Overcoming A Fear Of Horses

I long to join my fellow travelers in their love for horses, but I need to overcome my fear of riding them first.  Most fears are unfounded, you know, ‘false evidence appearing real.’  But I once had a terrifying experience on a trail ride that now makes my heart pound and my hands sweat anytime I’m invited to go for a ride.  I usually gracefully decline, offering some sort of credible excuse.  But no more.  I need to beat this memory.  Here’s what happened …

We were camping with some friends and planned some fun outdoor adventures like white water rafting, hiking, and horseback riding.  If you know me well or read my blog frequently, you know that the most adventurous thing I normally do is eat something bizarre like fried crickets or lamb fries.  I’m not typically the adrenaline junkie type, but I do enjoy the outdoors and a thrill every now and then is good for the soul.

Visit Florida Adventure Insider Lauren

My friend Lauren, the horse-loving Beaches and Adventure Insider for Visit Florida. She rides with such style and grace.

So, it was just my luck that during this particular horseback trail ride, I got the meanest, most stubborn horse in the barn. They paired me with him because he was small, but he more than made up for it in personality.  Since these types of trail rides are designed for tourists and non-riders, typically, the horses are trained to slowly follow behind one another with the guide at the front leading the way.  My horse was the rebel though and he refused to get in line.  That should have been my first clue.  Once he was coerced to the middle of the line by a couple of guides, he kept biting the horse’s butt in front of me, then stomping his back legs like crazy to warn the horse behind him not to get too close.  Along the trail, he continually reminded me of his dissatisfaction by trying to knock me off his back by rubbing up against the trees rather than staying on the trail.  It was as if he was a kid being punished by spending the day with his slow-paced grandparents instead of staring in a rodeo.  But all of his horsing around ended up just being a mild annoyance compared to his “grand finale” at the end of the ride.

Style Hi Club Horseback Riding In South Africa

My friend David with StyleHiClub.com going for a gorgeous and serene beach ride in South Africa.

Near the end of our tour there was an open field.  Now, our [inconsiderate] guide thought it would be fun to gallop across while the other horses sauntered along.  My horse took this as an invitation to speed up too, but he didn’t just gallop, he hauled across the field as if we had just robbed a bank in some old western film.  I tried to pull back on the reins and stop him.  I yelled.  But he had already made clear who was boss.  I leaned forward and grabbed on as tight as I could, tears streaming down my face and terrible images running through my mind of what would happen if I fell off.  I thought of Christopher Reeve.  I thought of the kid in the movie Sea Biscuit where he gets dragged around with his foot caught in a stirrup.  I wanted to throw up.

From MyTravelAffair.com

From Marysia at MyTravelAffair.com


At the end of the field, he trotted up to the other horses, wind blowing through his mane and flashing an attitude like a teenager that just went for a joyride.  I was still crying and shaking like an infant.  With the help of a few others, I got off the horse and walked the rest of the way back, feeling like a shamed city slicker.

That was about 10 years ago.

Since then, I’ve gone on two more rides without incident; except for my pounding heart, sweaty palms, and jacked nerves.

I’d like to get over this fear.

Nancy from WritingHorseback.com at Rancho de los Caballeros in Wickenburg, Arizona.

Nancy from WritingHorseback.com at Rancho de los Caballeros in Wickenburg, Arizona.

The next time we’re off traveling and have the opportunity to go for a morning ride on the beach or a gorgeous horseback stroll through the mountains, I’d like to do so confidently and actually enjoy the experience.  It’s one of my goals in 2014 to sign up for horseback riding lessons and knock this fear out of the park.

Ever been terrified by something that you eventually overcame?  Tell me about it in the comments below.  I’ll go grab some comfort food and read them all. :)

About Rachelle Lucas

Rachelle is a writer, spokesperson, and travel videographer. She believes the best way to learn about a destination is through its flavors and collects recipes from her trips to recreate them here on The Travel Bite. She’s currently the Food and Dining Insider for Visit Florida and was recently named by KRED as one of the Top 50 Travel Bloggers in the world.

As much as Rachelle enjoys traveling and tasting new foods, she also loves to run. She’s completed the New York City Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon as well at 5 half marathons.


  1. Rachelle I think it is a super goal for 2014! I support you fully on that, and I’m confident you will succeed, the attitude is the king here.
    I love horse riding and can’t imagine my life without it but I can as well understand people fears especially after accidents and very bad experiences!
    Just a little advice for future if that ever happen to you again, just pull reins alternately, horse should take it as a command to turn, once left, once right, that confuse and should slow the horse down. But I know it is easy to give advices, while in real life things happens too fast sometimes!
    Good luck Girl!

  2. Rachelle, I’m so sorry to learn of your terrible horseback riding experience. I’m not sure if your ride took place in Florida or some other location. Typically, the United States has strict insurance laws for equestrian centers and, to my disappointment, most stables only offer walking (nose to tail) rides to the general public because they want to avoid situations such as yours.

    I have a post on my Writing Horseback blog about getting “back in the saddle” and many tips on horseback riding for beginners. When a horse takes off it is typically due to fright, other horses running (pack instinct) or, as in your situation, a terribly barn sour horse with very bad manners.

    While easier said than done, if you grab on to the left or right rein and turn the horses head in the direction you are pulling, it forces the horse to turn their head, thus resulting in a slow down. The tighter the circle, the slower the horse will go. In runaway situations, tighten the reins, hold onto the horn (if you are riding Western saddle) and don’t scream or yell stop. While scary, to be sure, the horse will eventually stop and will only become more frantic with a screaming rider.

    Good luck with your horseback riding lessons. There’s nothing better than experiencing the world from the back of a horse.

  3. I was the other way; looking forward to ride a horse for so many years but never had the chance. And in Egypt when I had to chose between a horse and a camille, pick the first one! To be honest it was easier than I expected..would do it again and again!

  4. Whoa–reading this gave me a bit of anxiety. I, too, have this fear.

    I remember almost falling off of a horse in Egypt (it was behaving erratically) and being afraid of them after that. Then, years later, I had no choice but to ride one. I was hiking the Inca Trail in Peru and had some foot pain and couldn’t walk. I had to ride a horse and course, it walked right on the edge of the trail. One wrong move and we would have fallen thousands of feet. Fortunately, there was a guide helping the horse stay on course. Still, I was nervous. And when we reached the end of our journey, there was a meadow. The other horses were galloping and mine made a run for it. I was terrified. :)

    Your idea to take lessons is a great one. If I had the time, I would consider it. I recall certain moments when I relaxed/let go and how much I actually enjoyed riding the horse.


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