I just finished another fun Confident Trail riding Clinic and I specified an exercise which I have mentioned before many times. I thought it would be good to share it again because it is an excellent exercise for overcoming fear and assessing fear levels in yourself and your horse. The exercise has two parts. One is the 1-10 scale for you and your horse. I use this scale all the time to evaluate horses anxiety levels so I know when it is workable and when it is not a good idea.
We will use 1 to describe a calm, relaxed horse and 10 to describe a horse that is dangerous and hysterical in panic. This horse is not in a reasonable state and is dangerous to be around or on. Anything that is 5 or below, is a question for you to ask yourself. Can I handle this? And if so what can I do to get my horse back to a 1. 5 or above is generally escalating to an area which will be difficult to work with and not productive in my eyes. If your horse gets to that level and it is unavoidable, your first job is to find a place to take your horse that will bring the level down to manageable if not calm.
For people, the scale of 1-10 is about your fear level and what is manageable for you. 1 is calm and relaxed and 10 in panicked. The same goes for people here. If you are at a 5 or below or find yourself escalating, Try to find a way to bring your fear back down. What would you have to do to do that? The reason this is important is because we need to stay in calm communication with our horses when things get escalating. Your horse cannot trust you if you abandon him at the time he needs you to help him through his fear. Don’t over face you or your horse. Always think through what you can both realistically handle.
When you are trying to build or rebuild your confidence, you need to start with comfortable baby steps to keep yourself at 5 or below so you can be there for your horse. Knowing what escalates both of you up the scale is very important. Avoid those things until you are ready and can stay in a good place for your horse. In the clinic, we started with a lot of obstacles that were scary and challenging. They were set up not to get the horse over or through, but to ask questions of you and your horses ability to work together when fear and challenges come up, then to work them out calmly and without pressure. By the end people were doing things they’d never done before with their horses. Happily, confidently and fear free!
This leads me to the second part of the exercise which is your Confidence progress goal list. This list would look something like this:
- Things I am very confident doing
- Things I am moderately confident doing
- Things I am not comfortable doing (yet)
- Things I will become confident doing
When you do these lists, you must be very honest with yourself so you can free yourself from this fear prison. The last list you’ll note I said “Things I will become confident doing”. This is a statement of intention and putting a goal into reality. Put timelines if you like but be flexible. This is not about pressure.
Lastly, I just want to remind everyone the fear is healthy and good and it keeps us safe when it is a real in the moment survival instinct. It is not healthy when it is hijacking your connection with your horse and taking you out of the moment with all the “what ifs” and your ability to feel, read and communicate with your horse in a mindful state. Oats for thought!