Afraid to jump my mare... - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 07-21-2009, 04:14 AM Thread Starter
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Afraid to jump my mare...

So i have debated with myself over posting this but when it comes right down to it i need some advice so here it goes (sorry its a little long).

Ok so roughly 3 years ago i took a bad fall off my mare in a jumping class. she pulled up short earlier in the day just before a jump and i lost my balance and toppled over her head and landed on the jump (not the bad fall i am getting to that part). well everything seemed to be ok and i felt fine so i hopped back on and finished my course (didn't count for anything of course but i am not letting any refusal habits start) and the proceeded to head back to the practice ring and try to figure out what went wrong. things seemed alright and when i was called up for my next class i chalked my previous fall up to a case of momentary bad riding and went about my day because hey everybody makes mistakes.

so i entered my next class and everything was going fine until we got down to the last three jumps. I had to take a very sharp turn to a 3ft tall by 2 foot wide brick wall followed 3 strides later by a verticle and then finishing with a water obstacle under another verticle. fun stuff right? so we took our turn and unfortunaly my mare got a little to close to the brick wall. to compensate she took an extra large leap and twisted her hing quarters to the right at the same time. this caused a slight closing of my hip on the right side and thats when i felt something i can only describe as an electrical jolt from the top of my head down my right side and into my heel. I blacked out and have no memory of ever falling or landing that jump. my last memory is just as her hind feet left the ground and started twisting to the right and then nothing. from what i am told i toppled over my mares right shoulder and landed right under her feet. apparently she some how managed to twist her body the rest of the way and keep from landing on my although her hoof connected with my helmet and split the darned thing in hald (also someone has this all on video tape but i have never had the guts to ask to see it so everything that i know from the moment i blacked out to the moment i woke up is all second hand.)

needless to say in her effort to not land on me my mare lost her footing and bashed her head into the ground before sliding 10 feet off to the left of me. my next memory is waking up and seeing my saddle still strapped to my horses back and her lying motionless on the ground. i also had bleary vision and a horrible ringing in my ears that didn't go away for several days but apparently i had been unconcious for a minute or two by then and there were a ton of people around me and my mom was crying and everything was really confusing and all i could concentrate on was the fact that my baby girl was still lying in the dirt and wouldn't get up.

they called the paramedics and hauled me out of there in the ambulance and i spent the next 3 days under observation for internal bleeding. i had broken 3 ribs in 2 seperate places and one had nearly punctured a lung and i had to under go surgery to remove a shard of bone. i also had a serious concussion and the doctors were really worried about me (by the way hospitals really suck!!) my mare took 3 people to get off the ground and then she had to be sedated and hauled to the vet clinic for xrays and i have no idea what else because to this day nobody will tell me. all i know is that she severly sprained her shoulder and it took over a month to heal.

now first let me say that i had been regulairly jumping between 3 1/2 feet and 4 feet at home with not problems for over a year and that my mare and i had never had any sort of problems like this in the past. we were safe reliable jumpers and often placed 3rd or better in our jumping equ classes and never lower the 5th in hunter. I never saw the accident coming and hope to never have anything like this happen again. we have jumped since the accident but its all been under 2 feet and very messy. my mare freaks out over the slightest shift in my balance and has started rushing jumps and jumping flat. Honeslty this scares me. i have no confidence in my own ability to jump my mare and while we have no issues on the flat this jumping issue really bothers me. i love jumping and i just bought a yearling warmblood who i plan to event one day but can i really do that if i can't jump my own mare who has been my partner for over 9 years? should i try to fix these issues in my mare (with a trainers help of course) or should i just chalk her jumping career up as a loss and continue on with her as my dressage horse? and is it ok for me to address my own issues on another more reliable horse or is this just chickening out? i am more than a little lost and any advice you guys have would be great.

my parents just keep telling me that they bought my mare to be a jumper and i should jumper her and yeah i had a bad fall but "man up get back in the saddle" and all that and i just don't know if i can jump her again. does that make me a bad person or a bad rider?
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post #2 of 15 Old 07-21-2009, 04:22 AM
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Your not a bad person or a bad rider, maybe start with trotting poles, and slowly work your way up. Don't push yourself to something you don't want to do. Stay relaxed and think about the good times you had jumping not the bad times:)

Sir Success. Eventer.
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post #3 of 15 Old 07-21-2009, 05:32 AM
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i agree with the above,
I would go right back to basics, you both need to learn that you can jump together again.

I would pretend that she doesnt know how to jump and take her back to trotting pole and then slowly build up to raised poles then gradulally place a very small jump at the end of the poles and so on.

It could take a while and if your confident in your jumping on other horses you should be good! Its all about trust she probaly got just as big a fright as you when you fell and she need s to realise that jumping is not as scary as that all the time!!

I know its frustrating because she sounds like she was a super jumper before but sometimes basics are the key to sucess!! Good luck keep us up to date!!
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post #4 of 15 Old 07-21-2009, 05:51 PM
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Hey there...
I am so sorry to hear of your accident. I have not had that type of horse accident but have fallen off over fences before and also landed in water on a 3 day course. But...when I was in a car accident, every time I would see a car that even remotely looked as tho it was not going to stop...(coming from my right side) it was as if I would instenly react...Now over time I have since gotten better about this and driving.

I am not suggesting to do this if your not comfortable doing so, But If I were in your shoes and knowing my own personal way of thinking I would have watched the video. As horrific as it would be and painful and emotional I would watch it only becasue I would be interested to see if there was something in it I might see that would help me to understand what went wrong...

