Fear is a normal emotion to have around horses; it’s what keeps you from doing something that could be deadly. There’s nothing wrong with being afraid at times; but fear is a negative attribute when it impacts your enjoyment or controls your actions.
If you ever feel fear, remember three simple, calming steps: keep your eyes focused, breathe deeply (abdominal breathing) and control your body language. If you can keep your eyes up and active, looking around and taking in information, you can actually prevent other symptoms of fear (dry mouth, butterflies, increased heart rate—you know the drill) from occurring. When your fear doesn’t escalate, your horse will continue to view you as the leader, so he won’t become fearful, too.
Deep abdominal breathing eliminates breath holding and shallow breathing—movements your horse easily associates with fear. Inhale deeply, filling your lungs from the bottom all the way to the top, then exhaling fully, emptying every last bit of air, from the top of your lungs to the very bottom.
Finally, controlling your body language gives your horse more confidence in your ability and helps you over-ride the emotion of fear. Adopt a confident posture, no matter how you really feel. Stand with your shoulders up, hands on your hips, eyes looking around, with a posture that says, “Give me more!”
Your mind, body and spirit are all interconnected. If you allow your emotions to take control, your mind and body will succumb; if you control your mind (using your eyes and breathing) and control your body language, your emotions don’t stand a chance.