Barns, Farms and Fears
All barns and farms provide different atmospheres for dealing with fear. Some equine facilities have specialties, such as western or English showing, hunter/jumper or reining and this gives structure to their operations. They are often places with high activity levels and goal-driven riders. This sort of atmosphere can be very helpful when dealing with horse training or physical riding skills, but it can be rather intimidating for people working through fears.
Specialty barns certainly offer support, but boarders or trainers may offer advice tailored to confident riders such as “buck up and work through it.” Because they are confident riders themselves, they do not realize how difficult it is to overcome paralyzing emotions. If you are a fearful rider and are boarding at a specialty barn, you must have the strength to be in a goal-driven atmosphere and still work at your individual pace. When given well-meaning advice, you must be able to thank the person who offered it and then go right back to your specific schedule and lesson plan. You will be tempted to focus on physical tasks instead of doing the mental and emotional work to become fear free. While a predictable schedule offers comfort, riding fear free means learning to adapt and work though various situations so keep changing your routine. That way, when your horse does something out of character, you are able to think through it and handle your fears.
Other farms are more laid back and may include additional animals to contend with. These sorts of facilities have less goal-driven activities and a more relaxed atmosphere. This can help a fearful rider, but the chaos associated with more animals and less structure can also be intimidating. The ever-changing pace and activity levels can produce an underlying anxiety. It may seem as if there is no place to settle and have peace. This constant activity can be great to help the fearful rider get used to change. However, until you are in control of your emotions, it may be too much unpredictability to build confidence. You will need to rely on your written plans while taking the distractions in stride.
Since dealing with fear is very personal there is not a perfect formula that will work for everyone, just as there is no perfect barn or farm. For success, know your situation, your strengths and your weaknesses. Regardless of the equine facility you choose, remember to work on all three areas—physical, mental and emotional—to reach your goal of riding fear free.
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