Horse Riding

How to overcome fear of horseback riding

The journey to becoming a confident rider is often riddled with fear and anxiety, especially for beginners.

The enormity of the animal you’re faced with in your first lesson, paired with the unpredictability of the experience, can be as daunting as it is exciting.

I wanted to go over some practical strategies on how to build confidence and reduce anxiety about riding.

I recommend starting with learning about horse behaviour.

Understanding their reactions and expressions will help reduce the unpredictability which can cause anxiety.

You’ll also want to acknowledge what aspect of horseback riding scares you.

Is it the height, the movement, or perhaps a past negative experience?

Understanding the root of your fear is the first step towards overcoming it.

Enrolling in a beginner riding class is a great way to get better acquainted with horses and riding.

If you’re nervous about getting on the horse, you can start with other things like grooming, tacking and leading the horse around.

Even in beginner classes, things will progress slowly, and you won’t be expected to canter the first time.

If you feel anxious, practise breathing exercises to calm down.

Getting into the saddle when you’re really afraid will only ensure that your body is super tense, and you may walk away with a lot of aches and pains.

Wearing extra safety gear, such as a riding vest, can help you feel more secure.

Also make sure you sign up for beginner classes where they use calm, well-trained horses for first-time riders.

Mention to your instructor that you’re feeling anxious and they’ll guide you through the whole experience.

You can also join a riding group to surround yourself with supportive riders, and to share your experiences with others who can understand what you’re going through.

Remember; the more you ride, the more comfortable and confident you’ll become.

If you want to keep track of your progress, keeping a journal is a great idea.

And most important; be patient.

Progress takes time.

Celebrate your journey, stay patient, and maintain a positive outlook as you work towards overcoming anxiety and building confidence in your riding abilities.

What to expect from your first riding lesson?

When you arrive, your instructor will likely go over safety procedures and discuss the plan for the lesson. This is a great time to ask any initial questions you might have.

In terms of equipment, your instructor may check or provide you with the necessary safety gear like a helmet.

They may also introduce you to other essential riding equipment like saddles, bridles and grooming kit.

This is an integral part of ensuring that you are well-prepared and safe before you start your lesson.

You might then be introduced to your horse and be taught basic grooming techniques.

This is an opportunity to build comfort and rapport with the horse.

Understanding how to approach and interact with your horse is essential for a successful riding experience.

The practical part of your lesson will commence with learning how to safely get on and off the horse, which is known as mounting and dismounting.

This is usually one of the first skills taught to beginners, and you’ll have someone else holding the horse and assisting you.

Following that, your instructor will likely teach you the basics of controlling the horse including steering, stopping, and starting.

You’ll learn to ride at a walk initially, and find your balance in the saddle.

Throughout the lesson, you’ll also learn about horse behaviour and how to communicate with your horse to build trust.

Your instructor will provide continuous feedback on your posture, control, and other aspects of riding, helping you understand areas for improvement.

This feedback is invaluable as it helps you to learn and improve in real-time.

Towards the end of the lesson, there might be a cool-down period where you walk the horse around to help it relax after the lesson on a loose rein, followed by some basic after-care procedures like grooming.

After the practical part of the lesson, there’ll be time to discuss your experience, ask any lingering questions, and learn about what to expect in future lessons.

Your instructor might also give you some exercises or reading to do on your own to prepare for the next lesson.

Overcoming fear in horseback riding is a journey of personal growth, patience, and perseverance.

With the right strategies in place, you can transform fear into confidence and enjoy the rewarding experience of riding in harmony with a horse.

Remember, every rider was once where you are, and with determination and the right approach, you can conquer the canter and enjoy the beautiful journey of horseback riding.

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