Fear vs. Anxiety

Sooner or later, it happens.  Maybe you are at the barn and others are about to mount up and ride, or you have been invited by your horse friends to go ride at a clinic or on a trail ride.  You give excuse after excuse so that you don’t have to ride never admitting the real reason.  But you know the truth:  You are afraid to ride.  Perhaps you had a bad fall from your horse or you saw a bad horse accident.  Maybe the fear seems to have come out of nowhere.  All you know is that instead of happily getting on your horse and riding, the voice of fear is speaking to you, and you just want it to be quiet and go away.

fear_dawn_hill_adams_drawingFor many years, individuals have carried around their fear of riding as a dreaded secret in the horse world.  People do not want to admit that they are afraid, whether it is in front of their trainer, their fellow boarders, or their riding friends.  The horse community has a bad reputation for being judgmental of riders who have fear of riding.  The old adage after a fall has always been “get back on the horse so you won’t be afraid next time.”  The truth, though, is that even if a rider does get right back on, she can still experience fear the next time or sometime in the future.  Some riders feel ashamed of their fear because it seems to arise out of thin air.

Riding fear does have a cause, even if you can’t immediately figure it out.  The first thing to determine is if your fear is reality-based or if it is anxiety.  It may all feel the same, but there is a very important difference between the two.  Fear is actually an emotion that benefits us.  When your body senses danger, it engages in physiological responses that help us to take actions for our own safety.  We feel these responses as “butterflies” in our stomach and other sensations.  If you are a beginner rider with an 18-hand, 4-year-old horse who has only had two rides, your fear might be telling you that riding that horse is actually not such a good idea.  This kind of fear is worth taking the time to reflect on and decide if it is telling us ways to stay safe.  If you are a beginner rider with a 14-hand, 20-year-old ex-lesson horse, you may be experiencing anxiety, which is fear that is inappropriate to the situation.

The way to tell the difference between fear and anxiety is to assess the situation.  Really step back and be honest with yourself.  Some questions to consider are:

  1. What is my riding level and what level does this horse require?
  2. How well trained is this horse?
  3. Do I have any physical ailments that might impact my riding?

It is all right, no matter your age or riding level, to decide not to ride a certain horse.  Riding should be fun and safe.  Being honest with yourself and asking important questions like the ones above can keep you safe.  It can also allow you to have fun riding instead of experiencing fear and anxiety.

Next time, we’ll continue our exploration into anxiety and how it impacts our ability to enjoy our horses.  Remember, you can always order my Ride Without Fear DVD or attend a Ride Without Fear Clinic to learn more.

 

 

Cheyenne, Wyoming Clinic on Horse Biomechanics

We have our first scheduled clinic for 2015.  Join Dawn and I in Cheyenne, Wyoming on Friday, June 12 for The Science of Riding with Feel:  Horse Biomechanics Clinic.  The clinic is at a private facility and will run from 9 am to 5 pm.  It begins with a one-hour seminar about horse biomechanics.  The riding portion of the clinic follows.  As of this writing, there is only ONE riding slot left available so register now to grab it!  We have plenty of auditor slots, so if you are unable to ride in the clinic, please feel free to register for one of those slots.

Stay tuned for more clinic announcements!

Get Involved in Horse Biomechanics Book

final-book-cover-mockup-for-web-745x1024Most riders echo the sentiment expressed by this high-level professional dressage trainer, who said, “As a riding teacher, trainer and student of ‘the horse’ I’ve searched high and low to understand how to make the horses job easier for them and applicable for my students. Various training methods suggest ‘putting the horses’ head low’, while other say to bring it up. Some suggest to flex the neck left and right and yet others tell you to just ride the horse ‘forward and straight’. How is a teacher or student to know what is really the right answer?”  “The Science of Riding with Feel:  Horse Biomechanics and You,” written and illustrated by scientist Dawn Hill Adams, Ph.D. and horsewoman Jo Belasco, Esq. of Understanding the Horse, LLC, provides equestrians of all levels and disciplines with the knowledge to answer these and other pressing questions about the movement of the horse and rider.

