Saturday, August 23, 2014

help with fear

I love getting stuff in the mail that is not bills. So when GunDiva sent me a CD surprise, I was super excited. If you don’t know GunDiva, she spends some time each year working with Julie Goodnight, which is pretty cool. She also just got two Mustangs and is working on starting them. It is a very cool adventure to read about. And, she sent me one of her CD’s Building Confidence with Horses.
You may ask, how can one be scared of this?
I listened to the CD multiple times. It made sense and it provided an action plan. In the CD, Julie explains fear and fear responses.  As I was listening, I wanted to smack myself upside the head. . .I knew this stuff. I deal with it every day at work. But I never related my anxiety to any trauma.

Quick recap, trauma or fear memories are stored in the amygdala, which is a primitive part of the brain. So sometimes, even if you don’t remember something traumatic, your body does and responds accordingly.  So, when I fell off Shyloh, I fell off the back of her (bareback), which is one reason why I am having so much trouble letting go of hunching forward.
Shy's water in her face, face
The first thing to do is intellectualize your fear by understanding where the fear comes from how how to override the fear. There are two types of fear, a post traumatic type fear and a general fear. I think my fear comes from thinking I will not be able to handle the situation if something takes place, like a bolt or large spook. Then falling and getting hurt comes secondary. There is also the general anxiety that I deal with every day. And Shy is a very sensitive animal, so she can feel everything I feel.  So in order to ride her successfully, I really need to get my fears in check because my body will send off signals that she can pick up on.

Next, come up with some real life coping skills and think about the purpose for having a horse. My main purpose when I bought Shy was to do trail rides. My purpose had evolved from then, now I want to do anything I find fun. That can range from driving to ground work to clicker training to riding. 
After bath munch and dry time
I think my biggest obstacle is being physically fit. This I NEED to do.  I have not been this, let’s say “unfit”, ever. I like cookies too much. Really thinking about it, I think my fears may stem from this as well, not trusting my body. Not feeling balanced or coordinated. I really need to incorporate some type of exercise more often (I do take a swim class weekly, but more is needed). I prefer outdoor things (biking, kayaking, hiking) that do not seem like exercise and I hate the gym. And running, I figure I spent enough time running in high school where I ran cross country and track. 

Keeping a positive attitude is also and important coping skill. Sometimes I get down on myself, but most of the time I try and stay positive and celebrate the small successes. Lately, I have had a real lack of motivation and have been overall blah. I need to get out of this funk. 
Braid all the hairs!
Finally, have some tools for building confidence. There is a whole list she goes through on the CD, but these are the tools I think will help me most. 
Breathing. I do this. I take a minute just sitting on the horse to slow my breathing and relax. I am not sure if I will ever be one of those people who can mount on the fly and just go off on my horse.
Eyes. Do not look down, it freezes your mind. Look around instead and take in other information to stop the anxiety mind freeze.

Stop the “What-Ifs”! This is my life. . .what if this, what if that? I think it comes from the anxiety. 

Sing to occupy your mind and develop rhythm. I love to sing. I am terrible at it, but I love it. This is one I have heard before and I think it is a good one. I just have to remember to do it. Because when I ride, I tend to freeze up. I don't talk to Shy like I should and I am focused on keeping her calm (even though she already is) and staying on. 

Take lessons. I am happy that Terry is helping me with this and letting me use Reba. 
Bath hard work is instantly reversed :/
Once all those things are in place, I should have a plan to manage my fear. The best way to do this is by having goals. I don't want to give away the whole CD, these are just the most helpful to me. And they have been very helpful. Listening to the CD really put some thoughts in my mind and some other things in perspective. Thanks again, GunDiva!


  1. That CD sounds like just what you needed! You should hang this blog post up in the barn or something, it's seriously motivating. Good luck and keep us posted on how it works for you!

  2. Sounds like and excellent CD .
    Thanks so much for the share.
    As someone who suffers bouts of anxiety I certainly understand .

  3. Really great thoughts. I hope the CD helps you move forward - fear is very, very hard to conquer.

  4. You have a fantastic mentality - keep it up! I know how hard it can be to deal with anxiety. Staying positive, celebrating all the little successes, and taking time to breathe are all key. Never forget about all the fun that horses and riding can bring either. That CD sounds great!

  5. Stop the “What-Ifs”! This is my life. . .what if this, what if that? I think it comes from the anxiety.

    This is probably my biggest issue as well. You had mentioned singing while riding. Something I tried last week was putting on some music. I used headphones that I could still hear outside things through. That helped to reduce my anxiety a little. I even sang along.

    Also, I'm learning that I need to learn to ride out a spook/bolt. It will happen to the most bombproof horse out there. I've been on a horse twice when a tree has fallen near us. Scarey for the both of us. Something that I've started is desensitization under saddle. My horse was great with a tarp when I was on the ground. I could pull it over his head and walk him around. It was different when I was under saddle and started moving the tarp. We took it slow and he would only spook a little at first. Eventually I got it up over him in front and behind me. I believe this is a good way to both learn to ride out mild spooks and also desensitize them when you're on their back. Different mindsets I guess.

  6. Your posts always bring me a smile.... Pony owning, and "re-learning" to ride has been one of the greatest challenges I've had. I would have never guessed I'd be afraid to ride my own pony... but we humans are funny creatures aren't we?
    I'm not a singer, so I chatter incessantly instead... and for whatever reason, it DOES make me feel better.... and he doesn't seem to mind listening to my long boring stories. And it makes me calmer, because as you point out, it's not the pony who's not calm...
    and breathing ~ that's ALWAYS helpful! Keep up the good work!!

  7. I also sing but I only know all of the lyrics to one song. I'm sure Queenie wishes that I would expand my repertoire! I think one of the most important things to remember is not to pressure yourself or compare where you are in your riding to others. I am a "re-rider" after a 43 year hiatus. I looked at all the people in the barn and the level of training that they had and were doing and I decided I had to do the same thing. But then I realized that it really wasn't fun. Instead, I wanted to trail ride and be able to travel with Queenie to different parks in the area. It really helped me relax when I realized that I wasn't "behind" other riders or somehow lacking as a horse owner/rider. I just didn't have the same goals and found hours training in the ring torturous. Good luck going forward. It sounds like the CD will be a great help. I'm going to share this post with other friends who are struggling with their fear issues.

  8. You are so similar to my bestie who works in the same field as you (I think anyways). Being physically fit will make you feel more confident in the saddle, just feeling strong enough to sit through anything that is thrown your way. Sounds like a decent CD.

  9. I'm so glad this is helping :)

    I'll be practicing some of those fear management techniques soon as Skeeter and I progress.

  10. Glad you enjoyed the CD. It has been helpful to many people-- it's not unique or original information, just information and practical advice that I put together to help riders. At the end of the day, it is the individual that makes the decision to conquer their fear and I've seen hundreds of riders have great success once they put their minds to it. Thank you for sending it GunDiva and thanks for sharing your take on it with others Allison B! Good luck to you and all your readers. Julie G.


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