Understanding The Fear Factor

It seems like fear is a pretty common thread to see among a lot of adult amateurs. Whether it’s fear of jumping, fear of jumping solid objects, fear of riding outside of the ring, or whatever else, I see and hear the word quite a bit. As someone who is not generally a fearful person or rider, I admit to not really understanding a lot of it. I have a hard time identifying with fear issues and therefore a hard time being sympathetic or knowing the right thing to say or do. So lets use this post as a discussion point and help educate me – if you’re afraid of something, what is it, and why are you afraid? Have you always been afraid or did it happen as a result of a specific incident? What have you done to try to overcome or cope with that fear, if anything? When you’re in a situation where you feel afraid, would you rather people leave you alone or encourage/support you? If you aren’t a fearful rider – have you always been that way or have you successfully eradicated those fears? If so, how?

In my ponderings, and in talking it over with some other friends, it seems like there’s two general categories of fear: fear of bodily harm and fear of failure. I can identify more with the fear of failure… I am never particularly scared, but certain things do make me uncomfortable (ahem dressage). The bodily harm part I don’t get as much. I’ve been hurt before and I’m sure I’ll be hurt again. That doesn’t mean I’m reckless, but “OMG I’m going to fall off and break something” or “OMG I’m going to get run off with” or “OMG I might get bucked off” is never really a thought that crosses my mind. It’s all happened to me before and wasn’t the end of the world so I guess I feel fairly nonchalant about it.

I also think that there’s a difference between fearless and reckless, although sometimes people use them interchangeably. There was one point as a teenager where I would have gotten on any horse and jumped it over anything, whether it was likely to get me killed or a horse ruined in the process or not. That’s reckless. But I also sat on a lot of different horses of varying levels of sanity, so I got to experience and ride through and survive a lot of various misbehavior, which probably contributes greatly to my lack of fear today.

reckless fearless

These days, as a 30-something, I will still get on just about anything (except a dangerous rearer, because I’m not suicidal) and not be afraid to try things with it, but only things that I think are within a reasonable expectation for that horse and myself. I’m usually pretty darn willing as long as I feel like it’s not stupid.

While fear isn’t really something that enters into the equation for me, that’s not to say that my heart isn’t hammering at the in gate or in the start box. I get the “let’s do this, self” butterflies for sure. Again, not what I’d classify as fear though, just adrenaline. I feel pretty lucky to not have fear issues, but it also makes it really hard for to me to understand and identify with The Fear Factor when it comes up with others. So, fellow riders – lets discuss!

47 thoughts on “Understanding The Fear Factor

  1. I am someone who has some fear issues. I’m a lot better than I was but it is something I still struggle with. I think it started when I was a junior. I rode a dirty stopper and had a few falls within a short time. One resulted in a broken collarbone. I stopped jumping and really riding for a long time. Now that I am an adult re-rider I really try to not let fear get the best of me. My trainer is awesome at pushing me just enough. I was very afraid of jumping for a long time but my horse gives me a lot of confidence. He’s been there, done that Oldenburg and he will jump anything from any distance. He has never once stopped. I have a stupid fear of jumping solid things even if they are tiny but I am working on that. If I’m scared I don’t really want people to acknowledge it, except my trainer. I also have a fear of failure. I want to be a good enough rider for my fancy horse. Enough about my issues… :) I admire you guys that have no fear!

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  2. I think I am more fearful of failure than bodily harm. I have had horses that rear (but not flip over. That shit is scary) and lived. I have been bucked off and lived. I have never had super crazy horses to give me a reason to be fearful, though.
    But what scares me is messing up my baby horse. As an ammy and having a baby, I could definitely screw her up quite easily. But the more I do with her the more I realize as long as I keep my intentions good everything falls into place. So my new fear is that she will never be healthy. I cope by crying myself to sleep in a fetal position every night. In reality, I know life will go on no matter what, but I so desperately want her to be healthy and I am so worried that isn’t ever going to happen.

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  3. I wish I could say I was fearless, but I am not. My fear is regarding bodily harm, since I am well practiced in bouncing back from embarrassing failures. I like to think I have a fair about of mental grit that shoves the fear aside and moves forward anyways, but truthfully, it’s always a constant exercise in not allowing myself to envision all of the possibilities and thinking positive.

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  4. Okay-I have two fears, and they hinge on each other. They aren’t because of a specific event as much as a specific horse. I had a horse who ran off with me all the time and he bucked with other people if they tried to make him behave, so I was terrified of riding out with him and of cantering him anywhere. I also passed out and fainted will cantering as a child, so that didn’t help. Currently my fears are riding in open spaces (which is a drag since I don’t currently have an outdoor) and cantering. I made a lot of progress with the cantering fear in lessons last year. I had my horse at a trainer who had a giant outdoor and an indoor so I had the opportunity to work on one fear at a time, whereas at my house the only place that is appropriate for canter work currently is in a field. My current horse that I ride the most was very green until last year, so he wasn’t appropriate for me to work through these issues on until lately. I’m still struggling with trusting him with riding out/cantering in the field though, so that’s a work in progress. Do I want encouragement? yes. I can see that once I’m overcome the fears that I have, I will enjoy riding so much more.

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  5. I completely understand where you are coming from, as a 20 year old, I came off my mare (that I still have) and broke my arm. The only thing I was afraid of, was being told that I needed to get rid of the horse. I made sure that everyone knew that I bailed wrong, didn’t do an emergency dismount and it was my fault. I was back on a horse within a few weeks, cast and all, and never looked back…but…as I have gotten older, my fear level has increased…not necessarily, “OMG, I’m going to fall off!!”, every time that I climb on a horse…but I am a little more selective of the horses that I will take in for training and unless I know the horse WELL, breaking it isn’t an option anymore. I also think that becoming a parent makes you a little more cautious. Suddenly, there are these little beings that rely on you, so you kinda can’t afford to get hurt or dead.

    Honestly, my first taste of fear started about 13 years ago (I would have been about 34), a long time friend of mine had a foundation QH stallion that they wanted me to tune up for them. Since we don’t keep stallions here, I agreed to travel to their farm and work him a couple of times a week. I showed up the first time to work him. I lunged him, he worked well, was really relaxed, so I climbed aboard. He rode out very nicely. He was calm, we walked, we trotted, and then we picked up a lope. He loped around beautifully on a nice loose rein and I felt so comfortable on him…and then IT happened. Without any warning, he snapped in two. He went into full saddle bronc bucking mode…because I wasn’t prepared, I lasted through the first front feet plant, which pitched me forward, then the hind end came up, and that catapulted me into the superman position…only I guess, since I didn’t have a cape, I didn’t fly…I landed full force frontal body plant in the sand. Knocked the wind out of me, bruised me in places I have never had a bruise before, sand in places that took days to get out. I caught my breath, assessed that I wasn’t injured, other than a bit of my pride, and my girls sporting a color change lol, and got up to catch this bucking beast, because I had to get back on him….and I did, enough to walk him around. I continued to ride this horse for another 6 months, without incident, we rode down the road, around their farm, he completely gained my trust again….UNTIL….he did it to me again. This was the first horse EVER, that I finally admitted that I was afraid of. Also, later, I came to find out that the bloodlines of this horse (a foundation Hancock bred stallion) is known for their “buck”. Most of the top bucking horses on the rodeo circuits are Hancock bred horses….Yeahhhhh.

    Anyway, at 47, I can say that you really don’t bounce like you used to, and the older you are the harder you fall…I used to fall off, without injuring anything, and I don’t fall off often, I work really hard not to. I went 6 years between falls, but late last year, I had a youngster spook out from under me, I landed on my back but hit my elbow which dislocated my clavicle (that JUST finally healed after many trips to the chiro to keep popping it back in), 6 weeks after that, I had a training horse come over on top of me (devine intervention somehow flipped me over at the last minute) and the mare’s shoulder landed on my pelvis throwing that all out of whack ( it could have been SO much worse)…I am still dealing with that and my chiro is still working on that as well (pretty sure he has decided that I just might be his job security)….So, to make a long story short…as I have gotten older, I do have more compassion for those that are fearful, but me personally can’t afford to climb on a horse and think “what if”. I just do.

