Five Tips to Overcome Your Fear of Horseback Riding
A refreshing and comedic take on some tips of horseback riding, as told by Marilyn Darrell, an adult beginner horseback rider with Maverick Stables.
Heart pounding. Pulse racing. Can’t catch your breath. Panic. And that’s just the thought of being near an animal that is at least 4 times your size. Forget about climbing onto it and riding it!
Have you wanted to ride a horse but just haven’t been able to face the fear? That was me up until a week ago. I was never really that girl who wanted a pony from day one. Perhaps I lacked some sort of innate equine loving DNA. My desire to ride a horse was something that grew on me quietly and slowly but persistently. Maybe moving to Lockhart, Texas last year and watching Lonesome Dove twice during summer vacation had something to do with it? But there it was. I wanted to ride a horse and go on a real trail ride deep in the heart of Texas.
So, when I was faced with the opportunity to go out to Maverick Horseback Riding and see my wish come true I bucked. NO WAY! Nope, I’m busy. (You have time.) I might fall off and get hurt! (You’ll be fine.) What if I can’t even get up on the horse? (You will. One step at a time.) That was the battle in my head.
When I arrived at the stables for my first time being around a horse and going on a trailride lesson, I was greeted by Joan Marie. Her joyful confidence, obvious skill as an equestrian, and genuine kindness immediately helped to put me at ease. This woman obviously knows her stuff. She gave us a hands-on first lesson in riding a horse. One of the first things she asked us to do was “Evaluate your feelings.” (Oh boy. I am in trouble now. Years of therapy boil down to THIS one defining moment. “Your horse picks up on what you are thinking and feeling.” (So, I should just probably back slowly away and make a break for my car at this point.)
However, I kept inching forward in the process: Listen to instruction. Meet the horse. Learn about tack. Put one foot in the stirrup. Swing your leg over. I’m on. I’M ON? I’m on a freaking horse! I didn’t die. In fact, I had the time of my life. And the best part was I wasn’t on just a nose to tail trail horse. I was on a horse that actually responded to me and my every move. I didn’t fall off. For an hour and a half we were incrementally introduced to more complex terrain. At first just the catch pen, then a pasture, then a trail, then we rode through water, up hills, down hills, and (thanks to a great riding partner, my assigned horse – Ghost) I overcame my fear and can’t wait to do it again. Here are five tips that helped me throughout the ride:
- Be 100% in the moment. Don’t focus on the negative things that can go wrong (or mistakes you might have just made). Visualize the ride going well.
- Sit up straight. Relax. Engaged muscles and relaxed joints.
- Evaluate your feelings and let them go. It’s true: as what you are thinking and feeling affects those around you it will affect your horse. But the horse won’t judge you.
- Look where you want to go.
- Trust your horse.
With proper instruction and guidance, incremental and continuous skill development, and the right horse it is possible to work with your fear, any special needs, and sit confidently in the saddle.