Updated: May 23
First Things First
Ride the horse that you are on, not the one that is in your head.
Anxiety is being in a state of worry. Having anxiety while riding a horse, can take the fun out of all of your rides, because you are riding in fear. Ride the horse that is underneath you. Not the one that you have in your head.
If you have been around horses quite a while, it is possible that you may have experienced something bad, heard about a certain horses behavior, or may have seen some things that may have been unsettling. For example,you may have seen people falling off, horses not behaving well etc. Then after seeing or experiencing these things, it is what you continue to replay in your mind when you’re riding or about to ride .
While riding your horse, if you keep replaying the things that you have experienced or seen in your mind, you are then riding that horse in your mind, and not the one that you are on. This, is not safe. Why? Because that means you are not giving 100% attention to your current state. When you are anxious, your thoughts are not always clear. Sometimes they become so overwhelming, and all we want to do is shut down, and avoid anything that may make us feel uncomfortable. Then we begin the “what if’s... “.
Well, what if you did get on that horse, and they did everything that you asked. What if you did walk past that scary part of the property and there was no reaction from your horse. What if you did take your horse to that next level of training, or competition, and they were absolutely amazing. It is important that you ground your thoughts, and get in tune with the present. Remember, ride the horse that is underneath you, not in your head. You have to think positively.
As a trainer, I often see riders with anxiety. I also know my horses, and the horses that I work with, very well. When I am working with riders with anxiety, I show my riders everything they need to know about the horses. When I am working with another horse owner, I ensure that they know everything they need to know about their horse. That is my job as a trainer. That way, they know exactly what to expect. If you are working with a trainer, I hope that they do the same for you. I hope that they show you everything you need to know about the horse you’re training on, or your own horse, and tell you EVERYTHING that the horse has to offer. In addition, I hope they can then begin to work with you and your horse to help you develop a positive relationship that you can actually enjoy. Having an anxiety ridden relationship with your horse is not fun. It will also help if you learn how to communicate with your horse, and learn to read, and listen to them.
Now, if you do not have someone else available to show you everything you need to know about a horse, or your horse, or you are not in a position to make that happen, then trust your skills. Keep your heels down to have a deep seat. Keep your hands quiet. Stay in the center of your horse. Those skills. The skills that you have acquired over time by working with horses. Do your best to clear your head, and deal with the horse you have in the moment. Not the misbehaved horse you have in your head. If you have very little experience around horses, I highly suggest finding a trainer for safety reasons.
Moving forward, to help you with your anxiety, I encourage you to ask for help if you need help with a horse. I would much rather have someone ask for help, than to see someone get hurt. Horses can feel our emotions as well, and we are their security blanket. So again, it is very important that we keep our selves grounded. If you feel yourself begin to get anxious while working around your horse: Stop, take a deep breath, and be present with the horse that you are with, not the one that is in your mind.