Getting Past Fear While Staying Competitive
by Laura Daley
When you have a performance horse and you are dealing with fear issues, it is important to make a list of priorities and specific lesson plans. This will help you overcome fear while still keeping your performance horse competitive. Depending on your fear level, you may need to put competition on hold. While working on fear issues, it may be best to have a trainer keep your horse competitive. Or, you can choose to work on your fears while you continue showing. This is the more challenging path, but it can be done.
No matter the direction you choose, overcoming fear is never a simple task. It takes dedication and physical, mental and emotional commitment to become fear free. Begin by taking yourself away from all stimuli that trigger your fear; start in a situation where there is no fear or anxiety. Go back to the basics, but focus on your emotions. Replace fear memories with positive ones and develop automatic muscle memory techniques for emergency situations before getting back to your preferred performance discipline. Once you accumulate positive experiences, learn to control your emotions and develop emergency techniques you are ready to get back to building a working relationship with your performance horse.
If you choose to work through your fears while continuing to show, you will need to squelch the impulse to “cowgirl up” and ride despite the fear. In order to become fear free, you must acknowledge your body’s reaction and respect what your brain is telling you. Stop the stimulus and return to a less scary exercise until you are thinking and functioning once again. This will require you to be honest with yourself and to acknowledge specific fears. Try recording specific emotions in a journal and honestly evaluate each of your experiences, especially those leading up to a performance and immediately after each event. Doing both mounted and dismounted fear free exercises, reviewing videos of your rides, visualizing great performances and journaling will help you eventually ride fear free.