Cantering Headaches
 
 

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Cantering Headaches

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  • Headaches from horseback riding

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  • 2 Post By ~*~anebel~*~
  • 1 Post By Shropshirerosie
  • 1 Post By mslady254
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  • 1 Post By bsms
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    04-08-2014, 03:40 PM
  #1
Foal
Cantering Headaches

Decades ago, as a high school senior, I had an accident after my barn-sour TWH gelding bolted with me on the first day of spring. I didn't fall, but he ran me into a barn overhang that ended up skinning my back from shoulder blades to waist. My parents sold my horse while I was recuperating, and I quit riding til I was in my thirties. Since then, I've owned a couple of TWHs, but have given up on the breed because they're too forward for me.

Truth told, I've never gotten over that bolt. To this day, I don't like to canter and will avoid it, if at all possible.

Fast forward: I'm in my late forties now. Three months ago, I bought my QH mare, Sooz. She's an excellent walk-trot horse, 4H grad, lesson horse extraordinaire, which is why I purchased her. She's trust-worthy, for the most part.

Several weeks ago -- much to my dismay -- my instructor began making me work on cantering. Honestly, I didn't feel ready, emotionally; but she assured me that my seat was good enough to give it a go. So we did.

First time was short and sweet. I didn't like it, but I did it. Second time, we spent about 5 minutes on dedicated cantering. Again, I didn't like it, but sat it better. At the end of that lesson, I had a slight headache. Attributed it to stress and the fact that I still didn't have a great seat.

Today, we cantered for 10 minutes at the end of the lesson. Sooz didn't want to do it, and neither did I. She fought me for much of it, alternating between a really fast trot and a canter. But I finally made her canter for two full laps around the arena, both ways. That trot-canter thing was NOT smooth, nor was it comfortable. Add to it the fact that I was extra stressed because I changed over to split reins today from laced English reins and ...

... I ended up with the Mother Of All Headaches. Felt like a steel rod had been driven straight through my temples, behind my eyes. Felt like a little imp was pounding on that steel rod with every pulse of my heart. I'm thinking migraine or tension headache. Took about 20 minutes for it to subside so I could drive home.

Questions for you:

(1) Have you ever had a headache after cantering?

(2) Does this sound like it's stress-related? Or is it related to getting martini-blended ("shaken-not-stirred") during the trot/canter? Or both?

(3) Would I be a weenie to insist on putting off the canter til I feel more comfortable with my horse? And with my new saddle? And with the split reins? (I'm thinking there's just been too much new stuff lately, which adds to the stress of having to canter.)

Thanks for your input. (Now I'm going to take a couple of Advil and lay down for the rest of the afternoon...)
     
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    04-08-2014, 03:52 PM
  #2
Trained
It is probably a stress thing.

Only canter when you are comfortable. And even then, only do as much as you are comfortable doing!! If all you want to do that day is half a circle, or 3 steps - that's all you do!!
Push yourself - but only on days when you are feeling confident :) It will get better, and sounds like you have the right horse!
Good luck!
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    04-08-2014, 04:01 PM
  #3
Started
Most definitely a stress thing. You were probably frowning really hard, tensing every muscle in your upper body, and quite likely not breathing at all!

Talk to your instructor and put yourself back in charge. If you do a bit of canter again, make sure it is on your terms - one upwards transition, one long side, one whatever works for you. And sing! If you are singing when cantering (at the top of your voice), then you have to breathe.

'Half a pound of Tupenny Rice, half a pound of treacle..' is a great rhythm to canter to.

Or any three-beat waltz rhythm that you like.
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    04-08-2014, 04:03 PM
  #4
Foal
1. No...but similar--mine was after struggling with the trot...killer headache didnt go away for hours,,,scared me

2. Yes. Yes. Yes. And/or the physical exertion/muscles kept tense for extended periord

3. NO ! You would not be a weenie, that IS a lot of stuff piled on in addition to the stress of the canter itself...plus I don't feel a lot of respect for an instructor who is being as pushy as yours is. Imho a good instructor will encourage, gently nudge you to try just a bit out of your comfort zone (where learning occurs) but NOT push you way out of your comfort zone. I highly reccomend the book 'Move closer ,stay Longer' by Stephanie Burns. Her fear was the canter and she gives lot of insight into the psychology of dealing with fear. I think you would find it very helpful. Incidently, she did end up loving the canter ! I hope this makes sense to you but a world known instructor I know says she wants her students 'licking and chewing --not choking and puking',,,in other words nudged to learn but not pushed too far. I think your instructor is pushing you too far too fast.