    As far as fear of failure…not really…I compete against myself and I teach my students that their goal is to have a better ride than the previous ride. At a show, we are paying for a judge’s opinion and some days just aren’t our days. A ribbon is just a ribbon, but if the ride is good then that is success. Also, we do have to have occasional bad days otherwise, the importance of a good day would be lost. That being said, I really am uber competitive and YES I like to win. LOL

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  6. I’ve had some pretty pretty bad falls, but I got hurt the worst when I didn’t actually come off. A horse boot and sucked back with me, tearing some ligaments in my neck. my vertebrae slid out so far that they thought I dislocated it. Fortunately, it was only as close as it could get without actually being dislocated. I’m not scared of falling off, due to vaulting I usually fall without getting hurt, but I am a lot more careful becauseI don’t want that to hurt my neck like that or worse again.

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  7. i am a fear person. Not of failure (as someone above mentioned that is pretty par for the course) but fear of getting hurt or falling off. Also fear of jumping bigger jumps. I always think i am going to throw up at events when i have to jump something sol wider, taller or more solid.

    I was dumped as a kid and ended up in the hospital after a horse reared up and fell over on me so I def dont do rearers. My gelding is quiet as he comes and really has helped build my confidence up a long way but I am still very nervous jumping and worried i will fall off.

    Course 2 years ago i was still fearful of cantering (Long story but the last two horses i had were nuts so they made me scared of going faster than a trot). Remus has cured me of that and we even have a good run in Fair Hill at times. So baby steps.

    I dont think i will ever look at a jump and say “HOT DOG I GET TO JUMP THAT” but i would like to think the more i do the braver i will get. We will see LOL

    Amanda you are the most fearless person I know. The things i have seen you ride. Man. You amaze me. I would let you ride anything I owned as well due to the fact that even if you worry about stuff you wont mess anything up. You are there great at it. So stop with that! 🙂

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    1. LOL well I think you’re far too flattering to my abilities, but thank you. I’m glad you found Remus, I can definitely see that you’ve “blossomed” with him!

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  8. I used to be afraid of bodily harm, but I am not really anymore. A lot of that is because my horse is SO reliable. My fear now is fear of failure… specifically fear of ruining my horse. Example – when I canter up to a large fence I am afraid I will get jump out of the tack or swing my legs like crazy and look a fool WHILE giving him a bad ride. Too many bad rides over fences and a horse becomes a stopper. If my 100% honest horse started stopping, I’d have no one to blame but myself.

    So that’s the big root of my fear with jumping. I’ve fallen off on course and I will again. Sometimes it hurts and sometimes it doesn’t. I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I ruined my horse though.

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  9. I used to be fearless XC, probably because a) I was much younger and b) I had a horse that would jump anything. I literally had one refusal on this horse his entire jumping career. Unfortunately, that meant I didn’t really learn how to ride a horse to the fence, but more just point and hang on.

    Fast forward to last spring, my first event with Paddy. Fences were 2’3. Paddy’s a game enough jumper but he’s not fantastically brave – he doesn’t have a lot of miles. We had a stop, nbd, and after that I just sort of lost any interest in jumping whatsoever. A crossrail doesn’t even call to me. I did a few jumps on another horse when we went foxhunting last fall, and it was totally fine – not even a twinge. But I just don’t *want* to jump any more. It’s the strangest thing since I’ve spent the better part of the last 15 years wanting to get back into eventing… and then suddenly, it’s all about playing in the sandbox. Not sure if that’s fear or just life changes, but I’m going with it. 🙂

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    1. The sandbox thing has to be a phase, right? 😉 I totally see what you mean though. I actually had a little western QH for a while many years ago because I just got so burned out from h/j land and had no desire to participate anymore. People change, that seems normal.

