Regardless of what ends up happening with Dandy (won’t be making a decision until we see through our original plan for this spring/summer unless something disastrous happens), something I’m not going to have to overcome is the fear that has been ingrained in me. To that end, because I can’t actually afford to work with a sports psychologist, here are the ten things I’m going to be working on to help with fear.
1. Don’t beat myself up. Bad rides are going to happen. I’m going to make bad decisions and get off feeling like I’m a rank beginner but it is not okay to beat myself up over them. Instead, figure out what I will do next time I am in that same situation.
2. Sing. This is an old favorite that every rider has done at least once in their lives. It used to work great for me so it’s time I bring it back out. I have an awful voice but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that singing gets my body relaxed and it gets me breathing. It’s easy to tense up when you’re not breathing.
3. Knowing when to stop. There will be days when all I will be able to do is ride indoors. There will be days when I want to ride in the outdoor but all I can do is walk around the perimeter twice and be done. I need to be okay with stopping things when they’re good and over praise for the right behavior.
4. Visualize my rides. If I want to go on a trail ride, I need to figure out what factors might lead to Dandy’s spooking or what might make me freeze and panic. I need to see all that in my mind, feel the panic that I would feel on his back and then figure out what things I’m going to do to lessen it. I need to visualize my success.
5. Follow JLE’s plan. This is why I have a trainer: to help me when things are beyond my ability to handle. If JLE wants me to do ground work and hack in the indoor, that is what I do.
6. Ground work. I need to do this before EVERY ride. If I don’t have time to do ground work before I ride than I don’t have time to ride.
7. Smile. There’s a saying that you should fake it until you make it and it definitely has its merits. I sometimes have to do receptionist type duties for my job and physically smiling, even when I’m talking to a jerk, helps keep me calm and keep my voice pleasant. Hopefully this will transfer to riding as well.
8. Plan ahead. The whole point of this one is to not put myself in a bad spot. If I had planned to go for a trail ride but get out to the barn and Dandy is being a jerk in the cross ties and stupid in the indoor it’s probably not a good idea to try to go out on a trail. Instead I need to work with the horse I’ve got that day.
9. Focus on the good. While it’s important to visualize what I’ll do in a bad situation, it’s not good to dwell on what did go wrong. Instead I need to focus on what went right in a situation. Maybe it was that Dandy didn’t rear when he was being bad, instead he spooked and bolted. That’s improvement. Maybe it was that despite my fears I got back on and kept riding, even if it was just a few minutes.
10. Give it time. These fear problems are not going to be solved overnight and even if I do sell Dandy and get something new they’re not just going to magically go away. I need to allow that to be okay and to not expect perfection. Baby steps are my friend.