Doesn’t Matter

Me and Jim Dorsett after my fall
Me and Jim Dorsett after my fall

Admittedly it took me smashing both my legs and spending a year in a wheelchair before I felt empathy for fearful riders.  Although I knew all the catch phrases to try and teach someone that was afraid,- “he’s not going to do anything”, “nothing’s going to happen”, “doesn’t matter”, I really didn’t understand that it was a physical problem to be frightened, not a mental one.

It’s easy to stand on the ground when someone is fearful and logically explain why they have nothing to fear, or even what to do if they experience loss of control.  These are things most people can understand and conceptualize, however; when a person has been hurt, or just has a fear of being hurt no logical understanding overrides the blast of adrenaline that shoots through their body causing a cold sweat to break out on their forehead.

If you are trying to teach, or help someone that has this fear, understand that they want to get through it or they wouldn’t be there.  If possible get on the horse first and show them how quietly he goes around the arena without spooking or falling.  Sometimes it’s helpful when the rider is on the horse to get them talking about something else in their life, maybe their family or their job, to distract them from the situation for a minute.  This will keep them from over analyzing their ride.  Put a grab strap on the saddle or a stirrup leather around the horse’s neck for them to grab if they feel the need to.  If they become overwhelmed with fear and feel like they must get off the horse try to be supportive and understanding, even if you have never felt this way yourself.  Everything doesn’t have to be conquered in one day.

If you are a rider that has experienced a bad fall or is fearful for some other reason, realize you are not alone.  Many people feel fear and express it as anger or frustration.  Don’t be embarrassed to talk to your trainer about your fears.  This will save a lot of time and confusion if the fear is getting in the way of training.  Never feel “less than” because you are afraid.  Eventually most everyone gets to experience this most unpleasant of feelings.

It took a long time after I began riding again to feel confident enough to train a horse again as opposed to just sitting there fear struck.  Fear can be overcome but it never goes away completely once it  becomes a part of your psyche.  If you have a bad day just spend the time on the ground with your horse and don’t let one uncomfortable feeling keep you from what you love. Get back in the saddle tomorrow, it will be a better day.  I promise.



8 thoughts on “Doesn’t Matter

  1. As a fellow injured rider/trainer, this post really hits home with me. Like you, I knew how to talk or ride my students through their fears, but I was not at all equipped to deal with having that type of debilitating fear myself.
    I believe that when you add to that fear the aspect of being a professional, feelings of failure begin to work their way into your subconscious. These negative feelings eat at you and often steal your passion away from you. I know, I’ve been there.
    I was fortunate though, because I had YOU. Not only did you understand my dilemma, but you believed in me when I didn’t have the courage to believe in myself. I will be forever grateful to you for giving me back my passion. You’re not only a great instructor, you’re an amazing friend.

  2. Thanks Bre- that’s the nicest thing ever! You’ve put me back together as much as I have you! I agree that being a professional adds an additional level of failure feeling! I felt like If I couldn’t ride every horse then I couldn’t be a trainer anymore but I came to realize you don’t have to and shouldn’t ride every horse out there. There’s a time in life for every horse. Thanks so much for everything you do for me, it’s always appreciated! Much love- Suzanne

  3. I remember many times I should’ve been terrified to do what you asked me to do or what needed to be done but somehow your constant yelling “good! Good! YES!” Always instilled the confidence in myself that I could do it. And even now when I don’t get to see you as frequently as I’d like I always hear you in my mind yelling positive reinforcement and usually it gets me through the tough moment. That was what made me take my first lesson with you, I always heard you yelling positive things at your riders and never negative.

      1. Oh, just go with what you like – this is all for fun. I have to restrain myself from posting every day, haha, I really don’t think people want to read all that much.
        Then again, it depends on what’s going on 🙂

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