Anyone have Fear or Confidence Issues? - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 56 Old 02-26-2010, 10:53 AM
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As a rider of 35 years or more during which time I have ridden a 100 or more horses - who knows how many - including riding in several different countries
I believe that a serious fall, especially one invoking shock and maybe concussion, can bring about what I call "Post Traumatic Fall Disorder".

We do not ride with our conscious brains, we learn to ride by rote - constant repetition. The instant responses we need to keep up on a horse's back are taken in by our sub conscious brain. If a horse shies, then we have to have responded to that shy before in some cases our conscious brain has recognised that a shy has taken place. When driving a car, if another car comes up from the side, then we have braked or turned (or both) before we have visually recognised the situation.

The problem is that our sub conscious brain has reacted to a threat to the body's well being. It is well possible in regular horse riding that similar threats have been faced before but since nothing too serious has happened previously then the brain has shrugged it off. But once serious physical damage has been done - eg if the spine has been bruised or the head banged - then the sub conscious starts to think for itself. It sends out little signals and says - "Oi take more care".

The problem with horse riding is that 'tension' is an enemy. If the rider grips or goes rigid then the body's ability to react in a split second is negated.
The body can't absorb the stresses.
There is a second problem too, the horse can sense the tension in the rider.
Then the horse starts to ask itself why the rider is tense "WHat's going on?" asks the horse - "should I be worried too".

The psychologist might say that the human brain is as good at remembering as the horse is - and the human brain remembers other fears, unrelated to horse riding, which may also be worrying the individual.

How does one cope? Well first one accepts that there is a problem.
Then one learns as much as possible about relaxation techniques.
Then one goes back to the training arena to learn to sit and relax on a horse - one will need professional help for this.
Then one asks oneself if this horse riding is what one really wants to do.
Then one allows 'time' to do its healing magic.

Me, well I fell off my horse whilst it was bolting downhill at full gallop and did my self a serious mischief. I got back on after that fall and rode home in a daze.
Then it happened again a couple of months later but not quite so bad next time, just a few minor bruises.
Then I got myself another horse and I came off her, four times within a month.
Each time the physical damage was minimal but the tension was getting worse.
It then came home to me what everyone was saying - I was too tense to ride and I had not recognised it. It was time then for me to seek help.

I can ride now. But do I enjoy it like I used to? - well not really. It will take time.
But at least I have recognised the problem and that is half the battle.
Time is also the great healer.
I may also have an ageing problem - but that is my particular burden to bear not the average rider's burden.
I did write a short book on the subject but it will never be published.

The subject of PTFD needs more research. Humans have the ability now to analyse scenarios and to take measurements. If we measured the forces involved in falling off a horse onto a hard surface we would realize just how vulnerable we humans are.

Barry G

Last edited by xxBarry Godden; 02-26-2010 at 10:55 AM.
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post #12 of 56 Old 02-26-2010, 01:49 PM
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I have/had a confidence issue on big horses. I bought a big young (2.5) Percheron for my husband. Was riding him one day and out of no were he bucked me off. (A REAL buck, and i still havent figured out why, best we can tell is excitement and I was asking him to slow down.) Any ways it was a LONG fall and I landed on my neck/head and rolled. I thankfully had a helmet on, otherwise I fear it would have been much worse. I suffered from migraines for 2 years after that, as he had screwed up my neck, my neck is now straight, when it should have a curve. Anyways I finally cantered this horse the other day for the first time since he bucked me off a few days ago. (He will be 6 this year) Was VERY proud of myself. So I think I am finally overcoming my fear.

That was my first lesson in learning that I could get hurt on horses. Learned it again a 1.5 ago when I was riding a green horse that decided to dart to the side and I lost my seat and fell under her where I was trampled and dislocated my knee.
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post #13 of 56 Old 02-26-2010, 02:23 PM
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Rehabilitation of a fearful rider is a very serious business. As the therapist you would be playing with a human's psyche. At stake is the future of both the horse and the rider. At some stage in the process, the afflicted rider must get back on board an animal whose very basic instinct is to run away from anything unfamiliar. Fear rules in such scenarios.

I have been a horse rider for a long time. I have owned 6 of my own horses. My hobbies in life have been scuba diving and flying - other adrenaline sports. I never underestimate the impact of fear on a human and I have myself experienced 'terror' more than once.

The need for a rehabilitation centre, I agree exists. But any progress comes about in the presence of both horse and the rider.

In such work there is a need for a team of experts eg: both horse and human psychologists, rider trainer, horse trainer, physiotherapist & sports therapist. There is also a requirement for a small herd of bomb proof horses.

One has to take on board that there is no quick fix for this ailment although time itself is a great healer.

I came to the conclusion that this is a venture for a Sports University not particularly a commercial venture - the costs would be too high. I can imagine that other dangerous sports have a similar requirment for example climbers and skiers.

It will be interesting to hear what organisation you feel you can put together.

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post #14 of 56 Old 02-26-2010, 09:20 PM
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I am a fearful person by nature. I don't even like driving a car! But I was never really afraid of horses until I bought a pair of horses that came together.

I was ignorant and rode both horses, but never away from each other. But I bought them and brought them home and discovered they were so buddy sour that they wouldn't leave each other willingly.

The mare (the horses I thought I really wanted) took to rearing and refusing to leave our property. I never got physically hurt, but mentally she really got me scared. She had me so frightened that when I got on my old, gentle horses I had butterflies. Now that's bad, because the old horses I had had for like 10 years and they were in their 20's and had never hurt me. But the fear spread over to them.

And the little gelding that came with her was a bit sneakier. He went away from the barn but always felt like he was going to pull something. I told myself that I was just afraid of him because of her. And then one day when a family member was riding him, he freaked out (because he was quite a ways ahead of the group), slammed into reverse and fell over backwards. Luckily the rider was unhurt.

So after that I knew BOTH of them had to go. And I paid a horse trader to take them and sell them at auction. I lost a lot of money on that transaction, but the worst part was that I was hurt mentally. I must let you know that I am anti-slaughter for the most part, and I hope the horses found real homes with people who were braver than me, but that was when my innocence with horses was lost. I used to think that if you loved them enough you could work through anything, but those two horses shattered that. I am now a really paranoid horse buyer.

I did regain my confidence for the most part, because now I have two lovely trail horses that I feel comfortable enough to ride alone. But the whole situation left me with a mental scar that I don't know if I will ever get over completely. Every horse that is a stranger to me reminds me of the evil duo and I don't trust them until they prove that they are good horses and not like the evil duo. I guess I have trust issues. What's sad is that I used to assume all horses were good. Now I tend to assume they are bad until they prove otherwise.

But my Mustang was a gift from God, because who would think you would regain your confidence with a Mustang? But he is the most perfect horse I have ever owned. And now I have a lovely Foxtrotter who seems to have nothing but the sweetest and best intentions. So maybe time will heal the wounds eventually.
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post #15 of 56 Old 02-26-2010, 09:38 PM
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i have an intense fear of the horse falling over on me around a tight circle. likea motorcycle tipping over. it happened to me when i was about 10 when i was riding up to a jump, and this past fall when cutter fell with me and i sliced my jaw open from the fall and required lots of stitches in my face.
i want to show in the summer but i dont think i can canter the whole course bc of the sharp turns. ill probubly trot the turns lol
i hate my phobia
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post #16 of 56 Old 02-27-2010, 02:38 AM
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I've never had issues with fear before. 6 months ago I fell off and due to injuries I couldn't ride for 4 months. But it wasn't a big deal, just counted down the days and as soon as the doctor said I was fine to ride I was back on the horse. It was great. Maybe being a teenager has a lot to do with it, the whole invincibility idea.
I fell off about two weeks ago, and this time broke a vertebrae in my back. No more riding for the next 9 months. I can walk if I wear a back brace but not for very long. I know if I get back on a horse I will have a ton of confidence issues. I think hurting my back has sort of put things into perspective for me, that horseriding can very easily put you into a wheelchair.
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post #17 of 56 Old 02-27-2010, 03:11 AM
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Let me start by saying I have never been bucked, thrown, or even fallen off a horse. I actually tried to fall off Hoover, but always caught myself. I've never had an injury beyond a few scrapes. I love horses, but have always had a terrible fear when first mounting, and for a while of falling or having the horse take off with me.

