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post #1 of 15 Old 09-12-2009, 12:12 AM Thread Starter
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Help? "/

So about 6 months ago I fell off of my last lease horse. I was getting on her and she took off, I hit a solid wood wall. Ever since then I have had issues mounting. Now I insist on having someone hold whatever horse I am mounting and even then it takes me about 5 minutes to get on. My new horse is awesome for mounting, doesnt take a step, but I just cant get over my issue. Today I was going to ride, but I just said "nevermind" about it because I just couldnt get it together. So I need some ideas...

What are some things I could do that would help me get over it?

Does anyone have any guesses at how I can get my mind over this?

Any help would be aweomse! Thank you so much

You can never take a Thoroughbred away from a horse crazy girl.
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post #2 of 15 Old 09-12-2009, 01:45 AM
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Have you tried mounting, then dismounting, over and over again until you start feeling comfortable then riding (then repeat each time you ride and start phasing out the holder person, like mount once with the person, mount without the person, etc)? It'll be good practice for the horse you ride and it will most likely help you start feeling more comfortable.

I totally understand what you're going through though.

For me it's cantering. I'm terrified to canter. Once I actually am cantering I love love love it but if I don't know the horse or if I don't totally love the horse/feel safe on the horse I just can't do it. I was bucked into a barn door (I was bucked off other times by this horse but the door was the most mental and physically scarring incident), on to the hook part holding the door closed, at the canter (I have a scar on my back) and ever since then I just can't handle it. It's been about 4 years but I'm still working through it.

Finally I got a trainer that was sensitive to this issue of mine but she doesn't baby me about it. She asks me to canter during my lessons and if I do it that's great but if I just can't she tries to get me to have at least one canter step then I can stop and go back to my comfort zone. My pon-eh has been a big help in that respect too because she never ever gets out of control at the canter. I also have her trained to stop when I say "ho", so I feel a bit safer because I know can stop her completely no matter what.

I think in your case if you can't make yourself do it, you need to find someone who'll pretty much make you do it while not making you feel dumb for being scared. Being thrown into walls is not exactly my idea of fun either. Haha After you've done it a few times in an environment you feel comfortable in I can pretty much guarantee that you'll still have twinges of fear but that you'll be so much more confident about it.

For instance, a month or so ago I got on a pony that I hadn't ridden in over a year and was cantering him by the time I was done working with him for that session. I was terrified when I first asked him to canter but I kept going because, for me at least, the more times I stop doing something because of my fear, the more fearful I become.

Also, when I tell myself that I "can't" canter I really can't but if I say "I'm going to put on my big girl pants and canter and who cares if the horse bucks, I'll show it who's boss!" I find I get less scared. Getting POed about my fear helps me. Haha I also talk to myself when I get scared. I say things like "Are you kidding with me? I can handle this, I've ridden rearing horses more people are scared of those than bucking horses!" and "if I can ride through a rearing/bucking fit I can definitly hang on at the canter!" and "If this horse thinks it's gonna pull any tricks, I've got my bases covered," you get the point. lol I also tell myself yo' mama jokes (I just make them up on the fly so they don't really make sense but that makes it funnier!) when I get scared. For some reason I love them and it gets my mind off being scared. ROFL!

Good luck! I also find that if I focus on the positive future like how much fun I have when I canter, instead of what might happen if Lacey were to decide to buck, I do a lot better.

Sorry for the novel.

Fabio - 13 year old Arabian/Lipizzan gelding

Rest peacefully, Lacey.

