From a book about survival and how our brain affects our chances:
"The human organism, then, is like a jockey on a thoroughbred in the gate. He's a small man and it's a big horse, and if it decides to get excited in that small metal cage, the jockey is going to get mangled, possibly killed. So he takes great care to be gentle. The jockey is reason and the horse is emotion, a complex of systems bred over eons of evolution and shaped by experience, which exists for your survival
. They are so powerful, they can make you do things you'd never think to do, and they can allow you to do things you'd never believe yourself capable of doing. The jockey can't win without the horse, and the horse can't race alone. In the gate, they are two, and its dangerous. But when they run, they are one, and its positively godly...
...The horse can either work for us or against us. It can win the race or explode in the gate. So it is learning when to soothe and gentle it and when to let it run that marks the winning jockey, the true survivor. And that is what the dark humor of various subcultures is all about
: It's about gentling the beast, keeping it cool; and when it's time to run, it's about letting it flow, about having emotion and reason in perfect balance....
...Remarque's soldiers learned to connect a deeply instinctive emotional response to the whistling of a shell. There were no high-explosive shells when emotion evolved, but it is handily recruited into the task of avoiding them after only a few experiences to make the connection. The connection, once made, is so profound that taking the necessary action requires no thought or will; it works automatically.
The proof that it's a secondary and not a primary emotion is that the new recruits didn't have the same reaction, and they died by the score as a result...
...Evolution took millions of years to come up with emotional responses. It has not yet had time to come up with an appropriate survival response for the Navy fighter pilots on quarter-mile final, trying to land a 50,000 pound stovepipe on the heaving deck of a ship...
...As the fear rises, you become more unable to deal with it because you are not even aware of the learning that is propelling you. LeDoux refers to this as a 'hostile takeover of consciousness by emotion...the body knows where safety is, and when you're a rookie and really afraid, any successful [carrier] landing carries with it an explosive, almost orgasmic sense of release. The pilot had developed a powerful secondary emotion, which told him that safety and even ecstasy could be found on the ground (or on the deck) and that if he could just get the hell down
, he's be alright. He had a true and physical memory of that sensation
, which was a powerful motivator of behavior developed by coupling that experience with a primary emotional state. He also had an intellectual knowledge that if you land when you are already low and slow, you might die. Unfortunately, he had no secondary emotion for that, since he had never experienced it. It was an abstract idea, forebrain stuff. It could not compete as a motivator of behavior.
--- Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why
by Laurence Gonzales https://www.amazon.com/Deep-Survival...ies%2C+and+Why
Humans haven't evolved to ride horses. Our learning is secondary, and it involves both conscious and unconscious thought. The unconscious thoughts can keep us on the horse or alert us to danger - provided we live long enough to develop GOOD responses!
Horses endure the same process. My horse has not evolved to understand correct responses to trash cans lining the street. His suspicion of them is reasonable, until successfully passing them enough times teaches him the correct response.
Unfortunately, the old joke about what is best in life kicks in:
What is needed to live a good life, Master?
But Master, how do I gain good judgment?
But Master, how do I gain experience?
When we don't have the experiences for our bodies to respond correctly at the near-instant subconscious level, when we have to rely on conscious thought to respond, we ARE in danger. If riding is worth it to you, then you can take precautions (helmets, lessons, body protectors, saddles, horse selection, etc) to REDUCE the risk until you acquire the right reflexes. But in the end, it requires riding in increasingly challenging situations, along with analysis of what went right and what did not, do develop those "secondary emotions" that allow us to stay safe.
Riding horses is worth the risk, to me. Climbing cliffs is not. Fear is not wrong, but it may need to be channeled before it can be helpful.