We’ve all felt it, whether we like to admit it or not. Experiencing fear may not feel pleasant, but it’s a part of being human as well as being an equestrian athlete. Whether you’re scared of falling off, moving up a level, or are intimidated to be around certain horses, know that you’re not alone.
Annette Paterakis, also known as the Equestrian Mental Coach, is well-versed in helping riders grow, learn, and invest in themselves to achieve optimal success. As a former competitor herself, Annette understands the struggles, triumphs, and fears of equestrians. She guides horsemen and women seeking to improve their mental skills, allowing them to show up as the best version of themselves both in and out of the saddle.
We recently spoke with Annette Paterakis to better understand fear in horseback riding and learn how to move past the emotion to become a more confident equestrian.
Our Interview With Annette Paterakis
It’s mostly fear of failure.
Fear is relevant to competitors as well as non-competitors. I think we all face fear, whether we are aware of it or not. It's what we do with that fear that matters. For example, many of my clients come to me wanting to increase their confidence because the fear of failure still impacts their decisions, riding, and results.
The most primal part of the brain is called the Reptilian Brain. It has three functions, all of which help keep us alive and allow us to survive.
The first function regulates all of our basic needs. This can include controlling our blood pressure and heart rate.
The second function is our fight or flight response. An example of this response would be if you're on a highway and somebody brakes in front of you or it starts raining. Your response will be instant. You don't need to think about it. You put your windshield wipers on, or you move into another lane if somebody's braking in front of you.
The third function is responsible for protecting our identity. For example, you created an identity that you are a 1.20m-level rider. Every time you want to step up to the 1.30m, something happens, and you don't see your distances. Every time you try something new outside of the identity you’ve created for yourself, a part of your brain is trying to keep you safe. Any changes to the status quo will therefore feel very uncomfortable.
This is the way the brain works. It wants to keep us where we are now. That's why generally, people don’t like to change because to the brain, change might mean compromising one’s safety, so it is seen as negative.
Photo courtesy of Annette Paterakis
We all have a voice inside our heads. We all have loads of thoughts (between 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day, to be specific). You may or may not be aware of it, but that voice is constantly talking to you. Whether you're trying to get a new job or you want to step up a level, or you want to write this new fantastic course, thoughts begin to take over:
“This is not good for you.”
“Are you sure about this?”
“This is not really who you are.”
“Why would you want to step up, you're not really ready yet.”
All of these little thoughts are our brains' way of trying to keep us where we are in relation to fear.
However, we thrive when we are growing and when we progress. When we stay the same, we tend to feel unhappy. For example, if you are working in a factory and constantly doing the same thing over and over again, you get super bored and miserable.
Photo courtesy of Annette Paterakis
If we look at the top riders, they too have that voice, but they don't listen to it. Instead, they take a different form of action. They’ve learned to work with it instead of trying to get rid of it or have it without letting it completely take over.
When you become aware of this concept, you will understand why people sometimes self-sabotage or do the strangest things when it comes to fear. It's not about getting rid of fear because that's impossible. Our brain and body are wired to respond to fear. So, fear is actually helpful, although sometimes it can be very distracting.
Learning how to live and work with it instead of fighting it, is key.
It's about always being aware. First, determine whether the voice inside your head is coming from fear or power. If your intuition tells you something is off because your horse doesn’t feel right, for example, even if you can’t pinpoint exactly why, listen to your gut.
However, if it’s fear talking and you don’t want to jump the class because you don’t feel ready, just take the fear with you and ride anyway.
Learn More From Annette Paterakis on Ridely
If you enjoy Annette Paterakis’ work, check out Ridely—a new digital tool helping equestrians reach their full potential. The app has hundreds of basic to advanced training exercises from top international riders and trainers across various disciplines like jumping, dressage, western, and horsemanship.
Some featured riders on Ridely include:
The app also provides an innovative calendar-based journal that helps you keep track of everything around your horse and your training. You can even share all the details with your trainer, owner, or co-rider!
Apart from this, Ridely helps you to set goals and break them down into tasks that you can check off, so you’ll always know you're on the right track!
The app offers a free subscription and a premium subscription. All Corro customers can get 20% off the premium subscription with the code: RIDELY20. Click here to learn more.
Learn More On Ridely