Best of William Micklem - 10 - FEARS CAN BE CONQUERED

Why do we not talk more about fear, when fear is a common emotion in cross country riders? There is probably no sane person who is totally fearless and everyone has his or her limits. Even a Grand Prix racing car driver, who is brave enough to average 150 mph round a circuit, may well frighten himself trying to improve his time by just half a second. Fear is a basic human mechanism to place limits on what we do. So we should not be embarrassed by it, or fail to seek help either overcoming fear or changing a negative attitude.

Horses are inspirational. Contact with horses can stimulate us positively enabling an improved performance in all aspects of our lives. Then as we successfully face up to more challenges we become more confident and braver. In this way horses can help us cope with fear. The other side of this coin is that riding, and in particular cross country riding, can be frightening to many riders. Even if you only rate your fear as 4 out of 10 you will become both a better rider and a safer rider by taking this down to 1.This is why we must not ignore this subject.

People say that they ride best across country when their adrenaline is flowing, but it is important to distinguish whether this is because of being motivated or being frightened. As fear is mentally and

physically paralysing your performance will be adversely effected to some degree, making you less safe. This does not mean that you have to give up the sport because confidence can quickly return with a proper training progression and the right coach. If you are confident and motivated your concentration and reactions will probably be good, but if you are frightened you will become tense, lose your suppleness, and be slow to react. It is also important to remember that it has been proved that a nervous rider makes a horse morenervous, particularly at a novice rider level, which can potentially lead to dangerous fear reactions in the horse. A negative attitude will compound these
problems, creating tension and fears without logical reason. So many riders have this double challenge to overcome, fear and a negative attitude.

There are two main types of fear: the fear of the unknown and the fear of the known. Fear of the unknown can be overcome by going to an experienced coach with a good track record, and by watching and talking to other riders of your level who are progressing successfully. In addition a good coach will demonstrate and explain every step in advance of you doing it, which minimises the unknown. Then as you develop trust in both your coach and horse you will soon wonder why you ever had this worry. The right horse that will look after you, is a key element, which is why it is important to choose a breed of horse or pony that is naturally sure-footed and sensible. Without a doubt too many riders have horses that, despite initially looking impressive, are ungainly and slow to react across country. I cannot emphasise strongly enough how important it is to undertake fifth leg training and to ride a horse that has a strong instinct for self preservation.

Alternatively you may know what you are frightened of. You may already have had a bad experience yourself, or seen someone else in trouble, or you may have just imagined a disaster about to happen. The fact that this is only imagined makes this fear no less real than the others. Once again a coach can help enormously as good coaching opens the door to confident progress. A good coach will ensure you avoid bad experiences by proceeding one small step at a time so you easily achieve the desired result at each stage. Then with continual revision you will find yourself becoming

more confident and braver. This will ensure that at every stage you practice good quality work until it feels natural – what is called unconscious competence. When this happens fear melts away as the exercise becomes as natural as riding a bike. Happy days. William


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