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Overcoming fear after riding accident

Hi Franklin

I appreciate any advice you can give me. Six months ago I had a horrible accident on my horse. I was out trail riding and two hobbled horses without halters came bolting out of the forest at my horse and I. I can attest to the fact that hobbles don't work. Two ladies were running behind the horses, I guess trying to catch them. I turned my horse to face them, but she completely lost it. I tried to one rein stop a couple times, but she stepped down the embankment of a river and I was off. I knocked my sacroiliac joint out of alignment in two dimensions, and had contusion and spasm. I couldn't walk right for a couple months and was put into physical therapy. Now I have an almost paralyzing fear of riding. But, it's not unfounded-- horse riding is dangerous. How do you tell your mind not to worry about something that is truly dangerous? I have ridden all of my life, but that day realized I can't trust other people and their decisions around horses. Where I ride people make bad decisions. One time a lady decided to swim her horse and it almost drowned before finally getting out of a lake and taking off in a panic. People pony horses and lose them and the horses run off. People fall off and their horses run off. There are legitimately dangerous situations in the state park where I ride and they are unpredictable-- they can happen at any moment. How do I overcome my fear?


Hello Lynn,

Thank you for your question. I sincerely sympathize with your difficulty. My heart goes out to you in this struggle to overcome your fears. There is not a simple, quick solution that I know of. If you had been in a serious car accident, sustained severe injury and now were too fearful to get into a car, even though traveling by car was a necessity of your life, the situation would be very similar. You are probably dealing with at least some, or a lot of Post Traumatic Syndrome. I am not a doctor but I would make a reasonable guess that is a possibility. All interaction with horses has risks, as does traveling in any sort of vehicle. There are very serious risks in almost anything we do. We tend to not think of them until something does happen (we get hurt) that gets our attention and then we can often dwell on the risks to the point of retreating from that activity totally and obsessively, despite actually loving the activity.

Not being a therapist, but having some experience in helping folks overcome fear of riding and horses after trauma, I will just offer a few suggestions. Begin to spend time around horses, as much as you can, without riding. Get terrific at ground games and interaction with them on the ground. Learn some trick training techniques. Take some training clinics and allow your focus to come off of riding to actually engaging the mind of the horse and sharing in it's emotional life. Forget about focusing on getting back in the saddle for a good while. Get to know horses better than before. Really learn about trust and horses for the first time, as I do not think you had a solid foundation about that topic before. Learn to trust yourself when with horses though applied, acquired knowledge about them and time on the ground with them. Learn some really good, gentle, effective training techniques.

There is so much more to the world of the horse than being ridden by humans and most humans I encounter never even think about that at all. Most folks never consider it. It is all about them riding a horse and not about the horse. Begin your new life with horses, and I do mean new life, with a foundation of knowledge and wisdom. Fear and trust do not exist together. Knowledge dispels fear. As you come to know horses you will come to know yourself better. As you develop as a trainer, your confidence and skills with horses cannot help but increase. When the time is right, you will ride again. You will have gained and learned a lot by that time and you will be ready. There will always be risks inherent in living life fully. That is part of the nature of living fully, I think. Take your time and enjoy your journey back to trust and confidence. Be kind to yourself and do not judge yourself. Be gentle on yourself and with horses. Forgive the humans who were involved in the 'incident.' Holding on to anything about them will hinder your comeback.

Please keep me posted. I extend best wishes to you, the best of luck and request you keep me posted. I am available to you to offer help (as you are in Colorado, perhaps you could come to me for some coaching?). Simply ask as you did with this email.

Sincerely, Franklin

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