will stay in the same spot and never see any improvement.
  • If you are afraid to work hard you will miss out on the rewards that hard work brings to you.

This list could go on and on but that isn’t the purpose of this blog the purpose is to explore the idea of how we can train our own emotions. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have your emotions working for you not against you? So lets explore some ideas I have about how to do that.

First lets start with the fear of learning from someone else or admitting that you need help. This covers a lot of territory because it includes putting yourself out in front of someone and being vulnerable enough to tell them what you really don’t understand and sometimes telling them how you are feeling about riding or your horse. If this is your problem here are some things to try;

  • Sometime before the lesson, clinic or class sit down and write down a priority list of things you know you need to learn (bending, forehand turns, etc.). Also journal about how you feel as you ride and if you have an emotion that you don’t like (fear, anger, frustrated) replace it with an emotion you would like ( courage, calmness, focused) and include the new feeling you would like to have in your list. An Example would be ” I feel calm and confident as I ride or train”. Be very specific about the list and then be very open-minded if the instructor or trainer tells you that you need to start with something different because they are the experts and they should know how to build you a solid foundation. Don’t shut down by being embarrassed or angry if the instructor or trainer has a different idea, stay calm and listen.
  • Next if you can, visualize how you want to be at the lesson, clinic or class. This could mean you want to be calm, confident, included, maybe you step up and go first if a volunteer is asked for or maybe you just see yourself raising a hand to ask a question. Hint; if you are shy and have a hard time doing this don’t give yourself a choice use Mel Robbins 5 second rule, count down from 5 and do it, 5-4-3-2-1 raise that hand and ask. Practice the 5 second rule on little things before you try it in front of people. Don’t judge yourself or others if it doesn’t happen as you visualize it just keep practicing and visualizing it will happen.
  • Once you are at the clinic, lesson or class stay focused on what the instructor or trainer is telling you. You might be thinking “of course I’ll be focused on what they are saying”, but I know from being the instructor students rarely hear 1/2 of what I actually say some days. I’m not 100% sure why this happens but I think it’s because as soon as I start to explain how to do something people’s minds switch to problem solving either how they know how to do it or how are they going to do it. This leaves people with holes in the directions about how to do something, the small details are sometimes the most important details. Keep your focus on the instructions and try to learn the step by step small details. This does two things, first it keeps you focused on something besides your fear and secondly it gives you the confidence to go do the exercise once it’s explained because you understand what they said and what to do, so step up and go first, show it off. Focus is a wonderful thing to learn how to do, practice it and see how calming it can be. Don’t be upset with yourself if you find that your mind wandered off, just refocus. Most people panic and start asking those around them “what did they say” don’t do that, that will also just put you further behind in the catchup process because now you have just missed out on more information. 
  • And lastly and maybe most importantly you need to debrief and celebrate after the event is over. If it is an event that lasts several days do it every evening. Journaling is a great way to debrief, just sit down and free write about the day. Notice anything that makes you tense as you write and spend some time analyzing what caused it and what you may want to change for the next day. But most importantly celebrate what did work, what made you feel successful or proud. And lastly write down three things about the day that you are grateful about. Don’t spend any time complaining, if you have a complaint write it down and then spend your time problem solving how you could or can do it different for the next time. 
  • Other things that help fear are exercise, shaking your hands out, listening to inspiring music or pod casts and less caffeine.

The above list can be modified to help you get through most fear you are having with riding or training.  Good luck training your fear to keep you safe, not hold you back.