Lost confidence after a fall - novice (long!) - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 10-15-2012, 07:21 AM Thread Starter
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Lost confidence after a fall - novice (long!)

Hi There,

I am new here, so please bear with me while I fill in the background....

I decided to pick up riding a couple of years ago, having gone on hacks through my teens and the odd one off in my twenties in NZ (including trotting and cantering). Over here in the UK it is all lesson based, so have had to start from scratch. First few were great, learnt how to post the trot and it all seemed fine. I left it for a while as it was too far and too expensive, then found one closer to home and had another great lesson, with the instructor saying you will be cantering next time.

Another year went by and then I picked it up this year. It just went from bad to worse. Everyone was saying different things and I hurt my coccyx from tucking under too far, landed too heavily on my foot, then had a spooky horse. And it wasn't really that fun just going round and round an arena for an hour and my confidence was plummeting. I found riding and thinking about all the different things pretty hard!

I then found a great charity up the road from home where I have been going every week for a half hour in a group (since June). I used to ride a slightly bigger horse, which had a bit of a fear about. I also had a real fear about cantering, as the transition seems like such a big milestone and the longer we didn't do it, the more of a big deal it became. I don't feel I have progressed a huge amount over summer, but its been a nice way to spend weekend time.

However, lately it has become more structured and we are moving more into the cantering. (I did it once accidently and almost another time). I have been riding a smaller horse, which has lessoned some of the fear, though she is very lazy! I finally felt like I was ready to press on and go faster, feeling like I was riding naturally, not just following instructions and hence being disconnected to the horse.

So I added in an extra weekday lesson and ended up on the bigger horse again, (who proably sensed my fear) and was being a bit spooky (the instructor was holding a whip and was holding him back while we were talking) so he took off and at the end of the arena, didnt stop, but carried on round the corner at which point I flew off and broke a fence.....

I got back on (they made me!) and did a few rounds sitting the trot. I went the next weekend and ended up just being led round the bridle path. I did a little trotting, but was conscious of it being a bit wet and muddy and was worried about the horse slipping. I had planned a quiet lesson during the week, but trapped a nerve in my back (part of the fall area), so had to miss it. So back this weekend where the usual quiet horse was out of action. I went on a different one who kept throwing her head around (which I was told to expect) and then started backing up, which was freaking me out. I managed to walk with a leader and then a few times round on my own before giving up.

I am so disappointed. I feel like this has been such a huge set back and don't see how I can overcome it. I have been "toughing out" the intense pain, bruising and huge lump of the fall - even the nerve on top, but there is a panicking fear that is gripping me of the horse taking off. It's like I have forgotten everything and can't access that information.

I think physically I should be fitter, but how do I fix the mental block. Or should I just let it go - learning as an adult is really hard. It would feel a shame to give it up, but then the huge danger factor freaks me out.

Any suggestions would be very helpful thanks!!
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post #2 of 13 Old 10-15-2012, 07:57 AM
Join Date: Sep 2012
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First, make sure you let yourself recover from your previous fall. The last thing you want is to completely destroy your back (believe me).

I know all about confidence issues. I've been riding whenever I can for years, and my confidence has been shot many times. For a long time, I lost the ability/confidence to canter. The only way to get past that is with a good quality horse, a push button one, if you'd like to call it that. I started cantering again on an old thoroughbred in an arena, so I didn't have to worry much about steering, and just had to concentrate on staying on and my balance. After that, I lost my confidence again on an appaloosa mare who was nothing like what I was used to. Even her walk bounced, plus she was extremely narrow. Now I have an excess of confidence thanks to what is the most amazing mare I've ever ridden. She knew voice commands, and the slightest 'whoa' would bring her right back to a walk. With her, I fell almost instantly into rhythm. I had complete control; I was balanced, I could use my legs for something other than holding on, and I could bring my hands off the horses' neck to actually steer. Since then, I can canter without a single worry.

This is what I think you need. You need a horse that knows what it is doing, in an arena where steering can be of little concern to you. Better yet, you need a good horse that you can ride multiple times before even thinking of a canter. Once you know a horse in the walk and trot and on the ground, you get to know their rhythm, and you learn to trust them.