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  10. Lol- my blog post from last night/early hours this morning was about me controlling my panic as the show this weekend looms!!! Though a lot of my panic steams from “where is my _______ (insert some piece of equipment that is only used for shows like an armband- or stock tie, etc because I haven’t had to use it in a year!)”

    To answer your questions…. I don’t feel like I am a fearful rider, I would probably consider myself more cautious than fearful. I enjoy taking my horse out for hacks through the woods, I love jumping, and there is nothing better than the high right after a successful cross country course. If I had something I was fearful of I would say fence height. I look at the Prelim jumps and go back and forth between “oh I soooo got this and OMG how could I ever just an entire course at that height!!!”. I know with successful rides and pushing myself slowly the jumps will get smaller and smaller and I’ll be back to jumping 3’6″ when my horse and I are ready.

    When walking courses (either XC or stadium) I will ride every jump and visualize the perfect take off, the perfect feel, and my horse confidently jumping over the jump. I also make sure I’m not over facing myself. This does not mean I don’t try and challenge myself to be better- it just means that I know what level I’m confident at, what level I’m comfortable at but still pushes me forward, and what level is over my head and horse’s current training.

    Knowing that I’ve done my homework at home gives me the confidence to jump around anything at an event- if there is a particularly scary jump I make sure I visualize a successful ride to the jump and know that the foundation for a successful ride is there.

    This is how I conquer my fear/nerves- I make sure I don’t push myself to fast, and know that when I get to a show I am ready, even if it is the outer boundaries of my comfort zone- I know that I have done the work at home and can do it at the show! Having a cheer leading “you can do it” team does not help me- it really has to come from within myself and if I am nervous about a particular jump or moment I will look to my trainer or another knowledgeable rider to give me guidance- Having someone who doesn’t know what I’m about to do saying “you got this” doesn’t help me because I know they don’t know what they’re talking about! ha!

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    1. I am big on visualization too, which is why I never sleep at horse shows. It does help me feel like I have a solid plan though, rather than just going around willy nilly with a kinda-sorta-general-plan.

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  11. I don’t really have a fear of bodily harm or failure. My XC fear is completely based in anxiety about serious injury to the horse. Rotational falls are scary and sometimes deadly to the horse. I have never been able to suppress that imagery. I’ll stick with the jumps that fall down.

    I also am not sure if I get afraid of jumps at a certain height–after 4′ I just don’t know because I haven’t ever pointed my horse at one higher. … I try to stick with what I think my horse can handle physically or mentally, and with Eli I don’t think I’m anywhere near his physical limits but I quite frequently get a sense we walk the line of his mental limits. Fear of ruining his already delicate brain is a big deal to me.

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    1. I get the rotational fall thing. It freaks me out a bit too, every time i see a horse get a leg hung on a fence. Not enough to keep me from doing XC obviously, but enough for me to think I only want a horse with a quick tidy front end.

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  12. Number one weenie right here. Though I will say, I’m strangely braver as an adult than I was as a kid. It’s never been fear of failure though- I can laugh off looking silly in front of people, and I can admit when I messed up. It’s been fear of getting hurt that gets my heart rate jacked up and the cold sweats started. I’ve fallen off more times than I can count and broken quite a few bones, but for some reason the idea of a horse taking off on me freaks me out. Guess I’ll never be a jockey.

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  13. It’s no secret that I’m pretty terrified of trail riding. And while I have never (knock on wood) had a bad trail experience, my fear is that my horse will bolt away with me and I’ll get dumped somewhere in the trees and get seriously injured, or dragged along the trail with the horse galloping away with me and smacking into branches, not being able to stop….I know, these are pretty elaborate situations, but nevertheless, I am terrified of riding outside the ring. It’s part of the reason that I’ll never EVER school XC and give tons of credit to those that do. I’m perfectly content in my little fenced in jumper arena, thankyouverymuch.

