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Rider Fear

How my riding anxieties have been overcome by working with Peggy

I came to Peggy Martin and Oakzanita Ranch searching for a better way. Having rediscovered a long buried love of horses and riding, I had taken some lessons from a few "kick ‘em til they go" riding instructors.

After experiencing increasing frustration at my inability to communicate with my school horses and the nagging feeling that it wasn't the best way (plus a few scary falls), I knew something had to change and quickly!

For me, the most important thing that happens at Oakzanita is ATTENTION. Safety for you and your horse is primary. When having a lesson, close attention is paid to the details; support for the rider and fairness to the horse.

Peggy has the uncanny ability to see what you need and give it, just at the right moment. Everything that happens is used as an opportunity to learn. Rider fear is respected, but worked through. Peggy encourages being on "horse time" which has helped me to slow down and break things up into manageable pieces.

Bernie's attention to the property is first rate. When I go to the ranch, it always looks clean and well-maintained. Generous with their time, knowledge, and resources, Peggy and Bernie have helped me see that better way. I am grateful that such people and places exist and I am privileged to know them.

Jean Smith

I am what I refer to as a novice rider, even after 15 years of riding. But lately I have been thinking of myself as a horsewoman, thanks to EMDR. I took hunter/jumper lessons for 3 years on school horses as the start of my horseback riding when I was in my mid-30's. Real horsewomen ride all of their lives, don't they? Because I believed this somewhere in my core, I never allowed myself to develop the confidence I needed to be a really good rider. A devastating divorce ended my wonderful time of arena riding, but opened the door to trail riding. I opened my heart to God and asked for a horse of my own and He delivered a beautiful retired thoroughbred named Snafu. We rode all over San Diego County and I loved him dearly. However, lurking in my heart was the concern that I was still a beginner. Still not a horsewoman.

One day while Snafu and I were riding alone in an El Cajon neighborhood, he spotted some other horses down the road and wanted to bolt to them. Although I didn't lose control of him, it was an awful struggle. I knew that if I didn't maintain control he would be charging down streets where he, people in cars, and I could all be killed or seriously injured. It shattered my trust in him, my pride in my riding skills and, I later learned, set up a chain of anxiety.

I decided Snafu wasn't the right horse for me. I sold him to a friend and began searching for a "confidence builder". I bought a nice chocolate Fox Trotter named Danny. At the same time I met my new husband, changed from English to Western tack and turned my life upside down. I suddenly felt even more like a beginner all over again. Real horsewomen don't feel like this, I was sure.

As time progressed, I noticed more and more anxiety, especially when I rode with my husband who didn't want to "babysit" me on rides. This anxiety started generalizing to my driving and other areas of my life. When Peggy suggested that we try some EMDR, I felt I needed to do something or have my passion for riding destroyed. I wanted to feel brave. I wanted to feel competent at riding. I wanted to love my horse.

EMDR helped me to succeed in all of this. As I realized that I have skills to manage difficult horse situations and I have bravery in my heart and I can "survive", I became so calm, so clear, so strong. My riding is not perfect, but I feel like a horsewoman! Recently my husband and I helped at a Wyoming branding. We gathered up a herd of 600 cows, and I waded into the crowded corral with a calm and confidence I couldn't have imagined a few years ago. I'm not fool-hearty. I was on a good, solid horse, aware of my surroundings, and prepared to handle my horse and myself if things got difficult. It was inside me all of the time. EMDR simply helped me get in touch with it and dismantle the memories that were haunting me.

I now have a lovely Appendix quarter horse that is very sensitive and needs a lot of support from his rider. We are working on our communications and relationship and I am rejoicing that I can bring my calm, brave heart to him.



Hi. My name is Gesa Brinks. I would like to relate a story about myself and how Peggy helped me by introducing me to E.M.D.R.

First, a little about myself. I've been a horsewoman for 38 years. I have trained horses most of my life. I have a knack for handling the "bad ones" or ruff stock. I don't scare easily, nor do I back down from a fight, whether it be a person, animal or my own fears. After tiring of the showing, I took up distance riding. competitive trail riding and endurance riding. I have ridden appx. 6,000 miles of competition.