Another tip I've received is to lunge a horse and watch it canter. You can find out the quirks in their stride, and seeing them move can help a lot before you get in the saddle. For example, there was one mare who had a bad habit of pig rooting when she went into the canter. She unseated me with it, and I lost my confidence. My teachers had me lunge her, and I soon learned that she pig rooted only when she was put into a canter from an unsteady or slow trot. Once you got her into the right 'gear', she would move off perfectly.

I'm looking forward to hearing your progress :) Cantering seems scary but believe me, the minute you get your rhythm and balance, you'll never want to stop. You need to find a horse that you are comfortable with, and avoid those that you aren't. Yes, you might want to ride as much as you can, but riding a horse that scares you is only going to set you back miles. It sounds to me like if you could continue with the smaller horse, you could get there. Once you've got it on one horse, you can try it on another.
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post #3 of 13 Old 10-15-2012, 08:01 AM
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Those horses don't sound like very good lesson horses. They sound too sensitive in one case and in the other it sounds like the instructor was scaring it.

That being said, you mentioned a fear of being run off with. You should approach your instructor with this concern and ask for more tools for your toolbox in how to deal with it. Learn how to emergency dismount, how to decide if you need to, how to one rein stop, how to do giant circles, and disengage the hind end. A good seat is going to help you stay on and not start flopping all over the place. You don't have to end up coming off the horse whenever you're run away with.
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post #4 of 13 Old 10-15-2012, 09:20 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks Tracer! I think you are right. I was getting the goldilocks effect and thinking I needed a new horse, between the two of them. I was given a whip for the smaller horse to get her going, which is distracting when I am trying to concentrate on everything else!

Funny you should say to watch - I think the watching is what has put me off. Cantering seems very powerful and fast from the sidelines, not to mention the quirks as they transition. Yet when you are on the horse and doing it, it doesn't feel as scary as it looks.

It's also hard to reconcile the old memorys of always wanting to go faster to get past trotting as cantering was easier! That was certainly a lifetime ago!

DancingArabian, the horses are used for teaching people with special needs during the week, which makes me feel safer, but I have heard that they can play up for more able people!

I think you have hit the nail on the head also with my fear of not knowing what to do in that instance. If anything it has highlighted all the things I don't know, which is possibly a good thing. Definitely need to have a chat about more tools for the box. I think that would help the fear, just knowing more about how to stop, hold on, balance etc.

Thanks, we'll see how I get on next week!
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post #5 of 13 Old 10-15-2012, 09:35 AM
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I agree with the others that said it sounds like these aren't very good lesson horses... or in the very least they aren't good confidence builders, which is exactly what you need.

Have a discussion with your instructor, and if he/she isn't willing to ONLY put you on steady horses, find somewhere else to ride.

As far as cantering is concerned, it is nowhere near as scary as it looks. A canter (not a gallop) should be smooth and not terribly fast. It can feel scary at first, particularly on a short strided horse, because it sort of feels like the horse is going to drop out from under you, but once you get the hang of it, it's smooth as can be and MUCH easier to ride than trotting.

Good luck!
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post #6 of 13 Old 10-15-2012, 12:14 PM
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I can relate, as an adult beginner. My first horse bolted on me on a trail, but somehow I managed to stay on. I lost both stirrups, and one rein (was riding western with unconnected reins) and I have no idea how I stayed on while she galloped up a bank, over the other side, turning around so fast I could have touched the ground with my hand.. but I pulled her head around with the one rein I had left and finally she stopped. The reason was a man coming up behind us on a bike. She didn't hear him until he was right behind her.

The guy I was trail riding with told me to get back on, but I was shaking too hard. The incident destroyed my trust in horses for 8 years, even though I could understand her panic. I tried working with various coaches with her, but as soon as she lifted her head I'd think she was going to bolt and I'd back down. She figured that out quick, and took advantage of me. She'd ride like a dream under anyone else but me. She basically turned into a pasture ornament as I lost interest in trying, until I finally sold her to a young girl with no fear.