Last edited by Wallaby; 09-12-2009 at 01:55 AM.
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post #3 of 15 Old 09-12-2009, 01:59 AM
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I used to struggle with the same problem. I have always had it but it got worse when one time I got on my first horse and the second I was in the saddle he bolted. Well, this is what I did to get over it. Without a horse, I would just stand on the mounting block. I would walk up to the top step, lift one of my legs etc. until I was completely comfortable. When I would ride I would lunge him before to make sure he had no bad energy left. You really just have to mount without thinking too much, the more you hesitate the worse it will be. If you get too nervous before mounting, your legs will be weaker and it will be even more difficult. It is very unnerving to get on a horse and have your legs shaking. As you get more and more comfortable you will slowly take away the "help"- start out with the person holding the horse, but after you feel confident just have them stand by you without holding. Eventually, you should be able to mount on your own. I am going to be honest with you, the nervousness will never completely disappear because it is stored in your memory. I find that using a taller mounting block helps a lot. My barn has a giant wooden mounting block that allows you to just kind of sit down on the horse's back without messing around with jumping up on one stirrup. Doing abdominal muscle exercises will also help as having a stronger core makes it easier to mount.
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post #4 of 15 Old 09-12-2009, 06:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Wallaby View Post
Have you tried mounting, then dismounting, over and over again until you start feeling comfortable then riding (then repeat each time you ride and start phasing out the holder person, like mount once with the person, mount without the person, etc)? It'll be good practice for the horse you ride and it will most likely help you start feeling more comfortable.
This is what I would do. The last thing you want is for it to get worse, and working on the problem over and over again normally helps.

Don't give up!

It is not enough for a man to know how to ride; he must know how to fall.
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post #5 of 15 Old 09-12-2009, 07:29 AM
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If I was in your situation, I just think to myself "someone's holding this pony for me, I'll be safe. Lets just get out and have a ride." Positive thinking, I find really helps when I get nervous or scared. I just think to myself (or say if I'm feeling particularly scared) just suck it up, you know you are awesome, and you can do this. A close friend or instructor also really helps. You just need to believe in yourself, and your horsey abilities. I know its hard when your scared or nervous, I know what its like, but as Wallaby said, you gotta put on your big girl pants and ride. Just think, what doesn't kill me makes me stronger. And I think that applies to everything in life.
Just remember, you have some really nice people here on the HF, who are here to help whenever you get stuck.
Good luck.
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post #6 of 15 Old 09-12-2009, 09:50 AM
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Do you flex your horses head to you when you mount? If you have a fear of them bolting or think they might I would flex their head and then step on. A horse cant bolt with you if his heads towards you. He might walk in a circle and if He does Make him move. Disengage his hindquarters and forequarters or send him and make him yield his forequarters. Soon he will Love to just stand.

Once you trust your horse you shouldn't have to worry about flexing. But until you do it would be a good way to help your confidence. If you have two eyes he cant run away from you.
I use the method above when I start a horse, or if I get one broke, but dont know. Its better safe than sorry.
Good luck!
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post #7 of 15 Old 09-12-2009, 11:21 AM
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There is a condition well recognised by psychologists as "trauma" - be it caused by shells, car accidents or whatever. The sub concious part of the brain, which controls our everyday reactions, which indeed allow us to ride, suddenly says
"Oi! this horse riding game is dangerous - give it up".
You don't have much choice - you have to prove to that part of your brain that what it is saying to you is unacceptable. You have to show that you can conquer the fear. Very often , other fears you may have, complicate matters but you can learn to face those fears as well.

First thing for you is to recognise your fear and admit it - which you have. Well done.

Dr Alexander promotes relaxation techniques - borrow a book and read up. You've got to relearn how to relax - say half an hour a day on the floor.

Then you plan your recovery.
Mounting is only the beginning.
Most likely you will be as tense as a spring when you are in the saddle

Step by step , slow but surely you rebuild your confidence bit by bit.
You go back to basics and you re-learn how to ride on a very, very, very stable and gentle horse. Choose that horse very carefully.
You are sick, you are in the process of healing.

You have to relearn how to mount a horse and not to fear falling off.

If you are in fear, then you will tense up and the horse will pick up on your fear. The horse will then tense up and maybe shy.
Which is exactly why a lot of horses will tolerate a youngster on their backs because youngsters don't know either tension or fear.

So, in a contained arena, you mount up and you walk around and around in circles.
Next day you do it again
You first do 5 minutes, then 10 then 15 - whatever suits you.
You do it in company with a well trusted and supportive friend.
Little and often

Then one day, you walk out in the community - with the friend holding the horse's head by a lead rope.
You do a mile, then 2 miles etc.
You build up slowly.

