Home Lifestyle Experiencing Riding Fears? STOPP!

Experiencing Riding Fears? STOPP!

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“Riding Fears” was written by Caroline Putus and originally published on August 16, 2010. Last updated: June 10, 2020.
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Photo by Joshua Hoehne

Loss of confidence. Panic attack. No longer believing in yourself.

All of this and more was covered in my conversation with top psychologist and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) practitioner Wendy Dignan as she gave her advice on confidence problems and riding fears.

I discussed with Wendy why people lose confidence, how to deal with panic attacks, fears resulting from accidents, general loss of confidence, and other insights into the workings of our minds.

We talked about the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy approach to fears and loss of confidence, and like myself, Wendy recommends reviewing your situation and then finding effective strategies to help you move on.  Dwelling on what’s wrong and how it all happened only serves to make your negative feelings and thoughts more powerful. Revisit what went wrong, but only to see what you can learn from it.

Review what happened. What could you change to make a positive outcome more likely?

When you’ve identified a more positive strategy, make sure you try it out next time. Mental rehearsal will help you to program this new, more positive strategy in so that when faced with a similar situation, you automatically know what to do.

Imagine the situation where you want to change how you react.  What do you want to change?  Then imagine everything happening just as you’d like it to.  Imagine your thoughts, what you’re saying to yourself, what you’re doing physically.  Make sure it feels right to you.  If anything doesn’t feel quite right, just edit it out and put a better bit in.

Practice this strategy regularly for a week or so. You’ll become so used to reacting in this new, more positive way, that when you meet the situation for real, this will be your automatic reaction.

So, now you’ve revisited what went wrong and learned what you can from it.  Now leave it alone.

Don’t think about it, don’t blog or post about it, don’t talk about it.

One of my clients told me recently that since being introduced to this way of thinking about things, she had noticed how very negative most horsey people are.  Be honest.  What do you and your friends talk about?  Falls, near misses, accidents, being run away with, getting bucked off? How often do you hear equestrians talking about what a wonderful ride they had, how sweet and generous their horse is, how much they love riding? No, it’s the negative stuff that people focus on.

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Photo by Kayla Farmer

If you have confidence issues, this negative focus will just build your fears.  Your negative thoughts will become more and more powerful.  So do yourself and your horse a favor and focus on what’s good in your life.  Banish thoughts of the stuff that disempowers you and makes you more fearful.  Stop feeding your fears by talking or writing about them.

Here’s a tip from Wendy to help you handle stressful situations and get risks into perspective:

Don’t let your negative imagination run away with you:  STOPP!

  • S – Step back.
    • Don’t react immediately.
    • Wait.
  • T – Take a breath.
    • Slowly breathe in and out a couple of times.
  • O – Observe.
    • What am I thinking about?
    • What am I focusing on?
    • What am I reacting to?
    • What am I feeling in my body?
  • P – Pull back.  Put in some Perspective.
    • Zoom out!  See the bigger picture.
    • Is this how it REALLY is?
    • What would others say about this?
    • How does this affect others?
    • How important is this situation right now?
  • P – Practice what works.
    • What’s worked for you before in this situation?
    • What’s the BEST thing to do?
    • Consider the consequences.
    • Do what will help the most!

You can use this process in any stressful circumstances:  it’s not just for riding fears.  Next time you’re faced with something you find stressful, use STOPP to help you keep calm and get things in perspective.  Remember, we are what we think!

About the author:

Caroline Putus has more than 15 years’ experience as a confidence coach, homeopath, NLP practitioner, and healer.  She is a lifelong horsewoman teaching practical self-help confidence skills drawn from a wide range of approaches to help riders regain and maintain their life and riding confidence.  Enjoy Riding clients include everyone from Merseyside Mounted Police and other professionals to everyday riders.

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