    This fear of trail riding has only really surfaced since I moved back to NJ from Austin. At my barn in Austin, we did trail rides all the time as “mental health days” for both rider and horse, and often times we warmed up on the flat WTC’ing around a huge polo field below the barn (I’m sure you knew which barn I’m talking about). I even went on a 2.5 hour trail ride with a friend one time on a 6-year old TB green mare, and we ended up not coming back until after dark and she was absolutely perfect the entire time. I’m really hoping that Roger can help me conquer this fear of mine, because just the thought of even cooling down outside the ring gives me anxiety.

    Trail riding is pretty much the ONLY aspect of riding that scares me: point me at a 4′ Swedish oxer after a tight rollback? I GOT THIS. Go for a 15-minute cool down walk around the property? AW HELL NO.

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    1. I see a lot of jumper people like this (especially at my last barn). They wouldn’t even MOUNT outside of the ring, they’d walk in to get on. I would go absolutely stir crazy nuts only riding in the ring all the time. I need my open space and my freedom and my room to gallop. You have some pretty vivid and specific fears, that’s interesting.

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  14. my fear is of missing out and becoming fearful. with a greenie who doesn’t seem like he’ll ever be ready for a HT, i fear that i’m missing my chance because the longer it takes to get out there, the more likely my aging self will become fearful.

    oy. how’s that for a meta mindf*ck?

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  15. Fear is such a funny thing; for a lot of us it’s not even rational. When I was younger I was a lot like you – pretty fearless, would get on any horse and try anything. I have been bucked off, taken off with, fallen, been stepped on, kicked, bitten, etc. and none of it really phased me. But then I had a few experiences which, while I was never in physical danger, really screwed me up psychologically because I felt that I was out of control. And then a few years ago I had a bad stop/crash at a show, and it took me a LONG time to not be anxiety-ridden about jumping, even though I wasn’t hurt badly in the fall. When I’m in a fearful ‘mode’ or presented with a task that makes me anxious, I need the people I’m riding with to acknowledge that, but also encourage me to do things that I am capable of even though they make me nervous. Sometimes fear isn’t even a fear of a “thing” – like failure or injury – it’s just an uncontrollable response to something our body & mind have a bad memory of!

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  16. When I started riding again (in my 50’s after a twenty year period away from horses) my biggest fear was bodily harm. I think this fear stems from being hurt in the past and a bone-deep knowledge that I am not the athletic rider I once was and getting out of the way of a wreck is no longer in my repetoire. It was not helped by the fact that my doctor told me I should never ride again if I wanted to retain the ability to ambulate without a wheelchair. Add to that my unstarted seven year old Arabian, and it was a pretty potent cocktail.

    The bodily harm part was part and parcel of riding when I was growing up. It started with a four year old palomino appy mare who ran away with me and carried us through a canal that was lined with Russian Olive trees, to a shetland pony who could not be stopped, a broken arm, multiple bruises from being tossed face first into a wooden plank fence, kicked in the face, kicked in the chest, two times when my horse fell with me (first serious injury to my lower back), 50 stitches in my face, badly sprained ankle, tossed off more than a 1,000 times in the course of my 30 years of riding (I was breaking in horses at the age of 13 for people in our rural town), and finally the accident in Yellowstone on a paid-for trail ride that ruptured a disc in my lower back, bruised kidneys and my spleen, and tore loose abdominal muscles on the left side of my abdomen. This fear did not leave me until 1) I realized I had developed a good enough seat to ride through my horse’s antics, 2) Ashke is not trying to get rid of me and 3) Ashke will take care of us on the trail and in the arena..

    The doctor inspired fear was finally vanquished when 1) I survived the only time I have come off of Ashke with bruising and no additional injury to my spine, 2) when the BoT brace eliminated the pain I was experiencing and gave me the support I needed to strengthen the muscles to support my spine, and 3) when I did my own research and discovered the Doc had lied to me about rehabbing a ruptured disc.

