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Teaching horses not to fear is an important part of starting colts. Jenn Zeller, Special to Agweek

Dealing with and letting go of fear

One of the things we do when starting colts, is to assuage any fear that the horse may have — of us, of the saddle, or of any stimuli that he finds troubling. We are, in essence, teaching the horse to face what may scare him, think through what's scaring him, realize there's nothing to be afraid of, and move on, quietly and thoughtfully.

In order to be successful doing this, we have to be believed by the horse. He has to think, "Jenn isn't afraid, so I won't be either!"

Or, "Jenn isn't worried, so I won't be either!"

What this means is that I better believe that the horse has nothing to fear, or I may not be as successful in convincing the horse. It also means I better not be afraid of his reaction, or of the situation in which I find myself, because he's going to know that I believe or don't believe. If I've been bucked off this horse before, I can't ride him waiting for the other shoe to drop. I have to believe that it's not something to "fear."

It seems like, for a while now, fear has controlled my entire being — my thoughts, and my actions. I was scared to even try for fear of failure, for fear of being bucked off, for fear of being disliked or whatever other thing I was afraid of — sometimes I didn't even know! But I'm learning that fear doesn't have to control me. Fear is just another emotion. Emotions, of course, can be prioritized. We do it daily — we may feel sad, but decide to let our confidence, or our inner happiness, be the voices that run our day.

In order to not feel fear (mostly fear of the unknown), I'm learning to deconstruct my fear — is it rational? Is it likely to happen? What is the worst case scenario? As I answer these questions, I am realizing that my fears are often completely unfounded. Our minds are so powerful, and I think I'm realizing, almost 40 years into my life, that I can let go of my fears, because my mind can be trained to tune them out. I also have to believe in myself and think about the task at hand, and how to get it done, not obsess about the outcome.

It's what I'd ask my horse to do — deconstruct his fears and tune them out. Focus on the task! I want him to think his way through it and look to me for support. I'll help him learn that it's not as big a deal as he may think it is and as the higher thinking individual, I can do that for me too!

Until next time....

Happy Trails!