As to the first, I haven't found a solution. I just suck it up and get on. I guess it only makes sense, as it's a particularly vulnerable time for a foot in the air, only partial control of the reins, etc.

The second Hoover fixed for me, in an odd way. We were having an argument about turning, and he gave up and fell over. On me. We both got scraped elbow and his nose, and it winded me horribly. He came over and started pulling my shirt he was so worried. After a half an hour talking to my instructor to understand why this had happened, I got back on him. While I was scared at first, I fixed the problem (which had been my mistake), proved that Hoover would wait for me if I did fall, and learned falling didn't hurt all that badly.

The third is from an incident. I was riding with a friend, and the barn she was at had given me a hot mare, which I didn't know. Her owner ran her the trail we were riding. She fought me and fought me to go faster until we reached a massive downhill...and she took off. I had her chin in her chest and she didn't care. She took a three foot high tree trunk, charged across the creek in the valley, and started up the other hill weaving through the trees. I finally got her stopped, and nearly fell out of the saddle, clinging to a tree and bawling. In retrospect, she had beautiful form and it felt like flying, but at the time I was convinced I was going to die. Ever since this, when riding a horse downhill, I had a moment of crushing fear that this will happen again, even with Hoover, even with our sweetest, most level-headed lesson horse, Pappy. I have to admit, it has gotten better with time and knowledge of the horse I'm riding, but it comes right back if the trail or horse is unfamiliar.

The other thing that my trainer has done for me is forcing me to ride spooks, which has really built my confidence. I can specifically remember riding Duke with her riding Drift...Drift is losing sight in one eye, and spooked badly. I was suddenly facing the other direction with Duke tearing across the paddock, and me crunched up with a death grip on the horn. And I suddenly is Duke supposed to know I want him to stop? So I did as I had been trained...dug my feet into the stirrups and leaned back, slowing pulling him up.

I guess a lot of my fear is situations I don't know how to react to, and making them worse instead of better. Knowing how handle them seems to be the key to me dealing with the fear better.

"Sit tall in the saddle, hold your head up high. Keep your eyes fixed where the trail meets the sky. And live like you ain't afraid to die...don't be scared, jut enjoy the ride." - Chris LeDoux
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post #18 of 56 Old 02-27-2010, 04:28 AM
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Nearly everyone I know who owns a horse, has experienced in their riding career a serious incident which either did or could have led to injury. I know quite a few people who have broken their backs.

The scenarios which the rider remembers the details of present one type of problem. Bit by bit the rider can put together the key elements and the rider can work out what went wrong. The rider can then learn from the incident and can form a plan as to how to cope in future.

The scenarios which can give serious long term problems are those which the rider cannot remember in full probably because of loss of consciousness. Shock does funny things to people. The brain which controls our reactions does remember though - it is this auto response brain which we have to re-educate
and that is not easy.

The gripping, the tensing of the thigh muscles, the clenching of the glutes, the pressure on the stirrups,
the tightening of the calves, the rigid posture, the shortening of the reins, the leaning forewards, the panic, then the anger. Once you recognise that you are tensing then you can relax bit by bit - with practice.

