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Al Dunning

Overcoming the Fear by Al Dunning



 Nerves are a common problem for all levels of riders.   They can control us unless we learn to control them.   One of the greatest trainers of all time, Matlock Rose, was asked if he still got nervous at big shows.  He answered, “Yes, If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t do it!”   Part of why we compete is for the “rush”. Controlling your nerves can make your show experience even better and raise you to a higher level.

Here are some things that have helped me and some of my friends that compete:

1. Be Prepared- Don’t add unnecessary stress by not being prepared.   Some riders even make a list of all of the things they need to get done prior to a show.
2. Visualize- Study and know your pattern and/or visualize your optimum run.
3. Ask yourself why you are there- You should be showing because you like it, want to be reinforced for your hard work, or want to see where you are at.
4. Have realistic expectations- Enjoy the moment, and only show your horse to the level he or she is at.
5. Focus- Think of one maneuver at a time, take baby steps, and don’t get ahead of yourself.
6. Remember how it feels to win- If you’ve been lucky enough to be successful in the past, remember that feeling.   It will keep you motivated.
7. Positive self-talk-Tell yourself the truth…nobody really cares how you do but you! You CAN do this, and you will survive.
8. Watch the videos of your good runs many times, and the bad ones only once- Sometimes I’ll watch the videos of my bad runs to improve, but I will definitely watch my good runs for positive motivation.
9. Breathe- Breathing is important for relaxation, concentration, and life in general!

Remember, it is only going to take one or two good experiences to erase a bad one from your memory.   So go out there and make it happen!

* Al Dunning has been a professional trainer since 1970. His expertise in all facets of western events have elevated him to great success in the AQHA, NRHA, NRCHA, and NCHA.

Al has developed a winning tradition with quarter horses that is well documented. He trains, conducts clinics, and consults for ranch development and equestrian planning.
Also please visit: a collection of some of the finest equipment that is used by the industry’s top trainers and horsemen. Available it the actual tack that has been seen on Al’s horses at shows, in magazine articles, on his DVDs, and in his books.

Visit Al’s NEW Online mentoring program – Team AD International

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  1. Carol Reid

    December 13, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    How do you get rid of the fear of being hurt? I had a few horses that bucked me off, I didn’t get hurt too bad but it has put a fear in me that makes it hard to ride. I no longer have a bucking horse but still have the fear. I sort cattle and cant’ get my grove back because of the fear. Help!

    Thank you,

    • admin

      December 13, 2011 at 6:49 pm

      Hi Carole,
      Thank you for your question. I am sure a lot of people are dealing with this same dilemma. Although those of us who ride here at Horse Digest have our own ways of dealing with this issue we will refer your question to Al.
      Stay tuned,
      Horse Digest


      January 27, 2012 at 3:20 pm

      I’m the same way too. My horse had previous bad experiences in his early stage of training so he is not really confident in himself and I had no problem riding him even bareback. I sent him to a trainer that all he did was tell me over and over how dangerous my horse is. I fell off of my horse and scared him and he started bucking and landed on my leg, all the trainer could do was cuss me out and tell me how stupid I was. Ever since I have this fear of riding him, even though he’s never offered to buck with me on him.

      • Patriz

        March 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm

        Sounds like you Love your horse. But don’t make excuses for him. Step back and try to judge his behavior without the emotions involved. Also, If it where me, I’d find another trainer. Remember you’re paying this guy. He doesn’t have the right to abuse you OR your horse. Try to find someone that can slow things down and start with the basics. If your horse has had a bad beginning and isn’t self confident, he probably needs to be brought along slowly. Don’t know if this helps, but if it where my horse, that’s what I’d do.

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