You don't ever ride when either you or the horse feels fractious.
You don't put a time limit on your progress.
You just say to yourself that you want to get back on that horse and you want to ride it - one day.

The fear of horse riding in folks who have suffered a bad fall is well known. I call it "Post Traumatic Fall Disorder"
The older we get,the more at risk we are to suffering from the problem.

But I can tell you, it the fears are surmountable.
After 32 years of riding, I came off at speed and wound up in hospital.
I suffered concussion and very severe bruising. Then I did it again - that time not so badly. Then, I bought another horse and fell off her four times within a few months. Then I realized I had a problem.
I looked seriously at my pretty mare and asked myself if I wanted to give her away. The answer was: "No way"

Once I rumbled that the problem was in my head, then I could start the recovery. The system works. I am riding again. Oh yes, I am not as adventurous as once I was but I am riding again and it is getting better.
It has taken months.

So Nerissa, don't give up. You can win through if you seriously want to.

ANd what would life be if you could not ride your horse?

Barry G
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post #8 of 15 Old 09-12-2009, 12:13 PM
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Nerissa - this article might help - it is in 2 parts - it is working for me.

PTFD - Post Traumatic Fall Disorder - The route to a cure.

It came literally as a nasty shock to come off my heavy cob whilst he was bolting down a steep lane. Undoubtedly it was the worst fall in my riding career,. I received a blow to the base of the skull and further injury to the lower back, Four months later, after the horse had languished for 3 months in his stable on box rest to allow the check ligament to heal, the second fall to the ground on the village green was less serious because luckily I had fallen to the ground via a convenient bush. Swopping a month or so later, the Geordie gelding for a much kinder and better schooled Irish mare did not solve my problem. Within two months of owning her I had come off her twice although on both occasions I had no real excuse for losing my seat. Obviously something was wrong somewhere. Friends watching me ride had said repeatedly that I looked wooden and stiff on the horse. I knew for myself that it now took very little to make me feel angry with her. She was unquestionably skittish. However the little shies should have presented no serious obstacle to an experienced rider like myself and unlike my other horse, she had no malicious intention to bolt. But she was getting to me and it was no fun to ride her. It was time for an outsider’s opinion.

It was on the same day of the third fall that a local show jumping trainer came to see us both working together. In fact the little demo we gave, just a few hours after the fall, satisfied him that there was nothing unduly wrong with my style, after all I had been riding horses for 32 years. He watched, made a few positive and a few negative comments and gave me a programme to follow. But I knew something fundamental was wrong and he had not picked up on it. Why should he, he didn’t really know me from Adam.

The real thing to follow up on was the tension in me. I realised that if I were tense up then any forces created by the horse with a sharp movement would not be absorbed by me. The rider has to be able to absorb the power of any thrust through the shock absorbers namely the ankles, the knees and the hips. If the forces aren’t absorbed or re-directed then the Laws of Physics say that I would project the forces and most likely in the process I would come off the back of the horse. So I told myself to relax. Unfortunately the one thing I could not readily do was to relax, neither could I lose the disconcerting feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I got up into the saddle. I knew that: I was holding my breath; I was gritting my teeth; I was setting my jaw; I was grabbing the reins and I was clamping my thighs around the body of the horse. Despite the fact that I recognised the mistakes I was making, there was very little I could do to release the tension. But worse was yet to come, I knew that my fears were deepening. There was no way by which I felt that I could ride the horse out of the yard. Every time I sat on the horse and it made a sudden move, I would panic. My heels would come up and I’d pull the horse back into the slowest of walks.

I called the previous and very knowledgeable owner of my mare and asked her to come over and help me. The visit proved to be very worthwhile and she gave me a few tips. One of the important suggestions was that I contacted another trainer. She confirmed that the horse had the capability to be what I wanted : A Gentleman’s Riding Horse. - a go anywhere hack. She politely suggested that the mare was picking up on my tensions and, with hindsight, she was right.

