Workshop shows how to kick your fear to the curb

There are tools and methods available that can help riders enjoy their horses

Upper Clearwater resident Aida Andersen (l) coaches Carol McNeil of Birch Island on dressage. McNeil recently travelled to Salmon Arm to hear a presentation by Andersen and Dr. Susi Cienciala about how to control fear for riders and their horses.

Upper Clearwater resident Aida Andersen (l) coaches Carol McNeil of Birch Island on dressage. McNeil recently travelled to Salmon Arm to hear a presentation by Andersen and Dr. Susi Cienciala about how to control fear for riders and their horses.

At a packed lecture room at the college in Salmon Arm recently, Dr. Susi Cienciala of Deep Creek Veterinary Services and Upper Clearwater resident Aida Andersen helped riders learn how to control their own fear as well as that of their horses.

The idea came about when Cienciala, a vet who has a keen interest in equitation science, and Andersen, who holds a Ph.D. in education psychology and is an avid dressage rider/trainer, discussed how often they met riders who never reached their potential due to fear.

Dr. Susi CiencialaCienciala and Andersen decided to break the sometimes taboo subject by creating a workshop that would not only explain the concept of fear in horse and rider, but would show that there are tools and methods available that can help riders enjoy their horses.

The clinic in Salmon Arm started off with a presentation by Andersen, who talked about why we as humans experience fear and that fear is a natural reaction.

She said, “There are two kinds of fear: the good fear and the bad one. The good fear is part of your natural instinct to protect yourself from harm. You would not gallop towards a cliff, as you know that could be hugely dangerous. The bad fear is part of your subconscious internal dialogue; it is irrational and obstructive.

In the second part of the lecture, Cienciala talked extensively on horse behaviour and on how horses learn.

“Horses are flight animals that when they cannot escape or flee from unpleasant circumstances will try to buck, rear, bolt or spook and these reactions are what create fear in riders,” she said. “The good news is that these flight responses can be minimized when riders train their horses using learning theory and science-based methods rather than myth and folklore which forms the basis of many training methods.”

After completing the lecture part of the clinic, all participants watched a demonstration of how a rider could overcome her fear of performing specific riding moves.

 

Because of the success of the first clinic, more are planned, including possibly one here in Clearwater.