The horse meanwhile is asking itself -"what's going on?". It is looking about. It shortens its steps, the ears start to twitch. It pulls at the bit; it reaches down. Then it does a little shy. Then it does a full shy and comes off the ground. Then it stops and refuses to go forwards. The rider kicks it on and the horse goes into trot then canter.
The chain of events is so predictable.

Probably the only solution is to suppress the fears in the first place. Although you may have a mental image of what to do for the best - how do you persuade that part of the brain over which you have little control?

Someone actually suggested to me hypnosis.
For others it is a change of horse.
For most - time off from horse riding - with the risk that then one will not get back on.

To conquer the fear and its side effects one first must recognise it. Then one needs some very sensitive, knowledgeable, experienced, professional help.
And I suspect time.


Perhaps if one does experience such fear one can now better understand one's horse!
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post #19 of 56 Old 02-27-2010, 09:42 AM
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I have a fear of falling off my horse.
I used to be 100% fearless of falling, it was great I'd jump anything on any horse!
After 3 falls cross country and a fall in stadium I took it down a notch and started to focus on jumping lower.
Then I got my gelding, and when I started jumping him I jumped him low. I gradually built up to two feet. My horse is a very spooky horse, and when he spooks he doesn't just jump to the side he EXPLODES.
I decided I would try some very very small cross country logs. He was doing good so I progressed father into the field to try one, just one more, no bigger than the last.

When he landed off that jump he exploded, unlike any horse I've ever seen before he bucked me off his back and high into the air, bolting and sending me headfirst into the ground, I sustained a severe concussion and don't remember the rest of that day, it's almost like it didn't happen.

I got back on and haven't jumped much since, shame on me but recently I want to get back into it. Like, small cross rails!

I had another fall in December, I was riding in the ring alone [which is a rare occurrence, there is usually at least one other horse in the ring] and it was windy. I don't think I had ever ridden my horse alone in the wind, but I didn't even think of that, I wasn't even expecting him to spook or anything.

Well, the wind kicked some ice up onto the arena door and my horse bolted, I stayed on the rail, so to speak, and went hand first into the ground this time. I had to get 4 xrays at this point because my hand is still in pain, and has a huge bump protruding from it to this day.

And that's when it kind of hit me, in all of my years riding my horse is the only horse that has really hurt me. I've fallen off many horses to get up with little scratches and nothing more, I've been thrown into jumps, thrown off spooking horses, I flew off one horse cross country who bolted off course randomly and decided to fly back to the barn. I fell off a little POA pony at a prelim sized bounce and the pony actually jumped over me and never before have I been hurt, but with my 16.2 hand appendix horse his falls have hurt me extremely bad. And I still feel the effects of the last one!

So now when I ride I'm so conscience that it's disturbing, I'm constantly anticipating something to cause my horse to spook and me to fall, but for some reason I'm just amazing at hiding this. I can make it so my fears don't translate into my riding so as not to encourage my horses own nerves.

But I don't want to be afraid to fall, cause I know everytime I fall and get hurt I lose more and more confidence, and it's bringing me down.
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post #20 of 56 Old 02-27-2010, 10:19 AM
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Mickey- two things:

Don't be worried about confessing your fear - you need to be honest with not only yourself but with your horsey friends. You need their encouragement and you need their understanding. There must be no pressure on you to jump or to compete but there should be gentle encouragement for you to ride out on nice days when the horse seems to be relaxed.

Do flatwork in the arena - walk, trot, canter, changes of pace, changes of direction, shoulder ins, pole work - all that fancy dressage stuff.

Secondly - by the sound of what you have written, you need a good instructor to watch you riding to make sure you are not tensing up. My guess is that you still are. If your own sharp, sensitive horse does pick up that you are tense, then it will not receive back from you the confidence it needs to have when riding out. If you come to feel any anger, any need to shout at the horse, then you will know your fear is still working through your system.

Look up the Dr Alexander web site and read about relaxation techniques.

Take your time.

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anxiety , build confidence , fear

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