5 tips to ditch fear for good

By Annette Paterakis

I’m not going to lie, I know fear. The other day I was riding again after not sitting on a horse for over a year and after 15minutes of feeling really good about being in the saddle again, my horse tripped and within a split second I was on the ground. This triggered my fear of falling off big time and I could feel my fight or flight system raging through my body. I got back on but was terrified I would fall again. And then it struck me, it is not the falling that scares me most, it is the fact that I have no control over it whatsoever. So here are 5 ways I will be working on this fear from now on so I can ditch it for good.

1. Work with a mental coach or therapist

Fear is one of the most powerful emotions we can experience and it has helped us survive over thousands of years. However, when riding a horse it can really stand in the way of you being in the moment, staying relaxed and in control. As fear is governed by the fight or flight system (also read; 5 exercises to deal with anxiety) it is not easy to overrule and although breathing exercises and a positive mindset can help, it might not be powerful enough. If that is the case, the best way to process the memories that have caused the fear in the first place, is to work with a coach or therapist using techniques such as EFT or EMDR. And yes, even though I am a coach myself and work on these topics with my clients, I too keep learning every day and want to be coached regularly in order to keep improving myself.

2. Use EFT to get rid of negative experiences

EFT stands for Emotional Freedom Technique and is rather easy to use yourself. When working with a coach or therapist, make sure he or she teaches you how to use it, so that every time the fear comes up, you have a powerful tool you can use yourself to deal with and get rid of unhelpful emotions.

3. Let your inner confidence grow

Once you have dealt with the negative experiences and changed the unhelpful automatic responses into more helpful ones, you can work on restoring your confidence. We often feel like we either have confidence or we don’t depending on the circumstances and who is around us. But I believe we always have some confidence inside us, we just need to tap into it and let it grow by giving it more attention. A great way to do this is by going back to a memory of you feeling very confident. Take a moment to really go back to that moment, feel what you felt then, see what you saw then and hear what you heard then. Once you are back in that memory, feel that confidence again and let it grow within your body, let it expand until it fills up every cell in your body.

4. Train with someone you trust

An important element to get over fear is to feel safe when on the horse. Although being pushed outside your comfort zone by a trainer can work well for some riders, it might not work for you (right now). Being able to take the time and get the space you need to get over your fear is important, so make sure you are surrounded with people you trust and who allow you to be yourself.

So let’s make it a habit, scared or not, to always take a moment to deeply connect to your horse when you get on.

5. Deeply connect before you get on

What I have noticed when fear kicks in, is that I immediately get in my head and start overthinking or doubting myself. Ironically this only takes me further away from the solution. Which is to stay connected with my horse and to keep feeling what’s going on underneath me.  So let’s make it a habit, scared or not, to always take a moment to deeply connect to your horse when you get on. Be in the moment for a few minutes and connect with your horse by completely focusing in on every little movement underneath you. You can also connect by imagining that you are both in a bubble together, becoming one. Or you can start by taking a deep breath, then focus in on your confidence (tip 3) and allow that confidence to expand to your horse as well. There are so many different ways to connect, find out what works for you, and use it every day!