Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
As tinyliny points out, some fears are realistic. Those aren't "fears" so much as "reasonable concerns". For example, I'm not afraid of cantering in an open area with our Appy gelding. He is sensible. He will go fast if asked, but is glad to slow down at any time. He watches his footing and isn't likely to fall.
My Arabian mare is another matter. She gets excited and then doesn't like to slow. She also doesn't watch her footing. I've seen her fall cantering without a rider on smooth ground, so why should I trust her with my life? She also once tried to race the Appy by turning off and taking a shortcut thru the desert - which would have killed us both if she had succeeded. I think it is entirely reasonable for me to lack confidence in her cantering on an open trail...although we have started doing a little of it, in the right set of circumstances.
Beyond that, I suggest feeling free to "cheat" with tack. I feel more secure in an Australian saddle than an English one, which is why I finally broke down and sold my 2 English saddles. It certainly is easier to stay in an Australian saddle if your horse unexpectedly spins or stumbles to her knees, and I've had the bruises on my thighs to prove it!
Many times, it means to step back and work on specific training issues in a controlled area. If the horse doesn't have good brakes, then training it on the trails should come after 'installing' - training for - good brakes in an arena.
It can mean finding some short hills to practice on before trying bigger and steeper ones. If your horse has some shortcomings, and most of the ones I know do, then it means thinking about how to retrain the horse to remove the shortcomings.
It can mean taking lessons or practicing certain things in an arena to work on your own shortcomings. If you don't feel comfortable cantering in a controlled area, then it isn't going to get better on a trail!
In my mare's case, I've found she is more attentive and focused when she gets a magnesium supplement than without. That isn't true of my other horses, but the change in her is pretty obvious. It was not a cure-all, but it sure was a step that helped her.
In the end, you gain confidence when you are convinced a good outcome is likely. When you have enough good experiences in a row to justify confidence to your brain, your brain will adjust and you will feel confident. But that means being realistic about where a horse is, where you are as a rider, taking reasonable precautions and then gaining those repeated good experiences.
Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"