    I still get nervous at times, but horse is very good on his feet and will do everything he can to keep us upright. And he’s not a rearer, which is awesome.

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  17. My fears result from 1) aging and 2) being over-horsed.

    1) I can tell you that up until my late twenties, I was not a fearful rider. I did not anticipate a situation and assume bad results. I just rode. And I thought I was pretty good. I can say that falling when you are older is a different experience. Your body doesn’t have the same powers of recovery. And it teaches you fear, because you start to *REALLY* want to keep your horse between your body and the ground.

    2) Being over-horsed will really shake your confidence. Being in a situation where you don’t have the tools to affect a positive outcome really undermines your confidence. And once you are on a horse that has your number and isn’t afraid to use it, it is the worst feeling in the world. That is why I love the horse I have right now. He never escalates. At the end of the day, he WANTS to keep himself between me & the ground. Big difference.

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  18. I’m a very balanced person (physically) and I’ve come to realize that all of my bad riding experiences came out of situations in which I was forced out of balance (deer leaping a green horse over xc jumps with predictable results).

    I have a very tangible fear of what happens when I lose my balance. I think broken bones is valid thing to avoid. They hurt. They’re expensive. They screw up my whole life.

    So. Situations that throw me out of balance scare the shit out of me.

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  19. I’m with you. I’m not afraid of getting hurt, but I am afraid of failure sometimes. For example, when I moved up to the AOs, my thoughts weren’t OMG I might die, my thoughts were please let me make it around without disappointing my horse or my trainer. The thought of getting hurt really doesn’t come into my mind much. I do think I have a healthy respect for the fact that riding is inherently dangerous. Therefore, I try not to take stupid risks, unlike when I was a teenager and was completely nuts. Like you, I have a hard time understanding other people’s fear sometimes.

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  20. After sustaining second concussion in December and having issue with that 3+ months later, I’m more or less afraid to fall again and I don’t trust my horse. Logically, I know the fall wasn’t his fault, but I just lost a lot of confidence with that one. I really just had to force myself to get back on him and it wasn’t easy, but the last few rides I’ve finally been able to relax.

    Jumping wise (which I haven’t done in about 9 months), I’ve always been afraid of bigger oxers and wide fences in general.

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  21. I didn’t used to be fearful, but as i have gotten older and had some less than pleasant experiences which i stupidly tried to deal with alone (both times) and obviously didn’t have the tools required to fix the issues. If i had they wouldn’t have arisen in the first place or perhaps they wouldn’t have gotten out of hand imo *sigh*
    The first time i was leasing a spoiled horse and ended up discontinuing the lease as he had completely eroded any faith i had in him and there was no repairing or regaining the confidence required to get on him.
    When Kika started rearing because i was an idiot and trusted the wrong professional when buying her a saddle – my confidence and faith in her got knocked. Sadly that “fear” has never quite left me and I ride much more defensively and avoid arguments i would have picked with her before this scenario – guilt is stifling and having people you ride with call your horse dangerous plays on a loop in your head and leads your thoughts on a merry dance.
    It also didn’t help that the trainer i had been riding with prior to this fiasco offered no help or insight whatsoever as to how to fix what was happening and is why I will NEVER ride with her again. She was only in it for the money not the furthering of mine & my horse’s education 😦
    I tend to be a cautious person although have had plenty reckless moments on horseback in my youth. I had never dealt with rearing before Kika and i will do my level best to never deal with it again – of that I am definitely fearful *nod*
    Knock on wood K & I have come to an understanding, she gives me warnings and i rephrase the question and get the saddle fit checked and osteo out – hoping I don’t jinx myself we haven’t had any issues with her circus pony tricks in long enough now that I hope she never stands up again. This along with the fact I don’t think I could part with her is why I won’t sell her. She is not dangerous, but she can frighten and intimidate people and probably has a bad name for herself at my yard but i don’t care as i have no desire to sell…sorry gone off on a tangent!

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    1. I also fear failure, messing up my horses and stopping them from reaching their full potential.
      I rarely felt fear in the moment of scary things on horseback – where the fear takes root for me is the mind games after the fact. Replaying stuff in my head and berating myself for how i should have dealt with things better & how i should be better damnit – the mind man, that is my worst enemy…my own darn head

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  22. I am generally not a fearful person. When I was very young, I used to have a real fear of being run off with. This happened to me regularly enough that I learned to deal with it and now I almost prefer bolting to any other kind of naughty behavior.

    I went through a phase four or five years ago where I was super, super anxious any time I went to any kind of competition, even if it was a super low key schooling thing. I couldn’t explain it- I have never been a nervous person at shows or otherwise- and it eventually disappeared.

    I will ride just about anything that is offered to me, I don’t get nervous about jumping, I am not worried about failing or disappointing anyone, and despite having a couple of nasty accidents, I don’t really think about bodily harm. Maybe I’m just an idiot?

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  23. I’m a very timid rider — I don’t have an abundance of confidence in myself. Sometimes that’s justified, and sometimes it’s not. Overall, my fears seem to stem from not knowing what to do and/or being out of control.

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  24. I’m afraid of dirty stoppers, getting jumped out of the tack and THEN falling off, and horses that drop their shoulders and spook. I have a seriously bad jumping ahead habit, and the trainer that taught me how to jump didn’t catch it until I started showing and getting pictures from the show photographer. By that point it was pretty in grained by in my muscle memory and has been hard to correct. Getting launched into a fence because your horse stopped and you jumped ahead hurts. So that’s pretty reasonable. The later two are more recent and probably because I lack strength and therefore confidence I had when I actually rode consistently. Plus now that I’m the ripe old age of 30 and have some chronic chiropractic issues already, the fear of falling off is more based on the long-term issues it causes than the immediate bumps and bruises.

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  25. I’m afraid of eating the jump. I wasn’t always like that though. My last horse, a dirty stopper, wrecked my confidence as a rider. I felt that I had to be perfect or she would stop, and then I got panicked when I didn’t see a distance she would like, and I would shut down and make no decision, further exacerbating the situation. I went from doing 3’6″ consistently to being terrified to do 2′. I had a fall at a show that I was really lucky with–if I hadn’t fallen as I had, I would’ve landed straight down, back first, on an oxer. That’s what really rattled me. Luckily, I’m overcoming this now as I got an awesome horse who really showed me that I’m a better rider than I think and not to freeze when the distance isn’t perfect.

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  26. My fear stems 120% from that whole ‘almost-died-as-a-9-year-old’ thing. Once you’ve been airlifted from a riding accident, I don’t think you go back. It took years of baby steps to get to where I am now – riding a pretty damn spooky horse somewhat confidently. We’re talking being afraid to lead my horse, months of lunge line lessons, years of never, EVER riding outside an arena, and two saintly mares who restored my confidence piece by tiny, baby piece (plus a hell-ton of therapy).
    I’m so much better than I was at 14 or 17, even. Trail rides, XC schooling these days? Fun, I’m game. The very fact that I came off in January (first real fall since my accident), brushed myself off and rode around the rest of the day is a testament to how far I’ve come. I don’t think five years ago it would have happened. Riding this spooky grey horse has been really good for me – he consistently takes me out of my comfort zone and while I would never want to own him (or one like him), to know I CAN ride it and be okay has been really good for my mental state.
    My fear will never be gone. It’s a little bigger than your average amateur fear, I think, because of where it’s from. It’s not a fear of failure (although I die at the thought of re-injuring Lucy), it’s not a fear of getting hurt per say (I’ve broken enough bones for that to not particularly scare me), in fact I can’t actually articulate what I’m afraid of? Fear of being out of control, maybe?
    These days, it’s about little steps over the comfort zone line, little bit at a time. I spent a lot of time crying growing up from fear and I don’t need to do that again, but I know that to be the rider I want to be, it’s going to take work.

    And then I’m just terrified of trailer accidents. Sick to my stomach fear.