After the visit I read up on every relevant horse book in my library. I trawled through the internet. Amongst the helpful hints was an article on the Alexander Technique. It seems we humans have a sub-conscious brain which controls most of our basic movements. We ride without conscious effort because this part of our brain is in control. When we fall off and damage ourselves, this side of our brain says :
“Oi - what’s this hobby of yours doing? If you aren’t prepared for the next fall then you are going to hurt yourself .“ As individuals we may think we have full control of our emotions and reactions but in actuality we don’t.

Mr Alexander developed a technique for re-programming our sub conscious brain and it is very relevant for any horse rider to understand the principles involved. It is a fact that we learned to ride by rote - constant repetition. Equally we can, with dedication, “unlearn” the wrong way of positioning ourselves and by using similar principles, we can relearn a more appropriate method. Incidentally, Mr Alexander was not only a singer, he was also a horse rider. I made an appointment to visit locally an Alexander practitioner - indeed eventually I went back six times. It was very evident almost from the beginning that the technique was no quackery. It suddenly became clear to me, that if I were to continue riding then I would have to learn how to release the stresses inside me. The essence of my problem was that: ‘I had lost my bottle‘. Deep inside me, I was too frightened to ride a horse. Perhaps what I was suffering from could best be described as Post Traumatic Fall Disorder. The rehabilitation process was going to take time and I should be ready for a struggle which might not even prove to be successful but the only alternative was to cut one’s losses and sell the horse. If I could not ride the horse out on a hack then it would be time for a complete change of lifestyle. The first important step was to admit not only to myself but to others within my circle of horsey friends and acquaintances that I had a serious problem. I would need their help and understanding to get through the process.

Having diagnosed the problem, the next step was to go back to fundamentals. I decided to hang up my riding boots for a couple of months. There was no point in reinforcing my defensive reactions against riding. In any case, after the fourth fall in the arena, there were aches and pains to evaporate and some bruising to disperse. This decision meant that I would have to find someone to ride my horse whilst I was indisposed and luckily my wife stepped forward to take up part of the load. We also asked a couple of the other riders at the livery yard if they would ride our horse once or twice a week. It would do the horse no harm to get used to different riding styles.

I arranged to have myself checked out physically. First came McTimoney, an area of medical expertise centred on the spine and central core. The falls had indeed provoked a distortion from the correct alignment of the skeleton in the back. I also visited the sports masseuse and she worked on the tight muscle groups. Luckily I had been involved for some time with a Pilates Club, which focuses on exercising the muscles of the back and the central core - all important body zones for the horse rider.

Whilst my wife would exercise the horse, it was also appropriate to go back to the basics with the schooling of the animal. I devised a series of work programmes. We walked down into the village; we did lunging work in the arena; we started on desensitisation work - much of it ‘in hand‘. I had already had the horse checked out professionally for any health problems with her spine or with her teeth. The saddle provoked some questions but unless I was prepared to find a 1K for a new saddle there was not much to be done. In any case in the process of buying a new saddle I must, as a minimum, be able to ride the horse and to adopt the correct posture whilst seated on the horse.
Barry G
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post #9 of 15 Old 09-12-2009, 12:14 PM
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PTFD The Process of Cure Part 2
The next job was to locate a suitable instructor - this time one who was capable of remedial work on an experienced long term rider who had developed over the years a lot of bad habits. The younger tutor is trained to teach the modern way of the BHS school of riding whereas I needed someone who could retune my way of riding to fit the expectations of a seven year old mare who had been schooled to respond to a recognised set of aids. My mare was not only young but she was also fit, agile and very sensitive. Ask her to do something in a way which she understood and she would instantly do it. Back in the 1970s, when I learned to ride, the rider was taught to stay on - elegance and style were not the key prerogatives of learning to ride - in those days one was taught by rote how not to fall off. Formal dressage was for poofters. Later in life I had been shown how to sit a Western saddle, a style which encourages straight legs, weight in the stirrups and long loose reins. Recently when asked to identify my style of riding I would reply: “Mid-Atlantic” “ie with a forward seat and the weight pushed down into the stirrup irons”. Until 2007 this “cross country” system worked for me and I had only rarely come off, despite having ridden about a hundred horses of varying temperaments.

