We’ve all been there at some point… the feeling of fear, anxiety and nerves when riding, whether competing, hacking out, or simply mounting your horse.
Your legs feel like jelly, you feel like you’re going to be sick at any moment, you tip forwards and grab hold of the reins in an attempt to keep control, your breathing is so quick and shallow that you feel lightheaded, and all you can think about is ‘I’m going to fall off / lose control / make a fool of myself”.
So I want to share a really simple way to change how you feel and draw yourself out of the flight or fight mode that you find yourself in.
Reframe your Fear
Firstly, recognise and acknowledge that you are feeling afraid and that it is a perfectly normal, human response to a perceived threat.
Secondly, think about your fear in a different way:
F – False
E – Evidence
A – Appearing
R – Real
Key questions to ask yourself:
The emotions and physical sensations in the moment can feel very real, but they are based on your perception of an event or scenario.
- What evidence or proof is there right now, that XYZ will happen?
- What evidence is available to you right now, that XYZ will not happen?
- Is my physical response to this situation a direct result of my mind basing its decisions on false evidence which appears real?
- If so, how else could I choose to respond to this situation, right now?
- You might find it useful to explore your thoughts, emotions and physical responses to a specific situation or event, on a piece of paper when you’re at home and away from the immediate environment.
Practice asking yourself these four questions in other areas of your life too, when you notice that you’re reacting in a way that is less than helpful. The more you practice asking these questions of yourself, the more self-aware you will become, and the more likely you are to maintain a balanced perspective of yourself and your horse when you’re riding.
Our minds play tricks on us, and in order to build confidence and a resilient mindset around riding, we have to learn how to change the stories that our unconscious mind tells us.