Now for my story. I was riding my mule Ms. Clovis on the Mt. Laguna endurance ride. She is a scary sort of girl and is quite leery of people. Anyhow, at about the 45 mile mark into the race we were following a narrow trail thru the Lagunas called Noble Canyon. The trail is a sheer drop off for most of the trail. As we were riding along we met up with some hikers on the same trail. Now, normally the hikers are to move to the downhill side of the trail while the horse/mule passes on the up side. One of the hikers, the lady, was petrified to go near the edge, let alone have a horse and a mule pass her by while standing near it. The other person I was riding with at that time told her to press up against the hillside while we passed. Just as I was approaching the woman hiker a whirlwind came up and caused her white blouse to flutter rapidly in the breeze. My mule took that as a threat to her safety and decided to turn around on this narrow trail. Ms. Clovis is 17 hands tall. She is a very big person. As she was squishing her hind end into the hillside and pivoting around, I could look 800 feet down into the canyon below. Instead of turning completely around, she did something that still puzzles me to this day. She chose to go off the edge of the cliff to get away from the hikers scary blouse instead of retreating the way she had just come. Even though I pulled her rein to complete the turn she had started, she decided we were going down instead . As we were sliding down the shale mountain side I was at first scared, then just dumb founded and then furious that I was going to die this way. My mule has pulled some stupid stunts before, but, this one was a real doozy. The embankment was so steep that I could feel my head bump against her rump as she lurched downward. I heard someone yell, " Grab the boulders!!!". As I looked to my left, I could see some boulders coming towards us, or rather we were sliding towards them. I leaned far to my left and hugged the boulders as I kicked my feet free from the stirrups. I felt my rear slide up and over the cantle of the saddle and over Clovis' rear and then I fell into the boulders. I watched as Clovis kept sliding toward the precipice. I put my face into the crook of my left arm. I couldn't bear to watch my beloved mule launch over the edge. Then I heard someone screaming. I realized it was the lady hiker. She had been screaming the entire time. This was the first I had actually acknowledged that she was hysterical. Then I heard, " She didn't fall," "She didn't go over". "Look!", "She's Ok.." I looked toward my mule and what I saw struck me as if I was looking at a cartoon. There she was, her butt straight into the air, hind feet clinging to the mountainside, with her front feet planted on a small boulder; and her head hanging into the abyss, looking for a way down. I couldn't believe my eyes. I started telling her to back up.

I fought to keep emotion out of my voice, and firmly tell her to "back".  And "back" she did. She backed away from the edge and managed to pivot around and scramble her way back up to the trail. I clawed my way back up to the trail too. I was so shaken that I couldn't find the nerve to get back on her. I led her the last 2 miles down the narrow trail before I got back on her. We, the other rider and I, booked the last 3 miles into the finish. I guess our adrenalin needed a release; as we approached the finish line, we raced each other in at a dead run. As we reported to the finish timers, I offered my mule for sale for one dollar.

She and I are pretty well known, so everyone wanted to know what happened.

I rode Tevis on her a few months later and she acted like she was going to spook off the California loop there in the dark. I now realized that she had no clue we could die because of her actions. Mules are supposed to have a good self preservation instincts. I guess she must have missed that class. I lost my confidence in her. She was no longer a partner. Not a safe one anyhow. I decided not to use her in distance riding anymore.

I bought myself an Arabian gelding the following January. He is awesome. I discovered though, that when I would get onto a cliff or narrow trail situation I would get an attack of vertigo. At times I would have a full on panic attack. I controlled myself, so as not to scare my horse or fall off the cliff being dizzy. At times I would even slide off my horse and lead him down the trail, until it widened out again.

I was relating my Noble Canyon story to Peggy one day, during a lunch break in a clinic. She stopped me mid sentence and said, "That really scared you didn't it?"  I answered, "Well, yeah!!". She said, try doing this, as you finish telling me the story. She had me patting my right hand onto my left arm and alternate with my left hand onto my right arm as I spoke. She said if I didn't want to pat my arms, I could pat my legs or alternate wiggling the toes of each foot, right to left or visa versa. I patted my legs right, left, right, left, as I related my story to her. All of a sudden I took a deep breath and realized I wasn't anxious anymore. The longer I patted and the longer I talked about the incident with Clovis, the calmer I became. "Wow...this is sooooo cool." I felt so much more grounded. I could visualize the incident more clearly and even remember more details and found it didn't stress me to do so.

I used my new "tool" many times during competition this year. I would wiggle the toes of each foot, alternating feet as I rode on narrow trails and cliffs. As I drove my car, I would visualize me trotting my horse along narrow cliff trails and being calm as I rode the ledge. I would continue doing it while driving or riding my horse until I felt totally at ease with the situation. These exercises paid off for me. I found my self riding the Tevis Cup 100 mile ride this year, trotting the narrow cliff trails and looking down and all around at the scenery without even the slightest twinges of fear. I felt grounded and safe riding my wonderful Arab. The next big test will be riding the Sunland 50 mile endurance ride in Nov. This trail has ridgeback trails with drop offs on both sides of the trail. I have a feeling that it wont really be much of a problem. I have since shared E.M.D.R. with several friends and acquaintances since I learned of its magic last year. I guess I'll have to ask them if it worked as well for them as it did for me. Thank you, Peggy, for the great tool you gave me. Riding is "fun" again.



