For the Rider

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) for Equestrians
By Carol Lambe

Negative emotions are held or "blocked" in the body's energy system; EFT corrects the flow of energy and releases negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, and tension.

What would it be like if you had no fear or anxiety when you rode? Some of you know how that feels - confident, relaxed, and yet cautious in a safety conscious way - but overall there is no tension, no nervousness, and no fear.

But for a lot of folks that isn't reality. Fear prevents riders from being the kind of equestrians that they want to be. I've seen folks terrified during their lessons - not being able to do what the instructor asks, holding their breath, the horse "getting their number", the whole experience culminating in a downward spiral of frustration, anger and tears. And yet the love of horses and riding compels these riders to go back week after week.

I too, was that way. I didn't actually begin riding, officially, until I was in my late 20's. When I was younger and under my parent's control, I was forbidden to ride. My mother thought it too dangerous. When I did start riding, I was so scared that I would try to do deep breathing and relaxation exercises in the car on the way to the barn. I knew full well the spiral of tension between the horse and myself. Then, the first horse I owned, Cody, bucked me off and I was in the hospital for a week. There was mom saying, "I told you so," and I could never regain my trust in Cody again.

Years passed; I bought a house and didn't ride for several years. I was transitioning from working in corporate America to becoming a professional Career and Personal Development Coach and starting my own practice when I learned of and began to use an energy technique called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Rooted in Eastern medical disciplines of Acupuncture and Acupressure and based on the Energy Psychology technique developed by Dr. Rodger Callahan's Thought Field Therapy (TFT), EFT was developed by a student of Callahan's, Gary Craig, in the early '90's. It's a simple to learn and use meridian tapping technique that is extremely effective in reducing anxiety and fears. The theory behind EFT and other energy techniques is that all negative emotions are held or "blocked" in the body's energy system - EFT corrects the flow of energy and therefore releases the negative emotion, e.g. fear, anxiety, tension, etc.

Many practitioners in many different fields are successfully using EFT with clients and patients. At the EFT Conference this past March '01, in Flagstaff, AZ I met hypnotherapists, physical therapists, psychologists, chiropractors, coaches, and even a divorce attorney who uses EFT with clients to move them through their resentment and anger (I wonder how many of his clients decide not to divorce after using EFT?).

So what is EFT exactly? In a nutshell, the first step is to rate the level of emotion around the fear on a 1 - 10 scale - called a SUD level. Then while mentally tuning into the fear, a person repeats to himself or herself what the fear is while tapping on one of two key meridian points. Then using a reminder phrase to stay mentally with the fear, they tap on other specific meridian points (around the face and upper body) in a specific sequence. Lastly, they again use the SUD scale and rate how emotionally charged they are after the tapping sequence. This constitutes an EFT "round." In most cases more than one round may be needed to clear the fear because most fears are actually a group of issues called "Aspects."

Sounds kind of silly, doesn't it? I thought so too at first, until I experienced the incredible, life altering effects. I've been able to eliminate many of my own fears as well as to work with many clients experiencing a tremendous array of fear issues - many of whom no longer experience the fears that held them back for years.

But getting back to how EFT works specifically with equestrians, here's a case in point: I agreed to work with Maria, a woman in her early 50's, who had been taking hunter/jumper lessons off and on for 10 years. Maria was fine at the walk and trot - but move upwards into a canter and she would fall apart, becoming like a cement statue on the horse, who would, of course, break the gait and fall back into a bumpy trot exacerbating her fear.

Here's how we worked out her "Can't Canter" problem, and this is typical of how EFT works:

The Investigation: First, on the ground, we had a conversation regarding what she was thinking about when she prepared to canter - she visualized herself losing her balance, coming off and hitting a jump standard and/or getting run away with. Her main fear was of being hurt - a fairly typical fear for a lot of equestrians. So that's where we started.

"Rounds" On The Ground: I then taught her the EFT technique and together we completed several "rounds" addressing this specific fear. A funny thing happens when you begin to clear the fear - the "aspects" come to light and little insights or ah-ha's come to the surface. This is sometimes where events from the past, which may have been previously forgotten, are remembered. In Maria's case it was seeing someone else losing control and getting hurt. This is very typical for folks - they may not personally experience an event, but seeing or hearing of someone else getting hurt can be an emotionally painful experience that is then locked into their own body's energy system. After doing EFT rounds on memories and past experiences as well as some other fears that showed up, e.g. fear of losing control, fear of the speed, fear of not being able to see (wind tears), etc., she rated her overall fear was now down to a 1 or 2 on the SUD scale, so it was time for her to try out her new-found freedom from fear.

The Experience: Maria mounted the school horse she had been taking lessons on and warmed up at a walk and trot. The first time she was asked by her instructor to canter, her body's muscle memory kicked in. I had her halt, and while on the horse she tapped a round of EFT for her muscle memory. She then tried again, and without missing a beat, made a beautiful upward transition into the canter and then stopped! "Why?!" I asked "You looked great!" Her response came "I can't believe it, it can't be true that cantering is this easy!" Ah, the Apex Effect. Gary Craig coined this phrase to describe the phenomenon that occurs when a person's rational mind just can't adjust to the fact that a fear that had been so persistent for so long could just be gone!

That day Maria cantered, for the first time, completing in the canter a full trip around the indoor ring.

So, how can you learn EFT for yourself? There are a few ways:
1. Go to Gary Craig's website where you can download a free manual and you can teach yourself the technique.
2. Also on Gary's site, you will also find a listing of practitioners by location including internationally, who are experienced in teaching and implementing EFT. There are also workshops and seminars open to the public listed there.
3. There are also several excellent books on the subject of Energy Psychology's different modalities - EFT being just one of a few. There are several books specifically written on EFT that can be ordered through

In closing, I'd like to stress the following regarding EFT:

  • EFT works even if you don't believe that it does.
  • You can't harm yourself and you can't erase positive emotions - only negatively charged ones.
  • It's totally safe and non-invasive.
  • It can be taught over the phone - many of my coaching clients, whom I've never met in person, have all been taught EFT.
  • You can do EFT anywhere at any time - in the car, at the barn, on a trail, waiting to go into the ring at a show (it's great for show jitters!)

So you may be asking how's my riding now? Great! I'm leasing a wonderful gelding and we hack through the woods of Connecticut together. And I'm seriously considering buying an Icelandic or two - I just love that tölt!

About the author:
Carol Lambe lives in New Fairfield, CT with her husband Dennis, chocolate lab Cheyenne, and Shih Tzu Nikki. Besides her coaching practice and riding, Carol loves to fly her Cessna 182RG. Carol is available for EFT consultations either by phone or in person regarding equestrian and other fear issues, i.e. flying, and can be reached at 203-746-7474.