Riding fears, alternatives to getting back in the saddle- thoughts? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 02-27-2014, 10:32 AM Thread Starter
Green Broke
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Riding fears, alternatives to getting back in the saddle- thoughts?

Are yíall ready to read a novel? Well go to the bathroom, get a drink, and then settle in Ė this is gonna be a LONG one!

So itís been a number of years since Iíve ridden. My last ďbigĒ horse died a few years ago, and I havenít had many opportunities since then. Iíve had some mounting-related falls in my past, but the big clincher was witnessing my old trainer be badly hurt by a mare Iíd bought from a local summer camp. Iíve tried to get back to riding since then, but the fear is definitely very strong and something that will take me a long time to work through, as well as a super-gentle and patient mount that I trust. I miss being with equines so much, nothing breathes air into my lungs or light into my soul like they do.

So now Iím at a crossroads, for several reasons, and have had some ideas bouncing around in my head that Iíd like some feedback on. I would really like to get back to owning again, but Iíve got several concerns that could send me in one of several directions.

To start, Iím a big girl. 5 foot 8, and over the 300 lb mark at this point (thatís what years of an unhappy marriage and eating your feelings gets you). Iím working on this, making progress and have lost quite a bit of weight already. It will be some time before I reach my ideal weight, though- it could be two more years at the rate I am progressing. My goal this year is simply to get fitter, and get under the 300 lb mark. I also have those fear & confidence issues to contend with. I donít think itís fair to ask a horse of ANY size to handle an unfit re-rider with no muscle tone at my weight.

I do want to ride again, but Iím realizing it may be years before I get to do so comfortably and safely, for both myself and the horse. Horses, donkeys, and mules are my passion in life. Nothing else breathes air into my lungs and light into my soul like they do. I would be completely OK with spending time with an animal on the ground, but I know my heart aches to ride again and also Iíd like to compete in ACTHA and some Limited Distance events someday when I am at a better level of fitness and weight.

Here are my ideas so far:

1. 1. Buy a young adult mammoth donkey of a decent size to train for both riding and driving. Mammoths are amazing and I adore their personalities, as they are nowhere NEAR as reactive or flight-driven as horses are. Use the next 2 years of weight loss to work with him/her extensively on the ground, including hand-walking on trails as a ďhiking buddyĒ of sorts, as well as getting a light packsaddle to get it used to bearing weight. This would provide fitness for both of us, a great deal of exposure to many of the different sights, sounds, smells, and situations weíd run into on the trail, and Iíve found a local place to board that has a lot of experience training donkeys and mules. Donkeys mature much slower than horses, but with some guidance I could potentially have a very safe trail mount whoíd be able to carry me for the next 20 years.

2. 2. Get a gentle draft mule that is already trained for riding, do ground work and trail walking until Iíve reached a more acceptable weight, then have a private trainer help me with lessons to get over my mounting fears. The key here would be finding an animal that is not ENORMOUS- Anything over about 15.2 makes me feel like Iím trying to scale a mountain, and honestly I feel extremely freaked out trying to mount huge horses.

3. 3. Get a miniature horse or donkey for the same trail walking ideas, and also use it for driving and some in-hand showing with the local miniature horse clubs. The mini would be more ďportableĒ and also cheaper to board than a full-size animal. I would potentially worry about a mini with regard to dogs on the trails around here, and also that itsí small size would invite passerby to bum-rush the poor thing to pet it (especially mini donkeys- they look like cuddly stuffed animals!). Iíd want an animal that I could trust around non-horse-savvy passerby. Also, I worry that once I reach my weight goals itís just not going to be feasible financially to keep both a mini and a regular-sized animal, so Iím putting an animal out into the wind again. Then again, it might be possible- Iíve got no way to predict what my financial situation will allow in 2-3 years.

Whew! If you got through that novel, congrats! I look forward to any ideas or feedback you all have :)
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post #2 of 6 Old 02-27-2014, 12:52 PM
Join Date: Jan 2014
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Mulefeather, I read your novel and I think you are on a sensible road to your goal of riding again. I like all three of your suggestions, you have clearly thought this through. The first two appeal to me the most. I wonder if you have any therapeutic riding centers in your area, or a stable where you could do some volunteer work for a few months to sort of get back into horses, and back into shape and just see how you get along before making the commitment of buying a horse (mule, donkey, mini). You are thinking long range plan so this idea may not set you back too far on achieving your goal and you can see how you manage without too much financial expense in the beginning.
All the best to you and hope you are riding in the not too far future.
This love of equines is a disease and there is no cure for it.
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post #3 of 6 Old 02-27-2014, 01:05 PM
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Location: Northwest Arkansas
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I am at the same point as you. I need to loose a lot of weight and get in better shape to ride. My goal right now is to also get under 300 pounds. I currently have two horses. My oldest is 3 who will never be able to be ridden by a full size adult(horrible conformation). He is my trail buddy I love taking him along with me! I recently got a 8 month old colt that I will be able to ride when he is older. I have the same plan as you:). It has worked out great as I find myself spending more time with them then sitting on the couch eating!! It gives me a reson to get up and get out and move!! They all sound like good ideas but the first two I think will work out best as you will be able to ride in a few years. Good luck and hope this helps!!:)
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post #4 of 6 Old 02-27-2014, 01:20 PM
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kudos to you for facing your passion in spite of your fear!!! woodhaven has a great idea about the volunteering!!! IMHO--option 2.2 sounds great--perhaps you could find a trainer (or someone you trust) to keep the already trained one going well under saddle while you get to your goal....of course the groundwork and interaction will be great for you both. the best of it in your ventures ahead!!!! if you can only afford one----make it one you can ride as you will want to get in the saddle when you reach your comfort zone!!! :)
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post #5 of 6 Old 02-27-2014, 01:38 PM
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#2 but trained to drive. You should be able to comfortably drive at this point. You don't have to worry about size and you don't need to replace equipment as you drop weight. It gets you out there working towards a goal, socializing, rebuilding your confidence as well as exercising without realizing it.

Mini are adorable and one could easily handle handle your weight but if riding is your ultimate goal, you will need to upsize in a year.
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post #6 of 6 Old 02-27-2014, 01:44 PM
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Location: Ontario
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I agree that getting an animal that you eventually will be able to ride is a good idea. Every time you work with her, you will motivated to keep working toward the goal of being able to ride her.
If you can find a horse that is already well broke and calm, perhaps you can work out a deal with the boarding barn, such as reduced fees for allowing her to be used as a lesson horse. And if you don't like height, you can always look into a smaller draft breed, such as a fjord, or perhaps a draft cross.
I have never worked with mules, but I heard that once you ride a mule, you don't want to go back to a horse!
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