by Laura Daley
Every fearful person can learn to ride fear free. No matter what type of fear you experience—a broken confidence, functioning fear, non-functioning fear, repressed fear, or irrational fear—the scientific principles of fear extinction, memory replacement, and conditioned response can help you become the confident rider you dream of being.
Fear is more than an emotion; it is a biological survival instinct. It keeps us safe in times of danger, but can be a hindrance to everyday living when it involves the things we love like horseback riding, or even just spending time with our horses. Fear can also become a habit, “normal behavior,” that certain people live with. Truly letting go of fear involves more than knowledge and skill, and it is more than just gritting teeth, ignoring feelings, and performing a task. To become fear free, you must learn to manage your emotions, understand your real strengths and weaknesses, and see what is really happening around you. Before you can become fear free, you must be able to recognize, evaluate, and let go of every level of fear. But how?
The keys to riding fear free include: never riding when you feel fear; recognizing and rating your fear; journaling about your feelings and interactions with your horse; and learning to use your acute perception to lead to positive action rather than panic
Never riding when you feel fear is the most important concept to accept and apply. Every ride either strengthens or weakens fear memories in your brain. So, anytime you ride despite your fear, you are actually reinforcing fear’s hold on you. Riding despite fear is the worst thing you can do, but everyone does it and most teachers suggest it. It is the main reason that people remain fearful. To overcome fear once and for all you must begin where you have no fear.
Published February 2014 Issue