Occasionally, I’ll come across a rider who is afraid of jumping fences, particularly large ones. When someone asks me about dealing with this fear, I have to be honest and say that I believe people should do what makes them happy, rather than feel that they have to overcome their worries and fears to prove to themselves or others that they are “up to par.”
Life is short, and going through it being a harsh judge of yourself will only make you unhappy. Having been offered this wonderful gift of life, it seems that the goal should be to enjoy it every day, concentrating on what you love to do and can do well, rather than setting goals for yourself that involve overcoming fear. Not everyone is comfortable with skydiving, bungy-jumping, racing cars, etc., but this doesn’t mean that he or she is an inferior person for avoiding activities that cause anxiety and fear.
Surmounting difficult odds may be admirable during unavoidable, life-threatening situations, but there is no reason to make life an uphill climb when you have the choice to do otherwise. Although I’m not a psychologist, I think that when a frightened person is determined to jump, it is not so much linked to feelings about the sport as to the issue of self-esteem.
It must be remembered that excellence can be achieved at any level. If you don’t feel comfortable jumping, but you are excellent at flatwork, then you should be proud of your achievement; or if you spend your entire showing career jumping on the three-foot level, but you do it very well, then you should be pleased with this accomplishment rather than being embarrassed that you aren’t moving up. My advice to those who struggle with fear is to love yourself for what you are so that you’ll not only enjoy riding more, but also find that your life is filled with greater joy and meaning, rather than with fear and disappointment.