Natural Sporthorse


Young Horses


Learning with your horse

Working with Mares

Horses and Riders with Fear Issues

Photos by Joyce Scott

Although some of us don't like to admit it, fear is one of the most common emotions for people learning to be around horses, and for riders at all levels. One of the ways to overcome fear is to learn to use our bodies in ways that allow us a wide range of motion on the back of a horse. When we can maintain our balance in a variety of positions, we realize that we can withstand all kinds of movement from the horse and not become unsettled in our seat. This helps us be more confident in our abilities. Confidence is what allows fear to dissolve. The rider above is doing some stretching exercises, beginning at the standstill. Stretching supples and relaxes our bodies the same as it does for the horse, and being more supple enables us to move more fluidly with the horse's motion.

When we've become more confident at the standstill,
maneuvering exercises while the horse is moving
is the next step.

Sometimes it's good to have someone there with us
or to have our horse on the longe line, giving us support
and keeping our horse steady, allowing us to muster
the courage to let go.

The round pen can be another excellent venue to help us learn how to be around our horses and how to work
with them, first from the ground, & then in the saddle. The round pen is an enclosed, small arena that keeps
the horse from traveling too far too fast, allowing us to feel safer and to concentrate on ourselves.

Tension in the horse will often trigger tension in the rider, and vise versa. Finding ways to supple and relax our horses will help us to relax as well. Here the rider is asking her horse to yield to the contact of the bit. The action of yielding causes the horse to soften the brace in its body that is caused by tension. As the brace is released, so is the tension. The horse can then travel with a round topline while soft in the rider's hand, or let down altogether for a really good stretch. (For more information on suppling, please see the articles section.) When we learn some tools that help our horses learn to relax in tense situations, we gain more confidence in our abilities. And so by helping our horse out of fear, we also help to overcome our own.

When our horse gets spooked, we often need to step in to redirect their attention. Here the rider is asking her
horse to leg-yield with a bend at the trot for lateral suppling. The result is a relaxed horse who is soft in hand.

Other times, just waiting and giving our horse time
to look is the best approach.

When our horse becomes fearful, it's easy
for us to freeze up too.
In every situation, knowing when to step in to direct and support our horses, and knowing when to step out of the way and allow them to figure things out for themselves, is what allows them to respect our ability to lead. Leadership means providing direction while offering them a place of comfort in our presence. It means creating a space within which they can develop confidence. Their subsequent trust in us allows them to be calm anywhere we are. But earning this trust necessitates our willingness to learn more about them, all the while honing our own skills & noting what qualities within us need to be strengthened.

Working with stallions can add a new dimension
to managing fear.

When a stallion becomes worried, it's not always
easy to regain his attention.

Here the rider makes a circle, bending the stallion's
body for lateral suppleness until...

... he is relaxed and quiet.

For more information about Terry Church clinics in the South Bay, please contact: Liz Arrington

Home Page Trainers Clinicians Clinics Tom Dorrance Educational Links