So.. after years of wishing I could still ride, I found a new coach and an absolutely solid little Haflinger mare to lease. I learned to carry a whip, and how to use it in graduations.. if she won't move out, a touch with the leg, then a small shake of the whip, then a larger shake of the whip as a warning, and then a tap behind my leg if she still won't speed up. We learned quickly how to communicate and I just carried the whip as an aid. Now I find it second nature to carry it and it doesn't obstruct my riding at all.

Once it was apparent that I had learned to relax and trust again, I moved up to a bigger, more forward horse. And now I am on an andalusian/percheron mare learning basic dressage. In the transitions I learned how to trust various horses and to anticipate issues but to keep my anxiety under control.

It had been stressed to me over the years how important good school horses and instructors are, but I really needed to experience it for myself.

So my first bit of advice would be to find a solid horse, usually over 10 yrs old, to just get back your self-confidence on.
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post #7 of 13 Old 10-15-2012, 12:47 PM
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Horses used for therapeutic riding don't always make good horses for riding. Just like lead line ponies sometimes are awful for regular riding. They are good working in a specific way but if you put them outside their comfort zone, the attitude flares. They sometimes get used to just walking and being led around and develop and an aversion to "regular" work.
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post #8 of 13 Old 10-17-2012, 10:16 PM
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Very interesting I should read this today. Two years ago (11/1/10) while taking an English lesson in a ring I was thrown and broke 6 ribs, a collarbone, and punctured a lung. Although I vowed never to ride again while in the hospital I soon got the itch again, especially since I go to the racetrack regularly and get jealous seeing the outriders, jockeys, exercise riders, etc.
For two years I made all types of excuses not to ride but today I took my wife to go trailriding. (at Jamaica Bay Riding Academy in Brooklyn NY) I figured a trail ride Western would be much safer than English in a ring. Well, my horse got spooked 3 times and went nuts. I thought he was trying to throw me. He also took off on me twice. Although I pulled on the rings immediately and stopped him I was scared to death. I was so glad when the ride ended. I never was on a horse that erratic and now I'm more nervous than ever to ride again, however I know I'll get the itch again. MY wife's horse and the guide's horse were as calm as anything.
BTW, I'm 59 years old.
I don't know if I helped you but reading your post and the replies made me feel better, especially that I'm not alone.
Jeff Rosen
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post #9 of 13 Old 10-19-2012, 08:50 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for your replies.

Baroque that is an inspiring story! Good on you for getting back into it and wow after 8 years! It's definitely a self confidence issue, but then if I let my mind wander I have to additionally weigh up the danger and then remember that lack of confidence is one thing, but being on an animal that senses it (unlike the car when driving in the UK for the first time in 10 years) is even more dangerous!

Note to self, must stop this fear mongering, fear of slipping over in the bathroom, falling down the stairs, slipping on the path the way to the tube.....its getting a little out of control!

Goodness Jeff your injury sounds horrific! What a terrible shame your recent ride turned out to be so scary. Its so frustrating isn't it, the wanting to, but not being able to break through the nerves.

Well I went to the doctor today and he said no more riding (or exercise) till my haematoma goes down (a slow process), so I guess that solves that one for a while! Such a shame as we have moved further out of the city to be closer to my partners kids, so not knowing anyone out here it was finally coming together with my exericse group on the Sat and riding on the Sun. Maybe I should take up a non sporting hobby!!
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post #10 of 13 Old 10-19-2012, 09:21 AM
Green Broke
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Even the best riders get thrown. So don't beat yourself up, if you ride horses long enough it's going to happen.
The only thing I've found that helps is time in the saddle and time around horses.
If you aren't riding then just spend time watching from the ground while your body heals. There also tons of things you can do groundwork wise that will help develop your feel and help you learn to trust horses again.
I agree that a different horse can totally change your riding experience. You need to find a horse that will build back your confidence and one that you connect with.

So in lies the madness, the pursuit of the impossible in the face of the complete assurance that you will fail, and yet still you chase.
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