I'd always been a pretty fearless rider and never had a problem getting on any horse. All that changed 3 years ago in May.
I have an older gelding, who although a little cranky and opinionated, I rode occasionally with no problems.
Windy, fairly cold day for May, and he was acting up. Meh, I've dealt with horses like that over the years, so I proceeded to swing myself up into the saddle. He literally exploded out from under me, bucking like a rodeo horse.
I came off, wasn't more than mildly bruised and annoyed, so tried again. My trainers had always told me, "Don't let the horse win. If he gets you off and you stay off, he'll be that much harder to ride the next time."
That advice had always worked well before, and I figured all I was going to do since he wanted to be a beast was get on, ride him around the paddock a little, and then I'd get off. That way, he wouldn't have won the battle.
I went to mount up again, and this time he meant business. I wasn't even in the saddle all the way when he started bucking and leaping around. I came off HARD that time; broke 3 ribs on my left side, my right collarbone, and got a major concussion. Sucked to be me!
It took me quite awhile to heal, and at the end of July that year I lost the horse I could always go to and ride. He never intentionally hurt me, and was always my confidence builder.
Being hurt badly like that, plus losing my once-in-a-lifetime, crushed the spirit out of me. I wasn't just afraid to ride, I was terrified. The mere idea of getting back in the saddle made me nauseous, and I'd shake like a leaf in a thunderstorm.
So my two remaining horses just lazed around, eating and getting fatter and more out of shape.
After 8 months of not riding, I decided it was unacceptable for me to own horses and never get back up in the saddle. For some people a bad accident means they never ride again. For me, it wasn't something I was willing to give up without a fight.
I knew I'd never ride again if I didn't get professional help, so I found a local trainer and explained my issues to her. She told me she'd dealt with people like me before, and was confident she could get me back in the saddle.
The first horse I rode was a kind, calm, schoolmaster older mare, who doesn't have a mean bone in her body. Even then, it took me almost 10 minutes to get up the courage to actually get on the horse. Once I was in the saddle, I was fine.
As I discovered, my phobia is mounting, not actually riding. Once I'm on the horse and they're not acting like a total loon, I'm mostly the rider I remember being.
My trainer pushed me when it was necessary, and gave me room to work things out on my own when it wasn't. She more or less let me decide when it was time to move on to a more difficult horse.
I'm now riding my own horses, except for the older gelding who hurt me. I had a vet come out and look him over, and she discovered he has arthritis in his hocks. He also has the beginnings of what we suspect is COPD. So he's retired now, and enjoying his life as a companion to my other horses.
I still have moments of near panic when I'm swinging up in the saddle, and they come at the oddest times. It has nothing to do with the horse himself or what he's doing, it has to do with my own state of mind.
It doesn't happen every time and not very often, but I'm still working on that issue. Will I ever overcome it completely? I don't know, to be honest. But at least I'm not letting it keep me from riding.
I think a workshop to help people face and overcome their fears is wonderful. There are so many people out there who want to ride again, but don't know how to find the right trainer or program to get them back in the saddle.