STEM Presents: Dr. Paul Haefner

by Claire H. ’21

Last Thursday, January 17, we enjoyed a special visit from Dr. Paul Haefner, who presented us with a detailed description of his career and and how he helps equestrians to reach their goals and overcome challenges. Dr. Haefner combines his passion for horses and experience in the equestrian field with his extensive knowledge of human psychology to help people raise their level of performance and conquer certain challenges of the equestrian sport. This led him to create his own company, Riding Far, through which he helps equestrians face problems such as fear, anxiety, motivation, focus, pressure, and so on. It was created with the goal of raising riders' awareness about the importance of mental skills in the equestrian world. Dr. Haefner also helps people to establish good connections with their horses and achieve their own personal growth goals.
Throughout his presentation, Dr. Haefner emphasized the importance of relationships and how they affect all aspects of your life. He said that our relationships are the center of our lives and the key to our emotional, physical, and mental success. If your bond with your horse is not solid and you do not connect well, there is almost no way that you can work together and communicate in the necessary way. The relationship with your trainer is about as essential as with the horse. If you and your instructor cannot communicate, it can be very dangerous. He also stressed that one of the most important things in riding is having an instructor who understands you and your abilities, and will not put you in dangerous situations.

I can personally relate to his work and even to his clients. I have been competitively showing horses in the hunter/jumpers division for over eight years. There have been many times when I have felt the exact same as many of his clients: anxious, scared to make a mistake, and even fearful. Horseback riding is an incredibly dangerous and high risk sport. The people who do it and who really dedicate themselves to it have a passion for it — but sometimes this confidence can be shaken. One aspect of Dr. Haefner’s job is to help people to work through these fears and “get back on the horse.” In some situations he gives people special little tricks or helpful thoughts when they find themselves scared or anxious before getting on a horse or walking into a show ring. There are many techniques such as deep breathing, positive thoughts, the power of imagination, and many others that he utilizes to help people.

I found this to be an incredibly fascinating presentation that not only related to me as a part of the STEM community here at Foxcroft but also touched on my passion — horseback riding. I learned a lot from Dr. Haefner's talk and I gained a new insight to the world of psychology and of stepping outside of the normal job track to discover new and exciting opportunities in which you could potentially make a successful living doing something you love. His story was very inspiring and helpful, and I hope the rest of the audience gained as much as I did!
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An all-girls boarding and day school in Northern Virginia, Foxcroft prepares young women in grades 9-12 for success in college and in life. Our outstanding academic program offers challenging courses, including Advanced Placement classes and an innovative STEM program. Our premiere equestrian program is nationally recognized, and our athletic teams have won conference and state championships. Experience the best in girls' boarding schools: visit Foxcroft.