Fear of Falling

Western Rider

Q: Although my horse is normally very well-behaved, after a freak fall, I’ve found myself very afraid to ride. What can I do to overcome this fear?

A: Falling off a horse not only hurts, but it also often causes a confidence problem. If your horse is nervous or fresh, it’s best to let him get that extra energy out through lots of turnout. Sometimes you’ll need to longe him before riding. If a horse scares me a bit, I longe him to see what type of attitude and how much energy he has that day.

Fear is a tough thing to cope with as a rider. We all deal with it differently, but you have to get back to riding and working on that confidence. If you’re afraid to lope right now, start out just walking and jogging. Make up transitions: walk-jog-walk, jog-stop-jog, jog-stop-back-jog. See how your horse’s attitude is, and then make transitions from walk to jog, then lope a half-circle and transition down to a jog and then walk. Stay in a big circle, about 20 to 30 meters. Next, try jog to lope transitions, keeping the lope to half the circle. When you’re comfortable with that, go one full circle, keeping the exercise to jog-lope-jog transitions. This keeps your horse busy and facilitates guiding him and maintaining control.

When horses spook and bolt, sometimes it’s the result of fear, and sometimes they are just being naughty!

In any case, make your horse work a little harder by using transitions to keep him busy in a job. I would also use figure-eights, making transitions in the center of the eight: Do jog-lope-jog, jog-walk-jog, and lope-walk-lope transitions. This keeps your mind off fear and focused on riding.

Liked this article? Here are others on dealing with fear:
Get Your Head Together
Show Nerves: Fixing the Fear Factor

CARLA WENNBERG is an American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), National Reining Horse Association and National Snaffle Bit Association judge, as well as an AQHA Professional Horseman and a Certified Horsemanship Association master instructor.

This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe.


  1. I would also add to have a coach or trainer with you for a few times. I had a very bad fall and it has taken me a lot to get my confidence back. First make sure that there are no issue with the horse like saddle fit etc. if there was a bucking incident. Second start slow as the article said. I would encourage someone to be there with you. Third if at any moment while under saddle you get too nervous get off and work on the ground. Slowly you will get more confident and while riding keep positive thoughts and breath.


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