Been thinking of you often as our conversations at the Horse Gathering have had a wonderful effect on my relationship with my horse. You helped me recognize that my fear and anxiety with regard to riding came from two very specific events in my past which have nothing to do with my current, wonderful little horse. I've been able to let go of my irrational fears and have only, what I feel is a good sense of self-preservation. I'm not laying any blame on Panache for my past experiences in which I was hurt. Consequently, I am free to see him as who he is.....a nice peppy little guy who is keen to learn and see new sights and who is very reluctant to spook at things...even when other horses are. He seems to enjoy what I am doing with him now so much more.

We had a first experience together last weekend. I brought him to our worksite (University property, approximately 600 acres with several areas to park a trailer). From here we rode through the woods to a friends house about a mile and a half away. It was our first adventure by ourselves away from home. He was very at ease but looking over his shoulder, and when I was ready to give up and go back to the trailer. He had been in these woods with other horses about three years ago. However, there were a lot of downed trees and I couldn't find the trail. He kept looking; I decided to let him go where he wanted to. He found the trail in about 10 seconds and from there we had a wonderful time together on our way to my friend's house. We have opened up a whole new world of riding adventures in this one day. Panache still needs to know how to rate his speed, but that's my job to teach him and more importantly, going faster than I want no longer scares me....so I'm not as likely to choke up on the reins and get rigid. Anyway, you had such a big part in my growth that I wanted to share this experience with you. I feel as though someone has removed dirty curtains from in front of my view. Thank you so much.



I have always loved horses and knew one day I would have one, to love, to ride and be as free as the wind. I finally came to that point in my life that I was able to fulfill that dream and bought my first horse, Mac Truck. I couldn't believe it!! I thought I could jump on and ride into oblivion with the wind at our backs and not a care in the world.....Instead I got the ride from Hell, bruises on my body, dents in my pride and a fear of riding that grew by leaps and bounds until I was not having fun any more. After two years I realized that Mac and I did not click and we were not going to get any better. I made the decision to sell him and try again. I am a tough old bird and was not going to give up my life long dream. The old saying 'get back on' seemed to be my battle cry! But how much can one take? I found my next horse and was ready to get 'back in the saddle' again. Pepper is a beautiful Quarter horse mare, who needed me as much as I needed her. We clicked and off we went.

Somewhere along the line things started to go down hill. The old fears came creeping back and seemed to get worse every day, until every time I got on her I would grab the horn, get extremely anxious and my love of riding turned to my fear of riding, and what I wanted so badly just was not fun any more. My friends (although they didn't come right out and say it) didn't feel comfortable riding with me, and Pepper got a bad rep at the ranch. She is really a great horse and did not deserve the negative input from my issues. However she really did have my number!!

I realized if ever I was to enjoy riding again I had to do something fairly quickly. I thought about hypnotism and possibly a pre frontal lobotomy to erase my fears. I was helping a friend look for a horse when I came to Peggy's website and saw her info on Over Coming Rider Fear. I read about it but wasn't sure what it was or if it would be right for me, so I tucked it into the back of my mind for later. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, things just kept on getting worse. I revisited Peggy's website several times and finally one night I made the decision to just do it. So I emailed her not expecting to hear from her for a while. About an hour later the phone rang and it was Peggy answering my plea. We made an appointment for the next day and mine and Pepper's lives have been changed!!!

I realized I carried a lot of old baggage from years ago that was effecting my riding everyday. I am now able to do things I thought I would never be able to do again and I just keep getting better and better. Pepper is also enjoying our work, and she is building much more trust in my ability to take control (she never really wanted to be in control in the first place as evidenced by her reactions to my loss of control). Peggy says Pepper is a very willing and kind horse, who wants to please, which makes me want to work that much harder. Our last session was really the best, as Peggy worked with Pepper, using EMDR/ESCT on her and some of her issues. Pepper and I are now becoming the team we SHOULD be and we both look forward to many, many more years and miles together. We cannot thank you enough, Peggy, for all that you have helped us with. I hope if someone out there is reading this, that you don't wait as long as I did to take that initial step because, if fear and anxiety are stopping you from enjoying something that is so special, you are wasting time that you could be enjoying. THANK YOU SO MUCH PEGGY!!!!!

Love, Janet and Pepper