How much control is good and how much is too much

We often connect the need for control with fear.

  • Fear of the horse running off
  • Fear of being judged
  • Fear of falling off

 Too much control can also be a sign of:

  • Micromanaging
  • Needing consistency
  • Overprotection

 Control is not always a bad thing either. It can be used to:

  • Keep someone safe
  • Create order in a group
  • Set boundaries

Like everything, control is good when there is a balance.

If the need for control comes from fear and anxiety there are ways you can work through this. First of all, you need to identify if the fear and anxiety is justified.

So often fears stem from the stories in our head.

Make sure you bring yourself back into the present moment, this will help you to put the stories on hold.

If a rider is fearful and shows this by shortening the reins, holding on more tightly and keeping the horse really slow instead of allowing the horse to move freely, which can all be signs of fear and anxiety, I ask the rider to take a moment and check in with their horse.

Putting the thoughts aside and actually checking in by asking the horse “How do you feel?”

If the answer is “My horse is fine” we know that the fear is a head based fear.

The next step is for the rider to breathe out, do something you are confident with, that might be just walking, moving to a different part of the arena or even to come back to a halt.

If you feel confident again you can breathe and relax. Then you are able to think more rationally and it becomes easier to let go of that scary story or the ‘What if’ and focus back on your actual riding.

If the horse is tense and jumpy and rider is worried about that behaviour and showing it by tensing up and pulling back, I believe that it is impossible to just expect the rider to ignore that and to ride through it. We always must make sure the rider feels safe before we can change the rider’s behaviour.

If the rider feels they are in danger they will always hang on to stay safe.

In this case we need to deal with the horses behaviour first. Doing more groundwork can help or lunging. If your horse is really naughty you can always put your husband on first…. Just kidding.

If the need to control the situation is more about being afraid of the unexpected, think this is more of a mindset issue than a riding issue.

A lot of people feel confident when they can predict the outcome rather than are faced with the unknown. The unknown is often the cause for anxiety.

In this case you need to ask yourself what the unknown means to you.

Helping riders to address their mindset issues, I find that a lot of riders base their  predictions on their past memories.

If the unknown has been a bad experience in the past, it is naturally that we will want to avoid this in the future.

If the focus is on the scary past experience then the prediction of the future is also scary.

We can help riders overcome this by getting them to tap into their memories where change has been something good and positive.

Think back to events where you could not predict the outcome like

  • Finishing school and moving into a new area of your life like work or university
  • Moving to a new town and starting a new job
  • Getting married and starting a family

We have all been in situations where we were confronted with an unknown future and we can now look back and see the good outcomes.

This can help to change our thoughts about the unknown and it can even become an excitement that we can then transfer into our riding as well.

Taking risks is something everyone can learn.

Happy riding everyone!