When the horse throws you off, should you get back on right away?

Deciding to confront your fear can be a helpful thing; however, the manner in which you do so can potentially make the fear worse. Here are some thoughts about getting back in the saddle:

1)   Fear is functional- therefore it may be perfectly adaptive for you not to get back on the horse. If you could get hurt, you may be better off staying on the ground! Figure out what the benefit is of having the fear before you decide to approach the horse again.

2)   If your fear causes you impairments in having the life you want to lead and is NOT useful to you (ie, if the benefit to riding the horse outweighs the costs of walking away), consider your approach:

3)   DON’T grit your teeth, tense every muscle in your body, and actively ignore your skyrocketing anxiety. The horse may experience you as pushy, demanding, intrusive, controlling, or even coercive. There is a difference between approaching what you are afraid of and trying to overcome anxiety by pretending you don’t have it.

4)   Facing fears effectively takes openness and willingness. Practice relaxing your body, softening your tone of voice, and opening your palms so the horse can come over and check you out. The important thing is that you make space and allow for all the fear that you feel. And your relaxed posture will help to relax the horse.

5)   Keep your eyes open! Take in everything around you. Look at the horse’s posture and body language. See if he has his ears forward (curious, listening) or his ears back (irritated).  The better you are at reading a horse’s body language, the more information you will have. This will help you pay attention to when the horse is receptive to having you on its back.

Notice the difference:

You: Anxious, fearful, scared, and determined to get back in the saddle.

You: Calm, receptive, and willing to wait until the horse is ready.

If you were the horse, which person would you want on your back?