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  • Sarah Wellband

Nervous? Here's why and what you can do about it.

You love horses. So why are you scared? What's gone wrong?

It’s a weird one, isn’t it? You’ve adored horses all your life - as a child you had toy ponies, devoured all the pony magazines, you might even have dreamt of winning the “Own a Pony for a Year” competition (for those of us of a certain age!). When you started riding you spent every spare minute at the stables, happy just to be around the horses - never caring about the weather or the mud in your hair. Falling off? Not a problem. Bareback? Woohoo! Even tack cleaning was a joy. You lived and breathed all things horsey.

But then real life arrived - exams loomed, that first relationship got serious, university life was all consuming, your career began, maybe marriage and children came along. Riding was too expensive, too time consuming and there was always something else vying for your attention, your time and your money. And yet the love of horses was still there. You still smiled when you saw a horse in a field or passed a horse box on the motorway.

Now you’re in your middle years and the financial and time pressures have eased and you are finally able to realise your lifelong dream of having your own horse. You’ve scoured the “for sale” ads, driven for hours to see yet another bucking bronco advertised as suitable for a novice, endlessly researched the livery yards in your area and then, suddenly, you find ‘the one’. The horse that grabs your heart and opens your wallet.

So what’s gone wrong? Why are you too fearful to jump or to canter or to hack out, or maybe even to mount your horse? All the anticipation has been replaced by anxiety, the joy has turned to dread and you feel you’ve not only failed yourself but that you’ve failed your horse as well. You try a new instructor, a different saddle, sticky bum jodhpurs, a stronger bit and even a horse psychic but nothing is working.

If this all sounds horribly familiar then you are not alone. You are also not broken, stupid, a coward or a failure.

What’s happening is that your mind is trying to protect you. Yes, really. Your conscious, logical mind knows what you want to do - you want to ride to the best of your ability and enjoy the horse that’s cost you a considerable amount of money and even more time. Your subconscious mind however is finding every possible reason NOT to ride - it’s creating fear, anxiety, uncertainty; all the negative emotions that will override the rational part of your thinking.

Why is it doing this? There are two reasons. Firstly it’s taking you back to being a child. Yes, you might have been a fearless rider when you were 8 years old but you were powerless in every other aspect of your life - you had no say on whether you went to school, if your parents argued you might have assumed in was your fault, if your best friend fell out with you it was the end of the world. So anything and everything that affected you in the key development years between around four and 13 will be brought back by simply being around horses again - in exactly the same way (some of us!) regress to being a helpless, resentful child simply by walking into our parental home.

Secondly we are now painfully aware of what can go wrong. The Reticular Activating System is the part of the brain that filters out what’s important and needs attention and what can safely be ignored. It’s why you hear your own name mentioned in a crowded room, or why you start seeing a particular make of car once you’ve decided to buy one. It’s why people who are afraid of flying will unconsciously look for news stories about plane crashes. So if you have any worries about falling off and the subsequent health and financial consequences the RAS will be activated to seek out every bit of evidence to show you that riding is dangerous. The same thing happens if you are afraid of looking foolish or think you are a bad rider; the RAS will highlight every mistake as a big neon sign in your mind.

So, as far as your subconscious is concerned, riding is a bad idea and it will do whatever it can to protect you from danger and sod what the conscious mind is trying to achieve.

Now you know what’s happening, how can you deal with it? All the standard advice is useful in varying degrees - make sure you’re not over-horsed, find a sympathetic and consistent instructor, take baby steps, never listen to negative or ill-advised people and - above all - trust yourself and trust your horse.

Sometimes that’s all that’s required to regained lost confidence, that and time spent in the saddle and on the ground, just hanging out with your horse. But if you need more help then consider remedial hypnosis. It’s a goal focussed, time limited therapy that allows you to communicate directly with the parts of your mind that are holding you back - not to deliberately make you unhappy but in the mistaken belief that it’s doing the right thing. Your subconscious mind has been described as “the inner child” and, as such, lives in the moment and just wants you to be safe and happy. By updating your thought patterns you can remove the mental barriers that are holding you back.

There’s no trance involved, no mystique, no homework or endless tapes to listen to and - best of all - it can be done by video from your home or office. Most issues are dealt with within 3 sessions and the initial consultation is free of charge to ensure it’s right for you.

This is what my clients say;

“I went to Sarah to help me get over my fear of getting on a horse. I have been riding horses almost all my life, but unfortunately, I quit six years ago. My fear of getting on a horse came from a nasty fall that ended my riding career. I’ve had two beautiful sessions with Sarah in a setting where I could be myself. She listened to my stories patiently and made me feel very comfortable. Sarah asked questions that made me think about what triggered my negative thoughts and emotions, which helped me enormously. It felt like I went back to the moment in my life from which the old belief arose that getting on a horse can be dangerous. Thanks to Sarah, I can put things into perspective now much better. I no longer picture myself in the hospital when I get on a horse, but I am enjoying a ride and focusing on the good things. Both sessions made me feel a little lighter, and my hope of getting back on a horse grew. After the first session, I was still very nervous, but I managed to get on a horse. After the second session, I got on a horse again, and I loved every second!! I feel that something in me has changed, and a new chapter has begun in which I revive my passion. I am enormously grateful to Sarah, and I would recommend her as a hypnotherapist to anyone, especially if you have any fear or problems with horse riding.”


“I want to tell you about the help I have received. I recently in the last 2 or so years developed an irrational fear of my mare tripping or falling on steep downwards tracks! I think it came from her tripping badly twice and I know all horses trip! First time she went onto her knees but I stayed on and pulled her up, 2nd time wasn't so lucky and I came off onto tarmac! Of course hopped back on and did a 2 hour hack that hurt later..

I also know that my riding was sloppy and I was almost enabling the tripping with loose reins and not paying attention.So from that and a couple of other scary incidents on a different horse my fear grew and grew. I would often make excuses ,getting off and leading her downhill, or if there was a ride planned I would make excuses to MYSELF why I couldn't go.this was almost a constant battle in my head making me quite angry and disappointed with myself. Sarah Wellband with just a few sessions has managed to get me back on track literally! It's not a magic wand you have to want this but as most riders know the will to ride is extremely strong. I thank Sarah wholeheartedly and recommend her help, particularly with any horse related issues as she is completely understanding having been a rider most of her life. Hugs from me and kisses from my lovely Poppy.”


Please feel free to contact me with any questions of if you’d like to arrange an initial chat; it’s free and there is no commitment to proceed.

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