I work with a variety of students. From ages 2-100. Seriously! Well, I haven’t had the blessing of working with someone as wise as 100, but you get my point!
One thing I notice is that each rider has a hang up. Something they don’t want to do, explore, etc. As a coach, it’s my job to seek out that issue, find the root, and, well, terminate it! Easier said than done most of the time!
I have students whom have never been on a horse. You would think that their “hang ups” would be standard. They are not. Some are easier to pick away the fear and grow their skills and some can’t let it go. Sometimes I have a hard time finding what the fear actually is and how to work through it.
Let’s take a step back. Let me tell you my fear! I have a fear of speed without brakes. It’s seriously one of my nightmares. It haunts me. I’m a barrel racer. My horse goes full speed to the first barrel. And I let him! So how did I deal with my fear???? I didn’t. I just learned how to trust in my training and my horse. We breeze often and I know that I have a way to stop him if needed. I can turn him into a smaller circle. I can pull his nose to my knee. I can stop him. He is light in the face. Normally I just say easy and transition him down. When we run, I know he is going to find that barrel and turn it. I know that when we run out, he will split to the right. I still have the fear of no brakes. Driving my truck, attempting to roller skate, skate board…. and on different/new to me horses. But, I have learned some skills over the years on how to stop if needed. I just have to clear the fog in my brain and do it.
Back to my students. When dealing with the little kids, they tend to have no fear. However, they lack the balance and bounce a bit more. Once they bounce, they realize that they might fall down. Depending on the kid, it can create fear or they simply giggle and bounce more! My goal is to teach them to relax and balance. Then I teach them how to steer while they are moving forward. I also teach them the power of WHOA. My biggest thing is, if you think you are falling off, stop. Say whoa, pull back and grab horn if need be. Today, I had two kiddos whom had the fear of “fast”. So we worked on control, balance, trust and skills. Both of these kids trotted solo today! Meaning I didn’t lead them! They broke away from me and trotted on their own! This was HUGE for both girls!!!!! One of them just needed the push. Her dad came into the riding area and I had her trot from me to him and back again! Once she realized she wasn’t going to bounce and she could stop, she was laughing! Ah the joy of letting go of fear!!!!! My other student didn’t think she could do it. She doubts herself. Well, instead of pushing, I had to take her mind off of things and had her play a game with me. See, Lynx will follow me. If I’m walking, he walks. If I’m jogging, he will trot. So she wanted to follow me today! I started jogging and Lynx began to trot! She was still in control because she didn’t realize what had happened. Next thing I know, she is WANTING to trot!!! She found the button to make him go and it was on! The sound of her laughter would have made anyone smile!!!!
My older kids, older than 12, have a natural fear of falling off, looking funny, not being as skilled when they advance to faster speeds etc. I feel like that is the age where we, as humans, start to have self preservation. However, with lots of praise, photos, videos and effort, I can get them to get out of their heads and feel the freedom of faster. It sounds weird but showing them how good they rode when they went faster seems to open them up!
Adults are different. They know that they are sitting on an animal that can drop them at any second. Depending on past experience, they can be a bit more reserved when riding. I have found that repeating the steps over and over seems to build confidence and eventually they will break loose and move out. Adults are always individual in their issues. Working through their thoughts and fears really helps!
So next time you saddle up, think about what your fear is and why. Do you trust your horse? If not, go to the round pen! Do you trust your training? If not, work on that. See what your horse knows and work on it! Are you worried you are not strong enough? Fit enough? Skilled enough? Then work on that! Happy riding! Enjoy it!