Back to Basics: The Fear of Being Judged

(Not by judges, but by fellow equestrians.)

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Ah yes, insecurity, my Achilles heel as a rider. The prospect of being judged has always filled me with anxiety. The fear of not being good enough can sometimes make me sick to my stomach. I remember expressing this sentiment to my instructor, Doug, after a lesson for which I had a bit of an audience. He stared back at me and said “you picked the wrong sport, kiddo,” and it’s true. Not that I wasn’t meant to be a rider, but that my stage fright was something I’d need to face if I planned to continue on in my life as an equestrian. Even if you choose not to ride competitively, the horse world is an extremely judgmental place. Unless you plan on only riding in the absence of all other life forms, someone is bound to have an opinion on your riding, and here’s the kicker: it might not always be positive.

When I started this column, in the back of my mind I knew that in order to truly bring you along on Helix’s and my journey, I’d have to periodically post videos of our progress. Because I’m currently in the process of training a four-year-old, and I’m not Reiner Klimke incarnate (though I try my very best to channel him), there is a good chance that any video I post will not be perfect. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but if any place is more judgmental than the horse world, it’s the internet. It is just so easy to point out someone’s flaws when you don’t have look them in the face and see their eyes deaden as you crush their spirit with your words.


Yeah, so this girl who hates being judged has put herself in situation where one of the most judgmental communities around can judge her on the platform that has made the sport of armchair quarterbacking one of the world’s greatest pastimes. What was I thinking?

I’m still not entirely sure. Maybe I thought it would be a good way to face my fear and learn how to let criticism roll off my back. Maybe I’m totally insane. Yeah. I’m definitely insane, but I don’t think it’s relevant in this case. Or maybe I know that as judgmental as the horse community can be, it also has the potential to be the most loving, supportive community around.

I know that videoing myself (or should I say schlepping the husband out to the barn to video me) is a useful training tool. I have no mirrors in my arena, so it is useful for me to pick apart my riding, Helix’s movement, and how those things impact one another. As I get braver, I will share more — the good, the bad, and the ugly — but first I need this tiny, relatively painless nudge to get the ball rolling. So here we go, my first baby step towards putting myself out there, a (very) short clip of Helix and me during some trot work on December 1.

Biz is the author of Horse Nation’s “Back to Basics” series, which follow the journey of a “somewhat ordinary” horse and rider pair as they strive for greatness. Catch up on her past columns by clicking the #BACK TO BASICS at the top of the page.

Biz Stamm is a part-time seed scientist and full-time trainer/riding instructor specializing in starting young horses for sport horse disciplines. She brings the analytical mind she developed while working in a lab to her riding and teaching, emphasizing a thorough understanding of how the horse’s body works. She currently owns two horses: the Kalvin Cycle (Kalvin), a 9-year-old half-Arabian gelding, and DB’s Alpha Helix (Helix), a 4-year-old Kiger mustang gelding. While she is currently pursuing competitive goals, her main goal is to enjoy her horses, and for her horses to enjoy her.

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