“’The Science of Riding with Feel:  Horse Biomechanics and You,’ came about because participants at our biomechanics seminars asked for it,” explains Adams.  “People who love horses and want the best for them attended our clinics and seminars to learn how to help their horses move better.  They told us the information on biomechanics that is out there either didn’t seem to address the kind of riding they did or was too complicated for them to apply to their riding.”  Belasco continues, “A lot of people don’t work with an instructor on a regular basis, so they have to rely on resources such as magazine articles, books and DVDs.  We wanted to give every rider, as well as trainers and instructors, a resource that contained helpful information in a way that they could use on their own with their horse.  I think we are doing that with this book, and also with the accompanying Workbook and videos that we will be putting on the companion website.”

Dawn and Jo Icon copyAdams and Belasco have been collaborating on practical applied horse biomechanics since 2005, working together to help people and their horses have a better experience. They’ve been collaborating on public education projects since 1999, first in the non-profit organization Tapestry Institute and more recently in Understanding the Horse, LLC. Dawn is a professional scientist in biomechanics with a doctorate from UC Berkeley, and she is also a scientific illustrator who is preparing all the book’s original illustrations. Jo is a professional clinician and trainer with a wide range of experiences — in different kinds of riding, with a variety of people, in a number of different types of learning venues including lessons, seminars, clinics, and Expos, using more than one cultural approach to horses and horsemanship.

This book is for the horse community, all parts of it, which means horsepeople get to participate in making it the book they need and want.  Adams and Belasco have launched a Kickstarter campaign to finance necessary material for the illustrations and photographs in the book and Workbook.  The project became a Kickstarter Staff Pick within only a few hours of its launch.  For as little as $1, supporters can vote on the breeds of horses and styles of riding and driving they want to see included in the book’s illustrations.  Supporters can receive an autographed advance copy of the book and even combine the book with a series of horse biomechanics video tutorials at different support levels.  At higher levels of support, horsepeople may suggest questions to be answered or additional topics to be addressed in the book during a Skype biomechanics seminar.  A more limited number of supporters and their horses will receive a private session with Adams and Belasco, during which they will learn biomechanics’ exercises, as well as have photographs taken of them and their horse to be included as examples in the book and accompanying Workbook.

To learn more about the book and to participate in the Kickstarter campaign, visit  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/103149890/the-science-of-riding-with-feel  or email Jo Belasco, Esq. directly at jo@understandingthehorse.com .  You can learn more about the book by visiting its website.

 

“The Science of Riding with Feel: Horse Biomechanics and You” News

final-book-cover-mockup-for-web-745x1024
The mock-up book cover, to be redrawn by Dawn Hill Adams, Ph.D. before publication.

We are launching a Kickstarter campaign later this week to help us get our book, “The Science of Riding with Feel: Horse Biomechanics and You” published and into your hands. People at our seminars and clinics have asked for a book on horse biomechanics, and Dawn and I have been working hard on one. We have already written more than 60,000 words, but we need YOUR help to complete the project. I will have more information in a few days about how you can support this campaign for as little as $1!

In the meantime, please visit our book website at www.thescienceofridingwithfeel.com and “like” our book Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/thescienceofridingwithfeel .

Please share this information with your horse friends. More information on the Kickstarter campaign coming soon!

Soft Hands

When we think about soft hands, we often think of how our hands influence the horse’s mouth through the reins and bit.  Our minds usually go to being soft and not pulling on the reins.  But I want you to think about it an additional way.

soft_hands1I want you to check next time you ride and see how your hands feel.  Are they gripped around the reins?  Are they practically white-knuckled?  Are they numb?  Are your nails digging into your palms?  Are your fingers touching the reins or are they sticking out in mid-air?  When you lead your horse, how are your hands then?

A horse feels all of this.  If your hands aren’t literally soft, feeling the reins but not gripping them, then your horse will feel the tension.  This can result in the horse bracing on the reins.  Your horse may even exert counter pressure against the pressure he/she feels from your tight and tense hands.

Whenever you lead a horse or lunge a horse or do in-hand work or ride, remember that you want your hands to be soft.  Not limp, mind you.  As I often say, you want your hands to be relaxed but strong.  Remember that your horse feels everything.  If you have tension in your hands, you probably have it elsewhere in your body.  You probably also have tension in your mind, your thoughts and your actions.  And if you have tension in any of these places, you will have tension in your horse.