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Spooky Horse?

I watched the ‘Only Falls Off Horses’ webinar with Dr David Marlin this week, where they surveyed nearly 4000 riders about falling in the last 12 months.

Interesting findings!

The most common reason for falling was the horse suddenly changing direction AND that most of the falls occurred during trail riding (or hacking as they call it in the UK).

This isn’t too surprising for several reasons:

1. Horses are designed to run from danger

2. Horses will jump/spin away from a surprise object

3. There are many surprise objects out on the trail

4. Many riders switch off on a trail ride

5. OR, riders are riding with more rigidity on the trail ride

Many riders report being fearful about their horse shying. It is often one of the biggest fears riders have. Quite clearly, the very nature of it is unpredictable and often fast enough to catch us unawares – leaving us hanging out the door!

The problem is, if we are waiting for a spook, as in, thinking about it coming ALL THE TIME, and fearful of this spook, we are going to be riding differently than the rider who isn’t waiting for the spook. Riders tense up through their legs, ride their horse on a shorter rein, are rigid through their body and jerkier in their movements. Compare that to the rider who is riding confidently, aware of what their horse is doing, enjoying the moment they are in.

That’s a big difference to the horse!

So, what are some of the steps we can take to help with fear of a sudden change of direction?

Training Confidence

I have seen time and time again, the more confident a rider is about their skills in training, the less ‘what if’s’ they have about their horse. Knowing with certainty that you have the skills to deal with whatever comes your way gives so much confidence back to you.

This requires of course, the ability to back yourself – to not allow those self-doubts or the negative inner critic to come out. For many riders, the need to boost their belief in themselves is one of the key parts of our work together.

Clearing old baggage

A lot of riders are carrying around a series of stories of incidents. It may be a few over the years that have stuck in their memory, or one more recent that still feels raw. Emotions are great! We forget that the purpose of emotions are to be felt, processed and then let go. If there are negative emotions hanging around from old events, NLP have some fantastic strategies to let them go, leaving only positive learnings from the event instead. A wonderful uplifting experience.


What riders don’t realise in many occasions is the power of our language. Our language commands our unconscious, everything we say is soaked in and acted on in a variety of ways. Have you ever said something like “I will die if I have to do that presentation tomorrow!” and then, low and behold, you have a stomach bug so bad that you can’t get out of bed. Voila! Your unconscious mind says to you! Now we won’t die!

So many riders say things like ‘my fall was the worst day of my life, I couldn’t possibly cope with that again’. Or many riders replay the event over and over, they can describe it in every detail and tell you exactly where all the injuries were, reliving the emotion, the pain, and the fear with an added ‘my mum thought I was going to die, she’s told me never to ride again’.

Using strong language primes your unconscious mind to protect you with gusto – its number one job is to keep you safe. Once you’ve told yourself how much you’d hate to do something, your mind will help keep you safe. It thinks it’s doing you a favour! This is where hypnosis can play a huge role in changing the information that is going straight in to your unconscious.


A big shift I make for clients is their focus. So many with fear and riding are focused on what they DON’T want to happen. This focus can start long before the ride and often during the ride. A constant stream of ‘I hope …. doesn’t happen’ or ‘last time this happened…’ This then sends your physiology into overdrive and your body instantly starts to respond differently. By focusing on what you WANT to happen, you are more likely to ride with confidence and even a smile!

There is so much we can do OFF horse with our own thinking before we even think about getting ON the horse.

What changes can you make, to be the rider your horse wants you to be?


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