The Magazine November 2023

A new way of thinking

Posted 28th September 2023

Retrain your mind with help from Alison Buttery to beat fear and anxiety after a bad riding experience


Getting back in the saddle after a fall or scary experience can feel daunting for many riders. The unconscious mind, sometimes referred to as the subconscious, can blow things out of proportion, allowing nerves and anxiety to take over.

Nevertheless, it plays a crucial role in keeping us safe and alert, and is responsible for processing vast amounts of information and making split-second decisions without any conscious effort on our part.

The feedback loop

Sometimes, the unconscious mind can be a little overenthusiastic and it has a tendency towards automatic (and super-fast) scanning for potential risks and hazards. This capacity for creating a seemingly endless list of things that could potentially happen based on previous experiences, and the meaning unconsciously given to those experiences, can play havoc with your confidence around riding.

The unconscious mind can also distort the perception of reality, as it has a tendency to focus on the negative aspects of a situation, disregarding any positive experiences or previous successes we’ve had as riders. This predisposition to dwell on worst-case scenarios can create a feedback loop, reinforcing fears, stopping any action and preventing you from moving forward.

Break the cycle

After experiencing a fall or scary incident while riding, it’s common to experience nerves, anxiety and, sometimes, even fear. However, the problem arises when you allow those feelings to dictate your actions so you, whether consciously or unconsciously, begin to avoid similar situations.

The same fear and anxiety you’re trying to overcome is strengthened as you inadvertently send messages to your unconscious mind that riding is, indeed, dangerous and something to be feared. This then reinforces the neural pathways associated with fear, which means that you experience even stronger uncomfortable emotions that cause you to further avoid riding, making it even harder to get back in the saddle. It can feel challenging to break out of this self-perpetuating cycle.

Overcome your challenges to create a positive, fulfilling riding experience with Alison Buttery’s expert advice in November Horse&Rider. Get your copy today!

Your Comments

Newsletter Sign-up

Sign up now


Latest Issue