Yesterday a reader asked me how I “learnt to be mentally strong”?
This reader was struggling with a great deal of irrational fear in their riding. Some amount of fear is good, fear tells us to be careful and to prevent accidents as best we can, but irrational fear is fear that pretty much takes over everything we do.
More often than not if you have irrational fear on the horse you will also have irrational fear off the horse.
You might get a headache, google it, and then convince yourself you are going to die of a brain tumour.
Or you might fear losing people, or failing, or getting hurt emotionally, etc.
Your ability to overcome irrational fear is of course linked to how mentally strong you are. Becoming mentally strong, is about many things.
First, you have to make tough decisions. I was in a toxic relationship, and I had to get out of it. I am very independent, and I need my freedom, without freedom I become more afraid of things that typically don’t matter to me at all.
Two months after ending that relationship I started competing internationally again, this was not a coincidence, I got my stubborn and determined personality back!
Then you have to be around people who take you as you are, and support you even if they don’t understand it.
A non-horsey person can be just as supportive as a horse person, sometimes even more so, because quite often we don’t want people to tell us there is nothing to be afraid of, we just want someone to listen, and not make us feel pathetic.
Then you have to not be so hard on yourself, and accept yourself as you are. To quote Game Of Thrones “You have to wear your scars like armour so that no-one can use them against you”. 😉
My best friend told me recently that my dad’s suicide still affects how I interact with people. After I fought off the urge to clap and tell him he was a psychological wizard, I said “of course it does”.
Mental strength is knowing what you want, who you are, and realising that the people who judge you for that, are not the people who will really support you.
I consider myself to now be mentally strong, but irrational fear is something I still know a bit about. My irrational fear is pain. The doctors told me I had to strengthen my back but when I started to even move it slightly I would panic.
Slowly, I began to be able to work my back in different ways…which of course has stabilised my hip. It wasn’t easy for me. But I am mentally strong enough because I have the right mindset and right support for me to keep going.
If on the other hand your irrational fear is specific to horse riding…
Is it just on the one horse or all horses? If it is just that horse, is that horse right for you? Do you need more help with him?
Often as riders we hate to give up, but my mum always said that a rider who admits they are afraid and gives the horse to a more capable rider, will always be better remembered than the rider known for ruining a good horse because they could not ride it correctly.
If it’s on all horses…Well it comes down to one very simple yet powerful question…How much do you want it?
My back is now the strongest part on my body. Because my desire to get back riding was stronger than the irrational fear that it might break.
People fall in love because their desire to feel that is stronger than the possibility they will get hurt.
You are afraid, sure. Riding is dangerous, yes. Life without riding…Is that something you can live with?
If the answer is no, then every time you go to ride you have to ask yourself, how much do you want it? What is riding to you? And how much stronger is your desire to ride, than the fear that prevents you enjoying it…
And then, you have to do everything you can to prevent the bad from happening, in order to enjoy the thing that you are most passionate about 🙂
Mental strength is not the absence of fear…Mental strength is desiring something more than the fear that prevents you from doing it.