Breathe, breathe, breathe, okay… I can do this. TRUST. It’s going to be okay.
These are the main thoughts I have every time I ride, or even just get on a horse. Being a rider with extreme anxiety is something that affects a lot of people, and learning how to manage it is key. If you don’t manage it, your anxiety begins to take over you, and in turn, making riding not enjoyable.
I’m sure people have said, “It’s just nerves, you’ll get over them,” but in fact, anxiety is a mental illness. It’s not something that someone can simply “get over.” For me, it causes me to have anxiety attacks at the barn out of nowhere, which (for me) are uncontrollable hyperventilating fits followed by sobbing. Shouldn’t the barn be a happy, calm place?
You can kick anxiety’s butt before it kicks yours. There are a couple of things you can work on:
- Surround yourself with a great team, barn, and a trainer that knows you like the back of your hand. Instead of ignoring your anxiety, learn to face it head on. Work on building your riding up, instead of constantly worrying about everything. Perfection isn’t possible, regardless of what anyone tells you. Everyone makes mistakes, even George Morris. Focus on the positives in your lessons, and learn to improve on what you’re unsatisfied with.
- Manage your nerves. I always talk to myself when I ride. When I get on a new horse, I’ll sing the alphabet or just count to 10 over and over. It gets your mind off of the fact you’re uncomfortable. Also, STOP THINKING EVERYONE ELSE IN THE ROOM IS JUDGING YOU. Yes, they probably are, but who cares? You do you. Everyone rides differently.
- Do more things that make you uncomfortable. I know that sounds like it defeats the purpose, but battling anxiety head on is what gets rid of it. For me, riding new horses makes me anxious, so my solution for that is to get on a bunch of new horses to break my feeling about it. Start setting small anxiety-reducing goals for yourself for every lesson.
Managing your riding anxiety isn’t something that just gets “cured” overnight. This requires patience, time, and belief in you. Work on yourself every day, and you’ll start seeing changes in your riding. You can do it.
Erin is a junior in college who also dabbles in the equestrian world. Although she doesn’t currently show, she rides every chance she gets. She has learned to balance working, a full time course load, and working on becoming a better rider. In the future, she plans on getting a job in communications or marketing for an equestrian company. She can be found on: