Editor's Postcard

A Risky Business

A Risky Business
Catherine Madera

Risk Management and Confronting Fear

by Catherine Madera


Our cover article this month touches on a critical topic in the life of every horse person: fear. Cindi Plendl of Butler Hill Equestrian Center says that “fear is your killer” and I have to agree. The worst accidents I have seen and worst scenarios of horse abuse most often have a root of fear. Over control of horses until they are dull automatons is also a sad example of fear at work. Animals and people do not perform well when they are fearful. Instead, their worst selves will always be on display.


I have learned so much from my horse Eli about how emotions, including fear, affect horses. Photo by Jess Bircham.

While fear is the real danger, the truth is that the equestrian regularly places themselves in potentially dangerous situations based simply on the nature of horses. Accidents can and do happen so the question becomes how do we manage risk and avoid fears that may want to creep in? This becomes more important the older you become. In this stage of my life I easily gravitate toward a comfort zone—horses and people I know and am comfortable with, things I already know how to do. This is not a great place from which to manage risk or confront fear.

Assuming I am not over horsed for my experience level (an important topic for another time), I have found that challenging my comfort zone is actually one of the most effective ways to build confidence and, therefore, manage the inherent risks of horseback riding. The more things I have experienced with horses, the more feel and timing I develop. This leads to safer handling of horses in all sorts of situations. Instead of dwelling on fear—including fear of what others may think of me—I focus on things I can improve and control. This includes things like my emotional responses, body position, seeking input and a willingness to fail so I can keep learning.

How do you manage risk? I’d love to hear. Email me at editor@nwhorsesource.com. In the meantime, be inspired by Cindi Plendl on page 6 and consider one of her upcoming clinics to build confidence.

Ride on!


Published in April 2016 Issue

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Editor's Postcard
Catherine Madera

Catherine Madera attended Walla Walla University in Eastern Washington where she majored in communications/journalism. After winning a national competition for Guideposts Magazine in 2004, Catherine concentrated on non-fiction inspirational stories. Since then, she has published numerous personal and ghosted stories for Guideposts and their affiliate publications. Catherine has published in many regional and national magazines/newspapers and her work is included in several anthologies. She specializes in equine-related topics and profiles and serves as editor of The Northwest Horse Source. In 2010 Catherine’s non-fiction story, A Hero’s Work, received the Merial Human-Animal Bond award given by American Horse Publications. She has also authored three works of fiction and provides editing/writing assistance through Word Horse Writing Services.

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