How to overcome fear...if it's a habit
Well, it's late, so I'll try to make this legible and quick, but forgive any errors or inconsistencies.
I got my horse two years ago, and since then, I've pretty much lived in a constant state of fear and anxiety with her. Sometimes the fear backed off and I had periods of happiness and confidence, but for the most part, it's been an ever-present part of my life when riding this horse.
Finally, at long last, I've begun taking lessons with the really really great trainer who sold us the horse. Better late than never, I guess. I love this trainer, she's everything I respect, admire and trust, and after just one lesson, she's already helped me so so much.
The biggest thing she worked on me with was my position. Two years of defensive riding have led me to develop a very hunched-over, almost fetal position-like form. She had me sit back so that my butt was actually touching the saddle (now that was a really weird feeling), roll my shoulders way back and keep my eyes and chin up, because I have an ingrained tendency to just ride along watching the horse's ears and watching what the horse is looking at-->part of my problem. And I have to say, I was really, honestly surprised how much of a difference it made. All this time, I've been thinking that I need to make sure I'm confident and happy and relaxed and focused before going out to ride, and all I really needed was a good seat. With a good, solid, strong seat, the rest just sort of falls into place.
Anyways, I'm working really hard on correcting my posture. I want to do well and learn and impress this trainer, so I'm working on it every chance I get. But, as she said, I'm not going to fix it overnight, and it may take weeks or even months for me to learn how to ride properly automatically, without thinking about it. It's two years of fixed and uncorrected habit I'm having to break.
On that same note, I feel like my confidence is that way as well. I've been riding timidly and fearfully for two years, and I can't break myself out of that mindset. My horse has become really good since the lesson started to change me, but I STILL am feeling nerves before I think about riding. And it's really frustrating.
She is not a bad horse at all. I've really only ever rode her inconsistently, besides a week last summer; I have never rode her every day for any extended period of time. Despite that, every time I get her out, the worst she ever does is get tense, anxious, walk fast and maybe shake her head, and that's usually only when I'm feeling scared and nervous. She'll be fresh, sure, but she's got no buck, no rear, no bolt (not for the last year or so anyways). And I'm FEARFUL because of the reasons mentioned. Is that not ridiculous? So WHY am I still scared? I don't even know what I have to be scared of anymore.
I rode our older pony every day this summer (obviously with some exceptions), and though she was a bit hot and go-ey this spring, by the end of the summer, she was the sweetest, quietest most bombproof animal you could ever want. She just recently had a couple weeks off (I'm back at school now and don't have as much time for riding), and honestly, she's even worse than my other mare is after the same amount of layoff. The pony becomes faster, more stubborn and more resistant than the horse ever would be. Yet, it's not the pony I'm ever nervous about riding. I know that if I spent maybe a month riding the horse every day, she would astound me with how good she can be, but I'm just so intimidated by the prospect.
How do I break this frustrating and crippling habitual mindset? I'm convinced that all it is now is habit. With the trainer's help, I really don't have much left to be scared of; I'm just used to being fearful. If anyone has any tips, advice, or encouraging words, I would greatly appreciate them.