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Can A Horse Teach You To Face Your Fears?

equine therapyMany people would agree not much can be more fear inducing than sitting atop a 1200 pound animal, with little more than two straps of leather attached to a small bar of metal in the horse’s mouth. No matter how you slice it, the horse clearly has the upper hand. Should he want to bolt, buck, rear, or spin and spill his rider, the horse most likely could quite easily. Combine all that power with the fact that horses are an animal with a very sensitive fear based flight response, and it’s simply amazing to think that they let us ride them at all.

As Buck Brannaman, ( one of the most respected horsemen of our day and star of the movie, “Buck”, says, “We say to a horse, ‘Let me strap the skins of some dead animals (the leather saddle), across your back, and then sit on top of there, right on the spot where a wild animal would attack you’ every time we ride them.”

And for anyone who has ever ridden a horse, the most challenging part — like many things in life — is not the actual physical ability to stay on, it is the emotional ability to trust that you can. For the moment you begin to think you might fall, or that the horse may send you flying, you tense up, unconsciously gripping the saddle, and probably the reins too.

Instinctively, this fear response sends a message to the horse that he is, in fact, being attacked, and he will do the only thing he knows, which is to run. And here again, it is

Girl riding bareback photo available from Shutterstock

Can A Horse Teach You To Face Your Fears?

Claire Dorotik-Nana, LMFT

Claire Dorotik-Nana LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in post-traumatic growth, leveraging adversity, and other epic human achievements. Claire has written multiple continuing education courses for Professional Development Resources, Zur Institute, and International Sport Science Association. Claire has also authored multiple books, including:
Leverage: The Science of Turning Setbacks into Springboards and On The Back Of A Horse: Harnessing The Healing Power Of The Human-Equine Bond. For more information about Leveraging Adversity or Claire, visit

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APA Reference
Dorotik-Nana, C. (2012). Can A Horse Teach You To Face Your Fears?. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 12 Nov 2012
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