I support facing your fears on a regular basis. As someone with bad anxiety, I face an onslaught of worry on an unfortunately regular basis, too. While I used to let that limit me, I made a choice to face my worries head on. Sometimes that means I’m quaking in my boots before I do something new. Scratch that, it doesn’t even have to be a new situation. Simple unknowns are like magical motivators reminding me of every possible outcome, good or bad.

Before I started riding in IHSA, I was under the impression I wasn’t an anxious person. Granted, I’ve been under the impression I’m also not afraid of heights and that, friends, is a sincere understatement. Being faced with drawing a horse out of a hat, jumping on him or her, and heading into the arena to jump a course of jumps with no understanding of the four-legged animal beneath me helped me discover my intrinsic need to know. Know what, exactly?

Hey, the list is pretty endless.

The horse could stop and I could fall off. The horse could toss me off. I could chip the jump and not place, risk upsetting my teammates. What if the horse doesn’t listen to my leg, and he stops right in front of the jump?

See – endless list of worries. It doesn’t always stop there, either. Occasionally I listen to that little voice, the one telling me what could go wrong and how it might do just that. By listening, I’m allowing mental space to begin to create those situations all on my own. Manifest destiny, or more appropriately named: manifest anxiety.

The key to facing your fears on a regular basis, or facing your worries, is understanding that sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes, the things you worry about might come true. When you dissect what you’re worried about, you can process it with more ease.

I’m scared of refusals and long spots. Every time I’d swing my leg over the back of a new horse and proceed to canter around a course of fences in IHSA, I’d worry he or she would stop. That he or she would send me flying and cartwheeling through the air only to knock my noggin on the jump. It’s happened before. Will it happen again? Maybe. But worrying about it happening is what encourages me to take my leg off. To use less impulsion. The lack of leg and impulsion towards a jump sometimes creates a situation where this new horse will stop.

Anxiety isn’t a welcome passenger, especially if its a backseat driver. But you can tune out the noise. There’s very little closed legs, relaxed hands, and good pace can’t overcome. On a new horse, whether you’re catch riding, exercising a friend’s horse, or trying out a new horse for yourself, remember that worrying can detract from your ability.

So chin up, eyes up, and ride like you aren’t afraid. Even if you are.

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