Dealing with too Many Emotions in the Saddle

I’ve had more really horrendous rides than I care to admit.

The kind of rides where I would’ve been ashamed for someone to be watching,

I was far too emotional of a rider.

CP would start to trot too fast so I would yank back on her mouth, hard. She would start to canter faster than I cared for, so I would rip my inside rein & spur her in a tiny circle. She would spook at something I didn’t see so I would whack her with my whip or give her a big kick.

I am not the slightest bit proud to admit these moments, but I think it’s important to be honest about where we’ve been so we can explain how we’ve gotten to where we are.

I am pleased to say I haven’t had any borderline abusive rides in a very, very long time.

How did I go from an emotional wreck in the saddle, essentially at ticking time bomb of anger, to a peaceful rider, assessing each moment objectively? This has been a long process that has happened gradually over time.

It didn’t happen overnight or in one single ride where everything just changed for me. It has required me to be unwaveringly committed to self-improvement, related to things far deeper than just horseback riding.

Here are the three most important steps I've taken to leave my emotions out of the saddle & become an effective, fair rider:

1. Getting a handle on my mental health & not letting my personal struggles impact my time in the saddle. It’s been no secret that I struggled with anxiety, depression, & panic attacks for several years through my late teens & into my 20s. I had a lot of emotional baggage & mental instability to work through, but trying to get that sorted out while riding a green chestnut mare was simply not a viable option.

Although horses have always been a version of “therapy” for me, riding was becoming something that was negatively impacting my mental health more so than helping. Yes, grooming, hand grazing, being in the presence of horses was peaceful to me, but the act of riding was becoming too much for my already fragile emotional state to handle.

I went to therapy every week for over a year. I learned tools & strategies there to help deal with my anxiety & depression. Although this was helpful & I have no regrets about going to therapy, it wasn’t until I truly decided my mental health was my personal responsibility that I overcame my anxiety and depression (read more about that here).

Lifting weights 5-6 days per week consistently over the past several years has truly been the most life-changing thing I could’ve done for myself. The effects of exercise on my mental health are so profound, I wish I could put it into words so everyone who was struggling would see this incredible lifeline that they have access to.

Once I could handle my emotions in smaller situations (yanno, where I am not aboard a 1,000 pound flight animal who could easi