Photo courtesy of Jamie Hassall Photography

Photo courtesy of Jamie Hassall Photography

What were the challenges/problems you wanted Helen's help with? 

My original challenge was that I found riding and particularly jumping in front of other people very scary, to the point of trying to avoid situations where this would happen. As a riding instructor taking BHS exams and undertaking weekly group training, this was obviously not ideal. 

How did Helen help? 

I had the four session package with Helen via telephone which included exercises. The calls always included techniques for me to go away and try including podcasts to keep and listen to regularly. 

What were the most useful techniques/tools that you learnt? 

The most useful one in that it got me started was the breathing exercises. I use those so often now and it really helps me as it brings me back to the present. Without these, I wouldn't have been able to get my fear to a level where I could actually think as I would go into panic mode otherwise. Visualisation exercises and Helen's podcasts were invaluable as the next steps of my journey. Being able to keep these and go back to them when I feel I am having a difficulty is also reassuring. I think also being able to talk to someone about my fears was also extremely beneficial, as often as riders I think we feel ashamed to feel fear and to know I am not alone felt like a big relief. 

How did sessions with Helen help/benefit you? 

The most important thing that has come out of my sessions with Helen is to be less hard on myself. I would berate myself for not being 'fearless' whereas now I accept fear as part of my riding journey, knowing I have the tools to manage it now. Feeling nervous doesn't mean I've failed or that I am a bad rider - it means I'm alive and that what I am doing means something to me! 

Helen's sessions helped me to understand myself better so I am now better able to firstly, preempt what situations might trigger a fear response in me and work out ways to mitigate that; and secondly, to bring myself back into the moment, so that time seems to slow down. This means that instead of avoiding activities I want to participate in, I am instead able to avoid any nerves growing into a panic response by thinking about fear on a scale of 1-10 and what I need to do to bring it back down again. This includes working with sympathetic trainers who help me progress at my own speed. 

What did you achieve as a result of working with Helen? *

Whilst I originally came to Helen about jumping fears, what was most interesting to me was that it actually improved my dressage competing as well! Previously, I would almost want to 'get my test over with' when out competing despite loving training at home (because of course, competing means being judged!), and I would feel like I wasn't capable of riding the test before going into the arena. Now, I do still get nervous before I get on, but once I am riding, I am now able to focus on what I am doing and how the horse is going. This month, I completed my first BD area festival and my first BD RoR Associated Championships (both huge goals of mine). Not only did I enjoy all my tests, I got my highest BD scores ever and came 2nd in my warm up test and 18th out of 23 in my championship test which I was really pleased with. 

On the jumping side, I completed a show jumping competition, have been cross country jumping, and have started having lessons with a new trainer. I have also accepted that, as the fear has lessened, that I was actually jumping for others, rather than because I really want to, and I have decided that it is perfectly OK to only want to jump smaller fences for fun. This was an important realisation for me as up until then I was punishing myself for not being something I am not (namely, an event rider) and it is absolutely fine to focus on dressage!

What would you say to a rider thinking about working with Helen? 

Do it! Helen has plenty of techniques and exercises to help you with whatever riding problem you are having and having the opportunity to understand yourself better can be the key to overcoming your fears.