Is The Problem Really Fear'

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Recently, I’ve noted a number of riders who have either stopped jumping, often to pursue dressage instead, or given up riding or even horses entirely. It’s often because they claim they can’t take the risk anymore, which gets translated to a fear of riding. I’m not sure that’s right.

I think ”fear” creeps up on older, experienced amateur riders because everyday life continues to get more hectic and demanding. Parents are carting kids to four different events at the same time. Even grocery shopping is becoming more complicated with far too many choices and decisions to make. We’re becoming harried, and we’re being pressured to get more things done in a shorter amount of time — and we simply can’t do it.

Even if you’re not physically exhausted by the daily chaos, the hours it all takes drastically cuts into leisure activities, including riding. Eventually, you’ll notice that your lack of time in the saddle has significantly lessened your riding fitness and increased your risk of getting hurt — and you can’t afford to take that chance because too many people (family, work) depend on you.

Our article on riding fear (page 14) offers helpful, practical advice on becoming more confident in the saddle, an appropriate topic for our performance editor to tackle. However, he assumes you can find more time to devote to riding and even more time to work out and stay fit. But neither fitness nor riding can happen in 15 minutes a day. That said, it shouldn’t stop you from enjoying horses.

The trick is to prioritize a bit, starting with placing a time to ride into your schedule — literally, as in, ”Barn 6 to 8 p.m.” That way, you’re virtually guaranteed to have time left over at the end (or beginning) of each day, and those who depend upon you for so many things will realize that it’s ”riding time.”

You may need to enlist the help of your family and friends. My husband changes his schedule at times to ensure that I have time to ride, and he understands the need for exercise, too. He knows that the more I ride and the better shape I’m in, the safer I’ll be in the saddle. And, the happier I am, the happier he is.

It’s preachy, I know, but life is full of gives and takes. If you want to ride better, you need to put in the time. If you want to drop back somehow — whether you decide you don’t have the time or energy to jump or do upper-level dressage — and just want to putter around the ring, then go right ahead and do it. Or perhaps you need to move from that hot show horse to a placid school horse. Maybe a backyard-ornament horse is just the thing for you, because at this stage of your life, a quiet grooming session may be equally therapeutic.

If you know you don’t have the time to devote to a certain level of riding, that’s OK. Accept that fact and work with it because, no matter how you look at it, riding is a risky sport. If your mind and body tell you to drop back or slow down, do it. Protecting yourself is important. It doesn’t mean you’re ”chicken.”

-Cynthia Foley