Eventually I was referred to Roz - who came with impeccable references. However in trying to meet with Roz’s instructions I needed to concentrate and at the same time I began to leave behind my new found nervousness when actually riding the horse. Once I had learned, with Roz’s help how to get the horse down on to the bit - even for just a stride or two, I realised that this lady knew what she was talking about. Essentially she was/is a show judge but she has a very good eye for the movement of both horse and rider. Also she has/had a pleasant way of expressing herself. The important thing for me though was that I was back in the saddle in a controlled environment learning what it felt like to ride my new horse properly.

My wife had told me that the horse was basically kind and sympathetic to the rider - all she looked for was confidence. The little startlets were an indication of the horse’s own lack of confidence but she did not really intend to discard her rider. Strangely trying to learn to sit upright on a light responsive horse, distracted my mind away from the nervousness I had experienced before. I also became aware of just how sensitive the mare is - the slightest adjustment of my weight created a response.

Seemingly the cure for my “illness”, for that is what fear can become, lies within oneself. Get help. Confess one’s weakness. Go back to basics and relearn one’s riding skills by rote. Take time and give the brain a prolonged opportunity to heal itself. Plan the route to rehabilitation; set some little milestones to reach. Lose the terror; relive the joy of riding. Spend time in the arena going round and round in circles. Do lots of short, hopefully stress free, rides over known terrain. These actions appear to be the answer. Simon Barnes talks about every rider having a bucket of courage which over a lifetime we steadily consume. Maybe he is correct.

Obviously things won’t be right for me until I can happily direct the horse (and me) up into the woods and come back to home via the pub down by the main road. I can’t do that yet and I suspect it will take months before I can. Owning an agile, forward going, responsive but slightly skittish horse doesn’t help but we are now going round the lanes of the village in ever increasing circles. Soon we shall be taking longer jaunts in the company of other riders. It is all a question of taking things stage by stage, step by step. Luckily in the process of being exercised by my wife, the horse has been learning the routes, so the lanes are not so strange to her as once they were.

There is a need for a new saddle. The Pathfinder is not fit for purpose especially on this new horse. We are shortly going to be trying a saddle with substantial knee rolls and a deep seat. How much of a difference the saddle will really make remains to be seen but a saddle one sits “in” as against “on” should give a better sense of security. No doubt the saddle will prove to be expensive but this factor should put a little pressure on me to get out on the horse and make use of it.

It was just over a year ago that I would still be eagerly charging about with gay abandon the local pathways and byways of hereabouts on a powerful but wilful cob. In those days I would regularly meander through spooky ancient woodland and boldly walk alongside busy trunk roads. In total contrast, at one dark stage during my “illness”, I felt reluctant to mount even in the safety of the arena, that very same horse on whom I had enjoyed years of fun. Every sudden movement, however benign, by the horse would send alarm up through my nerves to my brain.

For me nowadays adopting a positive but relaxed attitude is a must. My posture has been reset: I must sit up at 90 degrees with a natural curve in my spine; my legs must hang with my heels down and my toes lightly resting in the stirrup irons; the reins must be kept short and held correctly in both hands and my body weight must be carried equally in both sides of the saddle; my eyes should be looking to the front. After all these years I am learning to ride all over again. No more leaning forwards with my weight on the stirrup bars. I believe I am on the mend but the old habits die hard. Making progress is all about conquering one’s demons. The alternative is to lose the companionship of the horse and that has become fundamentally the spur to success. What would we human horse lovers do without our equines? What would I do without my young, pretty, dapple grey mare?
BG Oct 2008 approx 2500 words
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post #10 of 15 Old 09-12-2009, 12:19 PM
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I do hope the articles help. All I can say is that I am coming thru.

Give it time and and with persistance it will happen for you.

Barry G
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