Feeling unsure while riding (venting included) - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 03-21-2010, 07:46 PM Thread Starter
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Feeling unsure while riding (venting included)

So, I'm taking lessons (English) and I have a problem like that: Sometimes I just start to feel very unsure while riding. I know I'm a person who needs to control everything, especially the things related my physical well-being and health. So you can believe that an idea about an uncontrollable horse, falling down/slipping with a horse and hurting myself is pretty scary and makes me nervous, not all the time but every now and then.

I've sometimes had periods when I've been afraid of riding and I think it's a some kind of borderline case now + some general unsureness included. I changed a stable in the previous autumn and after some of the lesson horses bolted a bit with me at s new stable (haven't ridden a bolted horse at the previous stable for a while and actually I've never ridden a badly bolted case either). Everything turned out well, I didn't even fall but all that still left me a bit leery.

I usually feel a bit tense when I get on a saddle nowdays. I still think that the biggest problem is that if the horse shows any signs of turning even a bit wild or uncontrollable, I get nervous and start to predict. Lets think that the horse for example decides to take up canter at a point A herself, without me asking it. If that happens, I turn nervous and think "oh well, now she's obviously found that the point A is a place to take up a canter and the next time I ride that point she'll surely do it again, then turn uncontrollable or has actually already turned a bit because she took up a canter without me asking it. The next time I'll fall and hurt myself". And then of course the horse senses my unsureness, turns too brisk and goes for the way I predicted. It feels worse if our group is outside having a trail riding or if we for example jump because I feel it turns the situation more dangerous to me. About the general unsureness I mentioned, sometimes I just start feel that "oh well, I can't make that horse to do the thing I'm asking her to do" and of course the horse senses my unsureness again and doesn't do what I'm asking her to do. That was very bad few years ago, I just managed to do almost nothing with the horse but it has turned a way better nowadays.

At a previous stable, I usually mentioned the teacher if I had some of my fear periods so she could give me calmer horses and knew about it anyways. I haven't still told about that to my new teacher at a new stable because I don't feel that way all the time but this fear and general unsureness pops up every now and then, so I don't have "these days" every time I'm riding. The only exception is that very light tension which has existed almost all the time after those horses bolted at this new stable. I've anyways decided to tell about my tension and fear if it turns worse.

Anyways, any else unsure or fearful riders here? How you get along with your unsureness/fear? Any tips, how you manage to calm yourself down when you start to fear in a saddle?

"On hyviä vuosia, kauniita muistoja, mutta kuitenkaan, en saata unohtaa,
Että koskaan en ole yksin, varjo seuraa onneain.
Vaikka myrsky hetkeksi tyyntyykin, varjo seuraa onneain.
Ja pian taas uusin hönkäyksin, varjo seuraa onneain.
Hei tuu mun luo, pieneksi hetkeksi. Puhutaan, varjoni, valkoiseksi enkeliksi."

Pelle Miljoona - Varjo seuraa onneain

Last edited by TaMMa89; 03-21-2010 at 07:50 PM.
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post #2 of 17 Old 03-21-2010, 08:36 PM
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I totally know that feeling! *hugs*

What helped me, basically, was Lacey. Obviously you can't have Lacey (heehee) but I'll try to put into words what happened with her that helped me...

At first she scared me silly, I would get on and my thoughts would start racing: "what if she spooks?" "what if she rears and goes over?" "what if she bolts?", those sorts of things. After riding her for a month or so, I realized that if I emptied my brain of thoughts and only focused on the task at hand, she would behave much better. She stopped breathing like a freight train and she stopped spooking/bolting/rearing nearly as much as she had been. But it took me longer to figure out the perfect "formula" to empty my brain. I think it's probably different for everyone but for me it's not too difficult. If I start feeling myself tense up or if I feel my thoughts start going a mile a minute, I kind of collect all my unnecessary thoughts and push them out my legs (which also helps me lengthen my legs out and get in a more functional riding position), then I roll my shoulders and loosen all my joints and limbs-when my mind starts racing I tense up, then, perhaps the most important bit is that I sigh out loud. The sighing for me is very important because in my mind I'm releasing all that pent up energy, all that "dirty air." I'll repeat that as many times as necessary until I'm staying calm and collected without thinking about it. Now that I've been doing that for so long I can do it with just an out loud sigh, but to begin with it was a process.

Another thing that has helped me get over my fear is getting "mad." I don't really literally get mad but I get fake mad. I pretend to be mad about this horse taking advantage of me (cantering before I say to, trying to leave the arena before I say so, etc) and that gives me the extra oomph I need to get that horses attention and correct it. I tell myself "look at that horse! He/she is walking ALL over you, that's just not right!" and then I get very decisive and I stop being Little Miss Nice Gentle Cues. I stop trying to be gentle and I turn up the heat. Each wrong move is reprimanded quickly and efficiently and I don't take no for an answer. As my trainer says to kids who've never ridden before: "do you have a older brother or sister? You know how they boss you around? Well you need to boss this horse around, he/she is just like your little brother or sister." That's probably a little oversimplified but it's kinda the right idea.