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  27. After ridig in college I developed a fear… I was getting better then i had kids and had a fear if not being able to do things- my mind knew but my body wasn’t back to what I was capable f before.

    Also, Henry was a nasty stopper when I got him so that made me a defensive rider.

    I really hit my stride at this last show… I am confident in his ability and my ability. It was SO nice not to feel freaked out or I’m going to puke nerves when at the show 🙂

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    1. I realize that was vauge… Lol

      My fear was being unable to ride well and competently… I didn’t have confidence in myself.

      My trainer is really good at pushing me even when I don’t want to do something but I am capable of it…

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  28. I am with you here. I’m fearful of looking like a complete idiot, or failing massively. I get nervous at shows, but not fearful. I don’t fear falling, or getting run away with. As a child I feared being run away with, though. So, I understand that fear while I don’t have it any more. Now my riding toolbox is so huge, I feel like I can pretty much deal with any problem that comes up, unless it’s truly outrageously dangerous. That includes falling. I know how to fall, and when to take the fall. That makes a huge difference in being unafraid of falling.

    Knowledge > fear.

    That said, I’m not a moron. I won’t ride a horse without a sense of self-preservation and I won’t ride a horse without knowledge of brakes. Again, I have the knowledge to know what sorts of situations I can deal with and while ones I can’t. I just avoid the ones I’m not comfortable or confident with.

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  29. I’m afraid of screwing up. I will probably do ANYTHING my trainer tells me without too much worry. I just always feel like I don’t have enough experience. By myself, I play it simple and safe. I jump baby jumps. I do basic dressage movements. I take lessons to gain experience, confidence, and knowledge. I know a lot of people are like “my horse- I do what I want” but I always need to be reassured by a professional. One day, I want to be that professional, because it gives me no greater satisfaction! (seriously working at a tack store and discussing tack with customers made me feel AWESOME! I love spreading knowledge)

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  30. I’m not really sure what I’m afraid of, riding-wise at least. I’ll get on any horse. I’ll try anything once, frankly. I’m not afraid of falling off. Not afraid of bodily harm (yet. I’ve never had a serious accident though, so I feel like that could change.) But I’ve started to get a little nervous about jumping…especially XC. When I started Maggie over jumps she initially stopped at every new jump the first time. Then she’d usually go over the second time with some more encouragement and be fine after that. I got to riding very defensively and bracing myself before takeoff incase she stopped. And I’ve come off a couple times at refusals, but nothing terrible happend. Like I said, not afraid of falling off. Maggie doeant refuse at jumps much anymore, but as the fences get higher or solid I still find myself getting apprehensive and bracing for the refusal. I think it probably just comes down to practice. She’ll continue to get braver over time and I’ll get more confident. I think I get apprehensive though because I’m afraid of not being able to do it or embarrassing myself at a show. I’m pretty good at shaking it off, but a fall like the one in that second picture would be pretty mortifying to me!! >_<

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  31. I have confidence issues, but apart from that, I can’t answer a single question. I have no idea why, I have no idea what I’m afraid of, and nothing actually crosses my mind when I’m scared. There’s no “Oh no I’m going to get thrown off” or “oh boy this is gonna hurt”. Just shaky hands and a pumping heart and a general paralysis.
    I’ve identified my triggers, though. Buckers used to be one, but I got over it. Stallions was another, but two very well-behaved stallions fixed that one, although I am still wary of them. Rearing is the new one. I got flipped on once by a pony and do not desire to repeat the experience. Big horses can also spook me sometimes considering if it’s 16hh or taller, it’s taller than the top of my head.
    Mostly, though, I get triggered by certain specific horses. These are usually big and aggressive on the ground – if it tries to kill me before I get on I’m usually afraid of it. Big, aggressive (and I mean aggressive as in maliciously strikes at you with front feet, will take a goodly chunk out of you if you let them aggressive, not pushy) stallions with a habit of rearing are my worst. I can hardly lead them in, let alone ride them.
    And then ponies can do what they please and they won’t scare me. Makes no sense.

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