Pat Parelli on Fear of Riding Horses

Fear is probably the least talked about issue with horseback riders. Somehow people are made to feel inadequate or stupid if they have a fear of riding, and yet fear is a very important emotion that deserves respect. Fear keeps you safe; it stops you from doing things that may harm you. The more you ignore your feelings of fear, the worse they will get because your brain will keep intensifying the fear until you finally pay attention to your instincts.

People have a fear of riding horses for two main reasons: they’ve had a terrible accident, or they have had scary situations with a horse that they did not feel safe with. Either way, the brain takes action and warns you not to go there again. That’s a good instinct for self-preservation and survival.

Overcoming a fear of riding horses starts with respecting it, whether the danger is real or imagined. The brain does not make a distinction; in both cases the fear is exactly the same. Whatever the situation, a nervous rider on a large prey animal is not a good combination. Horses need people to be cool, calm, and confident leaders, and when we are not, the horse will fall apart or take over.

Some people are naturally less confident individuals, and they need to learn how to become confident with horses. Others are getting on horses that are out of control to varying degrees and putting themselves into dangerous situations, mainly because they’ve been told to just get on and show the horse who’s boss. We don’t think this approach is effective at all; in fact, fear can get so bad that people give up on their dream and stop riding altogether.

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