Usually, the first method works best by itself on more sensitive horses that are reacting to the world and need you to be calm so they stay calm, and it's great to use to calm yourself before you use the second technique with horses that are just trying to get away with being jerks.

Also, as a hopeful thought for you, I am very timid by nature and a few years ago I had some really bad experiences with cantering. Since I am timid, I was then put off of cantering in a big way. I would consider cantering and my palms would get sweaty, my heart would start racing, and I'd feel like I was about to barf. Cantering unknown horses that I didn't know/feel completely comfortable with especially terrified me. But I've been slowing working on it, trying to canter more, using those techniques, riding more different horses, and yknow what I did the other day in my lesson? I hopped on a horse that I've only ridden around 5 times (and do not like, at all), my instructor told me to canter, and yknow what I did? I cued that horse to canter! I didn't get sweaty, I didn't start freaking out, it was no big deal!
So don't worry, you can become less timid of a rider if you really work at it, it is possible!

Also, I would definitely tell your instructor that you have those issues and see if he/she can give you tips or help you feel more secure.
For instance, with my cantering thing, both of my instructors know of my fear. The one that owns the barn Lacey stays at never pushed me to canter. She'd ask if I felt comfortable cantering and if I felt ok about it, we'd try. She never asked me to canter when I didn't feel comfortable and she didn't care if I chicken out asking the horse to canter or if I only got one stride of canter before needing to stop. My second instructor (the one I've been taking "lessons" from lately) only puts me on horses that are completely dead headed about cantering. He doesn't let me get into a situation to be scared. He just gets me up on that horse and says "canter" and I do because I trust his judgment and because I know he knows that I'm scared. Both instructors have different ways of going about taking care of my fear but both of them have helped me.
Of course, I have no fear of cantering Lacey but that's just cuz I know her so well.

Sorry for the novel! Hopefully some of this babble has helped you a little! Haha

I totally understand what it's like to be really scared of something that you feel a little silly about. I also think it takes a strong person to confront their fear and take care of it, like you're endeavoring to do. =)

Fabio - 13 year old Arabian/Lipizzan gelding

Rest peacefully, Lacey.

Last edited by Wallaby; 03-21-2010 at 08:40 PM.
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post #3 of 17 Old 03-22-2010, 05:36 PM
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Anyone who has any sense at all gets scared about riding sometimes. I think there are three approaches to take, and you probably should take them all (I do).

1. Think about how much you love to ride. How would you feel if you stopped riding because of fear? Would it cause a hole in your life? Then remind yourself, "I am nervous but I love to ride." NOT, "I love to ride but it makes me nervous." End with the positive.
2. Find a horse you can trust and stick with him/her. Even if other people think your horse is slow or unathletic or ugly or whatever--if you trust him, keep riding him.
3. Find a good instructor who can help you improve your seat. This is THE key to safe riding, having a good seat and good balance. Everybody has to learn this. Lots of lunge line lessons are the best thing in the world to improve your seat. Most people don't do anywhere near enough.

What you focus your thoughts on is how you will feel. So let the fearful thoughts go on by, but don't hold on to them. Think about how good you'll feel after you've done something successfully. Then, when you've done it, replay it in your mind over and over. (People usually do this with bad things--I'm saying to do it with the GOOD things.

Good luck--we've all been there.
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post #4 of 17 Old 03-22-2010, 05:53 PM Thread Starter
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I'm very timid too, I for example almost slipped with a horse at an icy outside arena some years ago. I didn't fall and also the horse managed to finally keep his balance, but I still took fright. I just started to think about possible results of it if he had slipped and got fearful. It took long time to get over that.

For some reason, also I have found cantering the most uncomfortable gait. I don't know why, I've ridden soon 8½ years.

Anyways, thank you for the tips! I'll try them and will tell my instructor if that gets worse or seems to turn more common.

"On hyviä vuosia, kauniita muistoja, mutta kuitenkaan, en saata unohtaa,
Että koskaan en ole yksin, varjo seuraa onneain.
Vaikka myrsky hetkeksi tyyntyykin, varjo seuraa onneain.
Ja pian taas uusin hönkäyksin, varjo seuraa onneain.
Hei tuu mun luo, pieneksi hetkeksi. Puhutaan, varjoni, valkoiseksi enkeliksi."

Pelle Miljoona - Varjo seuraa onneain

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post #5 of 17 Old 03-22-2010, 11:04 PM
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You probley find cantering a little harder to control. I know I do and I tense all up sometimes and end up like a sack of patoteos (sp?). I believe you ride english but for western I just hang on to the cantle and breathe really deepley.

