Break free from the arena and tackle your fear of open spaces with advice from eventer Izzy Taylor.
Galloping across an open field with nothing but land on the horizon should be an experience to treasure, but for many riders all it conjures up is feelings of anxiety.
If this sounds like you, Izzy is here to help you conquer your fear and give you the confidence you need to have fun. First, it’s important to establish control in the arena before you head out on a hack. Being confident that you can stop, turn or push on when you need to will help you feel safe. When doing any schooling work, always pat your horse after he’s done something well. This will give him confidence in you and help to cement your relationship.
Here are three of Izzy's top-tips for you to try:
Put your brakes to the test
One of the most important things you need to be able to do is ask your horse to halt. If you know you can do this, you’ll have more confidence pushing him forwards while out riding. When asking for halt, sit up tall in your body and close your fingers gently around the reins to bring him to a standstill. Make sure you can do this is walk, trot and canter. It’s also useful for you to be able to do transitions from halt into walk, trot and canter to ensure your horse is listening to you.
Play around with your stirrups
A great exercise to practise when you’re in a safe environment, at walk, is to take your feet out of your stirrups and put them back in. Don’t look down when you’re trying to find them – instead feel for where they are with your feet. This helps you experience the sensation of losing them and will also give you the confidence of knowing where they are in case this happens out on a hack.
Change your mindset
Being an event rider, Izzy is used to riding in open spaces but knows a lot of riders who fear it. This usually stems from anxiety around what could happen outside the arena – even though it might never have happened before. This is a common mindset for riders, but it can be changed.
Of course, the unexpected may happen when you’re out on a hack, so to calm yourself try concentrating on things other than your riding. Look at the scenery or chat to friends, for instance. The way you think has a massive impact on how you ride and changing a negative mindset into a positive one will bring you countless benefits.
Not only will you be able to canter across fields with confidence while on a hack, it will open up opportunities you never thought possible.
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