Do you need to learn to canter....yes, I think so, any horse /any time could canter whether we ask or expect it. But it shouldnt be such an unpleasant , even painful experience.
You've only had this horse a very short time. Take the time it takes...however long that may be.
On a side note, how does she canter online for you (not under saddle). Have you had someone else ride her at the canter ?

Good luck! Stay safe...find another instructor if it comes to that.
Fay
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    04-08-2014, 05:30 PM
  #5
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by mslady254    
imho a good instructor will encourage, gently nudge you to try just a bit out of your comfort zone (where learning occurs) but NOT push you way out of your comfort zone. I highly reccomend the book 'Move closer ,stay Longer' by Stephanie Burns. Her fear was the canter and she gives lot of insight into the psychology of dealing with fear. I think you would find it very helpful. Incidently, she did end up loving the canter ! I hope this makes sense to you but a world known instructor I know says she wants her students 'licking and chewing --not choking and puking',,,in other words nudged to learn but not pushed too far. I think your instructor is pushing you too far too fast.
^^ Thanks for the book recommendation! I just ordered a copy and hope to have it in hand before the weekend. If Dr. Burns can get me to the point that I love the canter, she will truly be a miracle-worker!

My instructor is a tough cookie, but I really respect her. She has trained world champion horses and runs a great facility. She gets results because she expects a lot and, yes, she tends to be pushy. But I've learned more in six weeks with her than I've ever learned with any other instructor -- primarily because she does make me get out of my comfort zone. (I've been told that I'm a better rider than I think I am; and that's probably true. Confidence is probably my biggest problem.)

Today, when I dismounted, my instructor was really concerned about my headache; and I think we've found the boundary on how far she can push me out of my comfort zone. It was painful, but a good lesson learned -- without any permanent damage. I think I'll call that a "win." And next week, we'll drop back and work on pivot turns and whatnot -- put off the canter til I feel more ready and more confident.
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    04-08-2014, 07:17 PM
  #6
Trained
FWIW, I put off cantering for several years because I wasn't comfortable. When I finally did try cantering, my horse wasn't very comfortable with the idea...willing, just awkward. I now enjoy it, but I sure eased into it slowly.

My youngest daughter was the same. I tried once to get her to canter anyways. She gave the right cues, but Trooper refused to canter. Later, she told me she really didn't want to canter so she just gave the cues and was glad Trooper ignored them. I think Trooper, who is an excellent horse, was listening to her mind and heart instead of her legs!

She eventually cantered on her own initiative. On that day, Trooper shifted to a canter as soon as asked. She now loves catering and regrets we have so few places where it is safe for horse & rider to do it.

I can't speak to your horse, but my mare Mia and Trooper both often respond to their riders' feelings rather than to specific cues. The headache sounds like stress. The horse sounds like a good horse, to me.
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    04-08-2014, 07:24 PM
  #7
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by bsms    
The headache sounds like stress. The horse sounds like a good horse, to me.
^^ Thank you! I think she's a good horse, too. And my instructor is very impressed with her, as well. My goal is to become the rider she deserves.
     
    04-08-2014, 07:40 PM
  #8
Super Moderator
I am working on cantering more, too. It can be daunting. Today I went to the arena, entered and did not waste any time. Asked for canter depart from walk, and made multiple short canters. Just wanted to get comfortable with the canter depart. Make is "no big deal'.

Jsut thought I'd say not to feel bad, or alone, becuase plenty of us are a bit leary of a canter.
However, when you DO one, afterward, say to yourself, "That was fun!" you can work on changing your feeling about it.
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    04-08-2014, 08:06 PM
  #9
Started
I am (or was) terrified of cantering. Like you, I had some bad experiences and time off riding.

My instructor did not push me to canter until she felt I was ready.

I was still afraid.

There's something to be said about waiting until you believe you are ready, but if my instructor did not push me to canter, I don't know that I would have.

One thing that helped me was practicing in situations of low pressure. I would ride the school horses outside of lesson time and work on cantering. I would do a lot of warm up and when I felt comfortable trotting, I would canter. I also used a western saddle for more stability.

I had a lesson on Sunday and for the first time, I felt comfortable cantering in an English saddle.

So try to relax and tell yourself "keep calm and canter on!"
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    04-09-2014, 09:04 PM
  #10
Foal
I get migraines, and have never developed one while riding as you describe. I would also guess it is stress related.

I was very nervous about cantering as a begin- again rider. Somehow it was easier when I was a kid. It has taken me over a year in lessons to feel comfortable cantering again. My trainer pushes, but no too hard. The first few times she had me canter, I was definitely saying 'dear god, no!' With my body while cueing the horse, and so I got a lot of the fast trotting instead. Now that I know I can do it safely, I'm starting to enjoy it again.
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