” How does one start coping with a fear of speed in company? I know I’m not the only one who feels out of touch with their horse as soon as an open field and another rider is around. Groups are even more terrifying. I’ll canter and gallop alone almost anywhere alone, but feel physically sick and weak all over once in any company above trot and outside the comfort of a one-horse forest track.”
Thanks for posting the question – this is a challenge for a lot of people so I am glad you asked it.
First lets look at this — you are confident alone, and not in company — so what happens when you are in company that doesn’t happen when you are alone? well, one thing is that old favourite word CONTROL comes up.
When we are by ourselves, just us and our horse, we KNOW what we can control, we can get off, bend to a stop, walk when we want to and make decisions just based on ourselves and our horse.
When we have other people with us other things start to happen:
– we worry about what the OTHER horses will do
– we worry about the effect the OTHER horses will have on our horse…
– we worry about what the other people will do…
Then there is the effect other people have on us: unfortunately, for a lot of us, we worry about how WE are behaving as we don’t want to upset or bother the other people…
Looking at that list, its hardly surprising that riding in company can be challenging for some of us
Something else to think about too is remember my response to the first question – when I said that unconfidence is our unconscious mind keeping us safe; that is, the unconfidence is the result of the positive intent of our unconscious to keep us safe and secure.
Well — what is the POSITIVE INTENT of our unconscious when it causes us to be unconfident about riding in company?
What is it keeping you safe from?
For some of us, it is keeping us safe from those other horses — who barge, and get excited and run into us and take off at the slightest opportunity;
For others, it is keeping us safe from the fact that our own horse gets influenced by those other horses and we could lose control…
For some of us, it is keeping us safe from “those idiots” who gallop off the moment their horse’s feet touch grass without even thinking to check to see how the rest of us, way back in the trees, are doing…
…and for others it is keeping us safe from “what other people think”…..having just moved to a traditional yard after being by myself for a while, this last one is one I am familiar with!
Once you have worked out what the positive intent is — the great thing is that you can use your conscious mind to come up with alternate strategies for keeping you safe!
This is one focus of the Hacking with Confidence course — here are some of the things we do — and that you can do — to start to build your confidence.
* Exercises to build a strong “herd of two” between you and your horse.
IF you establish a relationship where your horse looks to YOU for support and guidance, then the presence of other horses will not influence him so much. To do this we do exercises such as disengaging and transitions — while other horses nearby are doing different things. we start this in the arena, then go into the field.
One game we play is “leapfrog”– one person rides their horse on the track and the other riders, starting a long way out to the side (often we start on the centre line) trot up behind and past them…and you reward your horse for not reacting. With some horses we have to start at the walk, but with almost all of them we can play leapfrog at trot and canter after just a short while of training.
* Emergency stops:
If you know you have a strong emergency stop, regardless of what other horses are doing, then your confidence will be much greater. SO this is another thing we practise: doing emergency stops and dismounts first without any distractions, then slowly adding distractions until by the end of the course, each person can stop and dismount safely while other horses trot and canter past them.
* Paying attention
One of the big mistakes we can make when riding in company is we abandon our horse. We become focused on chatting to our friends, we allow our horse to walk next to theirs — and our horse feels we are not with them — so of course they decide to become a herd with the other horses instead of us. So at the start of a ride, pay attention to your horse — ask him to do things he has to think about — ask him to take a different path, go the other side of the tree, go ahead, go behind and do some exercises — keep his attention on you so the other horses are just other horses and not affecting him at all.
Most important of all – remember that practising confidently builds confidence — so be very selective about WHO you ride out with while you are doing all of this….share your goals with them, and let them know that you are training yourself and your horse to be a herd of two…
I STILL am very selective about who I ride with. There are some people who would love to ride out with me but I will only ride out with them as their coach — so I still have control!
My confidence is precious. I want to keep it — I work hard at building it and strengthening it and I refuse to let other people affect it.
Enjoy your solo rides — and choose good company to ride out with — then you will find your unconscious will not need to protect you so much an done day you WILL be able to ride out with anyone at any speed – of course,by then you might not want to LOL
yours in confidence,