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Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

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Overcoming more fear with horses.

Hello again Franklin,
I have written to you before seeking advice but I find myself at a real cross roads yet again. I have loved horses my whole life and rode at local barns as a kid on pack horses who were very quiet. I never did get to see any accidents or spooks or accidental trips at a canter that I have now experienced as an adult. I am thirty seven now and have been involved with horses for the past five years first working at a local barn and getting some lessons (Hunter Jumper) which really only taught me forward motion walk, trot, canter. Kick to go forward on sour lesson horses and pull back to stop. The past two years I have been lucky enough to be involved with private barns who are owned by older women who are experts in Classical Dressage and know everything
there is to know about horses and teach only in the natural movement of the horse. It is a very interesting experience although quite intimidating at times to be around women who are comfortable with everything that goes on not to mention the hot horses that they enjoy riding. They have years of experience with training people and horses. What I am getting at is I am not comfortable with everything. I love horses but find myself VERY afraid of them at the same time. Its not with everything but with certain things. This is a very hard situation to find info about and talk to someone about. I have some anxiety issues which I deal with on a daily basis so being around horses is very difficult for me sometimes but its in my blood, they are a part of who I am as a person. I can't see my life without what I do. Whenever I have to go and catch a horse in the pasture with other horses around it is difficult for me. If someone is free lunging a horse in the indoor and they are running around happily bucking it sends me into a panic and makes me feel trapped like I need to get out of there. My body goes into survival mode. It seems as though everyone else around is fine but in truth it can be very dangerous. I have had two nasty falls and
recently had a horse spook in front of me and rear back and land on my foot. Fortunately I didn't break anything, just my confidence. I was doing ok before that. Now that the horses are full of themselves because of the cooler weather it has me very anxious again. I feel really down on myself after I feel so afraid and it makes me sad that I see that the other people around me have accepted the danger and are ok with it. I haven't given up all together I did go out in the field today to catch my horse that I was supposed to ride and will continue to work on myself but if you had any advice for me I would really appreciate it. You don't find very many people who work with and ride horses who have this problem or if you do they would never admit it.

Thanks in advance for your help. Sue

Hi Sue,

You are not alone. Symptoms such as yours are common actually and not just for folks wanting to be with horses. I feel these symptoms are a bit like PTSS (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome). Once you have experienced a trauma during a particular activity, you may want to continue with the activity, but 'fear' blocks us from being fully present in the experience enough to be able to totally enjoy it. Or, totally prevents us from participating again. Also, this is when a 'panic attack' would possibly occur. There are a few things I think that may help the first one being straight forward counseling with a psychologist. The second is real time with a trainer (I do this fairly often) where the trainer/professional will spend time with you during the activities to ease you through those times when you are feeling anxious. Knowledge dispels a lot of fear. By giving you more knowledge of horses (not just the sort that these high level equestrians would impart) of horse psychology, naturally inclined behavior of horses and how horses react in various situations where you might become afraid, you would perhaps gain the confidence needed to allow you to be more comfortable and confident. The 'professional' needs to with you during the experiences. Something I do occasionally is to set up experiences with horses that are of the sort that would make you afraid. Sort of a controlled test. A few repititions (sessions) of this sort of 'therapy' during controlled experiences, will usually move the person far enough along so that they can continue to practice with their level of trust and confidence to really make a big positive difference.

So Sue, take heart. You can move through this. Perhaps there is one of the these high level equestrains who you have become close enough friends with to share your 'private' concerns. This person could be enlisted to assist you by providing the sort of controlled experiences I am describing. 'Poop' happens. Injuries happen. The older I get the less inclined I am to think I can't be hurt. I have been lucky. Occasionally I take a tumble. Again, I have been most fortunate to not have had many serious difficulties. I have had some very close calls. I supppose my background with horses is so long now that being with them and training, riding, etc. are like breathing. This helps my confidence level a lot. Also, I have experienced so many potentially and outright dangerous situations with horses that I don't focus on fear. Focusing on fear when with horses creates frear within the horse. This makes the situation worse for all. Success with horses requires a calm, confident demeaner when with them. This can be achieved with acquiring more knowledge about the nature of horses and practice working with them in teh company of a professional who will be patient and thoughtful enough to help you move through your fears.

I wish you the best of luck and that you heal your fear and continue on with a wonderful like with horses.

Sincerely yours, Franklin

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