By Rob Jacobs
Equestrians of all ages experience anxiety at some point in their equestrian journey. Some experience anxiety on a daily basis when working with their horses, while others may only experience it at horse shows. My intention for writing this month’s column is to encourage young equestrians to keep working toward their goals when they experience periods of anxiousness. Of the many life lessons horses give us an opportunity to practice, I believe conquering these feelings is one.
From my experience with horses, I’ve learned that every equestrian experiences moments of anxiety depending on a variety of factors. A factor may include one’s past experiences. This often plays a part in our experience with the horses. As horse trainers, we aim to keep the horses in a unique training program to best prepare the horses for their riders. We do this to give the riders the greatest chance of having success with their horses. Although knowledgeable and effective trainers are able to find some consistency, we all know horses are animals and every horse will have unpredictable moments. It certainly goes wrong for everyone, and when it does, it’s quite possible we will experience moments of anxiety and uncertainty.
Anxiety may appear when you’re not even around a horse. I must admit that mornings are occasionally challenging for me. I’ve always been a person that goes to bed early and wakes up early. On this early morning as I sit at my desk and write this portion of the column, I am experiencing anxiety. What I choose to do in the mornings, especially when I feel uneasy, is to focus on completing tasks. As I focus on completing tasks to help manage these feelings, I start the tasks that are easier and less time consuming. I then build up to more time consuming or more challenging tasks. Gradually increasing the level of difficulty on a morning I may be anxious is a strategy that keeps me confident that I can and will conquer the less-than-ideal feelings of anxiety.
I believe the key is to continue implementing healthy practices that work for you individually. This may require some level of experimentation. I’m looking forward to experimenting with yoga in the mornings. This is something new I’m trying; it may work for me, or it may not. I also play recreational dodgeball on a league in Seattle. Another helpful habit I have formed is to spend time with my life coach twice a month. She is a skilled professional, a fantastic outlet and a productive way to gain additional tools to be the best version of myself.
These are just a few examples of what I mean by experimenting with healthy strategies that may work for you. As a Junior rider your strategies may be different—you may not have an interest in trying yoga. Perhaps that’s only something for “older people.” Maybe you find security in going skating with your barn friends on the weekend (see the March 2023 column) or hanging out at the local dog park with your four-legged friend.
I am attempting to make two things clear as it pertains to conquering anxiety. The first is that you’re not alone. I’ll say that again: You are not alone! I’ll say it a different way: Never think you’re alone! I truly believe there is no feeling we can feel that others haven’t felt before. The second thing I want to make clear is to reject unhealthy habits as you’re working toward conquering any less-than-ideal feelings. Without going into specifics about unhealthy habits, use your judgement in deciding what may be healthy or unhealthy. If you are ever unsure, always talk to your parent or guardian. One last reminder—you are not alone! Stay well and ride well.
You will conquer anxiety. Rob, in 2019, conquering the fear of competing against the best riders in the country in Wellington, Florida.
Photo by Sportfot