The Magazine April 2018

Fight the fear – how you can overcome it

Posted 6th March 2018

Don’t let fear hold you back from enjoying your riding. Performance coach John Haime reveals his surefire ways to build your confidence and get you back on track

Fight the fear

If fear is stopping you enjoying your horse, don’t despair – there are ways to overcome your worries and have fun in the saddle again. In fact, you already possess the tools to turn the situation around, all you need to do is learn to apply them in the right way. One of the effects of fear is that it shrinks confidence, so the most important thing you can do is focus on building your confidence back up. That’s your secret weapon for fighting fear.

Biology doesn’t help you

To a degree, we’re all prisoners of our biology. Humans are built to survive and protect themselves, and the part of your brain responsible for emotions is there to keep you safe from anything that threatens you. The amygdala – the control centre of your emotional brain – makes sure of this. It’s a little alarm mechanism that’s ensured the survival of the human species for thousands of years, and we’ve all experienced how it works – you perceive a threat, your internal alarm goes off, then that uncomfortable feeling begins.

Centuries ago, when human life was ruled by the principle of eat or be eaten, this alarm was a lifesaver. However, your emotional brain doesn’t know the difference between a hungry lion chasing your ancestor and your perceived threat of embarrassing yourself in the competition arena. This is where it causes problems for riders.

Here are great ways to help you put your fears into perspective and find a way to overcome them…

  1. Work out what you’re afraid of When you have an understanding of what might be causing your fear and the reasons why, it’ll put things into perspective. This makes it easier to manage and helps you come up with some ideas to address the issue.
  2. Focus on positive emotions You can only feel one emotion at a time, so initiate a positive feeling, such as gratitude. Being grateful for having the opportunity to ride your horse and take part in an activity you love will fill you with positive energy and dampen the feelings of fear.
  3. Stay in the moment The future is where your goals are, but you won’t achieve them without staying in the moment and paying attention to the steps you need to take to get you there. Bring positive experiences from the past forward to support your confidence and leave the few negative ones where they belong – behind you.

Read more of John’s fear-fighting tips on the April issue of Horse&Rider, on sale 8 March.

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