Live to ride. Ride to live.
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post #6 of 17 Old 03-24-2010, 08:35 PM Thread Starter
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RoR: I ride lesson horses and love it because of feeling of variation I get... as far as these different horses are calm enough. I don't know if it was possible to lease just one horse there, but I guess I wouldn't even like to go that radical because my fear isn't that bad and like I said I love to ride different horses. Our instructor seems to be very skilled and it'll a bit pity to change the stable again (I guess I have to do that in the upcoming autumn if I get into college not so close to my current location). Our stable has its own usages so I guess lunging could be a bit tricky to manage... Thanks for the tips anyway, I like especially the first one. Perhaps I can benefit also others some day if I still need to.

Tasia: Yes, I ride English. I can still grab a front arch if the situation really turns bad (the horse for example bolts etc.), but I try to avoid that because I lose a part of steering then.

"On hyviä vuosia, kauniita muistoja, mutta kuitenkaan, en saata unohtaa,
Että koskaan en ole yksin, varjo seuraa onneain.
Vaikka myrsky hetkeksi tyyntyykin, varjo seuraa onneain.
Ja pian taas uusin hönkäyksin, varjo seuraa onneain.
Hei tuu mun luo, pieneksi hetkeksi. Puhutaan, varjoni, valkoiseksi enkeliksi."

Pelle Miljoona - Varjo seuraa onneain

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post #7 of 17 Old 03-24-2010, 09:25 PM
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Okay, the first thing that needs to happen is that you have to go back to the longe line, if and until you develop such a good seat that it just isn't going to matter what a horse does, you'll be able to ride it out AND that you believe that.

Next, since you're a 'thinker', instead of a 'feeler', one of the best ways to turn redirect that is to have the instructor have you do thinking exercises that have nothing to do with riding. For instance, as you go around and around at the sitting trot, the instructor should say, "TaMMa89, I want you to list 12 NHL hockey teams." Then whenever it's necessary, the instructor will slip in a positional correctional, you'll immediately fix it, and then go back to your list.

Finally, you're going to have look deep within yourself and find out where this is all coming from, and find a way to accept it, and then walk through it. You can't control the horse. What you see is an illusion of control. If this is not something that you can come to terms with, then you're best finding another recreational activity to partake in, for your own sanity and safety. If you keep thinking something bad is going to happen, you WILL manifest it.

Last edited by Mercedes; 03-24-2010 at 09:27 PM.
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post #8 of 17 Old 03-24-2010, 09:40 PM
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If you have a good seat, if something happens you will be in a good position to control it. I'd start walking and trotting and get very comfortable in the simplest of things. Just try to stay deep in the seat and relaxed. The more you are tense, the more the horse will be, and the more the horse is likely to misread a command or get spooked.
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post #9 of 17 Old 03-25-2010, 04:44 AM
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I still get that unsure/tense feeling and it's been maybe... eight years since my runaway incident.

Basically what happened was that as a beginner I was put on a very spooky horse that needed an advanced rider. It was my first time riding him. The lesson went well enough until the instructor told us to canter. I cued him and he took off. From that, I was scared of cantering.

There was this one lesson horse that really helped me get over my fear of cantering. He could be a little ditzy at times but he never ever took off during the canter. I even fell off him once when I lost my balance cantering up a hill, but I trusted him so much that it didn't affect me at all.

I also cantered bareback on a scool pony. The first time I tried it, I was so scared that I couldn't even get him to canter! After some encouragement from our other trainer, I did it! That helped me a lot.

I even have a fear of the horse taking off with me when on the lungeline. It didn't help when I got bucked off during a lunge lesson either. I told my trainer that I was having a hard time relaxing on the horse because I felt like she might take off and I didn't trust her. After explaining that to my instrutor, she told me this. "It's not about how much you trust the horse. It's about how much you trust yourself." It made me realize that I didn't trust my own riding abilities and that I needed to believe in myself (so cheesy, I know) that I could handle whatever the horse decided to do.

It's not easy. All these years later, I still get nervous when cantering a new horse for the first time especially if we're not in an arena. But now I push myself to gain more eperience and ride different horses. Now I take a deep breath, exhale, and remind myself that I know what to do.
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post #10 of 17 Old 03-25-2010, 05:00 AM
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^ ditto to IslandWave

I ride different horses everyday, between my own herd & the horses I work with, and none of them are by any means beginner horses. When I first got back in to riding I was pretty sure I was invincible, until I actually got on and all the old memories of the bad fall I had when I was like 10 resurfaced.

It really does take a conscious effort to take a deep breath and trust your riding. That's my biggest problem too, I honestly have moments when I don't believe I could sit a crow hop, and those moments are normally when the horse throws in a bronc buck and I surprise myself by sticking it. Haha.

I'm still more nervous out on the trail then I am in an arena, but by making the conscious effort to trust myself a little more I am now at the stage where I am starting 3 horses.

It does take time, and if you aren't ready to do something someone is asking of you, DON'T! Remember riding is supposed to be fun, and if someone is pushing you to the point where it's not anymore, well then what's the point?

Trojan 09.11.02 - 26.10.10 // Kody 01.09.89-25.06.12 // Rex 05.11.95-21.12.12
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