Then again...sometimes these things just happen and there is not any so called :explanation"

So thats just me.
But since I feel it might be best for you not to look at it, maybe your trainer now might want to see it if it is a different trainer then you had at the time.

I am sure this is not any easy thing to overcome! But as someone else stated it sounds like you and your mare are partners...and a team and....were very good at what you were doing...
So the idea of starting over and building up confidence in you both is a good Idea! Sometimes...tho...I have seen horses that are just not the same after these things...They are effected just like us...
I am sure she loves you very much and that she has her own memories to contend with...
Confidence building excersises and maybe even some ground work would be a good starting point to rebuild the relationship in this area will probably be good for you both...
I think that for you...your using your mare as well as gaining your confidence back with other horses is going to be good all the way around.
One never can really understand what another experiences unles they have been through something like this themselves....
I am glad to hear that your still riding, and are willing to work on your fears etc...Good for you! I think that it may just take time with you and your will know if it is not meant to be....In your heart and in your will know...

Take your time! No one should push you if your not feeling it is right....
keep us all posted on your progress...
Half Pass...
Again so sorry to hear of the accident!
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post #5 of 15 Old 07-21-2009, 07:17 PM
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No, you're not a bad, your mare may not be up to jumping either, anymore; it sounds like you both suffered a bad fall, so perhaps staying on the ground is best for both of you. True, the vet may have given her a clean bill of health, but depending on how badly she injured herself, she may have issues jumping properly again.

If you want to jump again, and you want to learn on your mare, just take it slow; if you feel like you may be too 'conscious' of what happened, with her, then relearn on a different old schooling horse, then learn on her, once your confidence is back...just take your time. Don't let anyone tell you you're a bad rider...just keep on keeping on, in you're time, and at a pace YOU can handle, not what everyone else expects of you.

"The ideal horseman has the courage of a lion, the patience of a saint, and the hands of a woman..."
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post #6 of 15 Old 07-21-2009, 07:25 PM
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I think it would be better for you and your mare to get your confidence and security back on a schoolmaster. As it is now, you are both nervous and compunding each others problems; If you can have a go at getting your confidence back then in turn you can then help her.

Good luck!

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post #7 of 15 Old 07-21-2009, 09:44 PM
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I think it would be a good idea for you to gain your confidence back on a schoolmaster and maybe for her to be jumped by your trainer, so she can gain her confidence back. But you could still ride he in dressage in the mean time. It doesn't make you a bad rider, in all honesty I don't know if I could jump again if I had such a bad fall. Don't let your parents push you into something you aren't ready for. Good luck!
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post #8 of 15 Old 07-22-2009, 03:14 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you guys! its just so hard i have been riding for 11 years and jumping for 8 and i feel like this shouldn't be an issue. I fell, people fall, it happens thats part of the horse game. i know this and i know that the fall wasn't my fault cause these things happen but in my heart i feel guilty about the whole thing. my mare LOVED jumping it was her PASSION not her job. I think i really do want to try to fix our problems and even if we dont compete again together i feel like leaving it alone where it is just isn't right.

Half Pass, I really don't think that i can watch that video, even the occasional nightmares i have from it are too much, but having my current trainer see it is a REALLY good idea and i will definatly track it down. thank you for the suggestion.

mom2pride, wild_spot and Zurmdhal i think that you are all right and i should take some jumping lessons on a schoolmaster, but i feel like i owe it to my mare to help her fix these problems myself if i can. i really don't know if she even wants to jump with me anymore but i would like to see her jump again, even free jumping, and enjoy herself.

i guess with my parents telling me left and right that i should be a good enough rider to deal with this on my own makes me feel like i am a horrible rider for being afraid of jumping my mare but hearing other people say its ok makes me feel a lot better. anyways THANK YOU SO MUCH!! for your time and encouragement. i will definatly keep you up to date!
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post #9 of 15 Old 07-22-2009, 04:41 AM
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Originally Posted by luvsmygirls View Post
Thank you guys! its just so hard i have been riding for 11 years and jumping for 8 and i feel like this shouldn't be an issue. I fell, people fall, it happens thats part of the horse game.

mom2pride, wild_spot and Zurmdhal i think that you are all right and i should take some jumping lessons on a schoolmaster, but i feel like i owe it to my mare to help her fix these problems myself if i can. i really don't know if she even wants to jump with me anymore but i would like to see her jump again, even free jumping, and enjoy herself.

i guess with my parents telling me left and right that i should be a good enough rider to deal with this on my own makes me feel like i am a horrible rider for being afraid of jumping my mare but hearing other people say its ok makes me feel a lot better. anyways THANK YOU SO MUCH!! for your time and encouragement. i will definatly keep you up to date!
All so very true. People fall and everyone deals with it differently. It is only natural that you and your mare would have lasting effects of such a traumatic experience. I agree with the idea that you should maybe work on a schoolmaster while your trainer or another trusted rider works with your mare. By trying to overcome this yourself and help her overcome it at the same time, you aren't doing her any favors. Every time you get nervous, she can feel it and she gets nervous, which makes you more nervous..... it is a vicious cycle. Plus, just because the vet gave her a clean bill of health doesn't mean that she still doesn't hurt when she jumps. Have you had her checked by a chiro? If not, that may be a good idea.

Also, not to speak ill of your parents and I'm not trying to be rude, but maybe they just need to back off and let you deal with this in your own time. It may help to tell them that pushing so hard makes the issue with your nerves worse. Just tell them exactly how you are feeling, you may have to MAKE them listen to you. If they are pushing you, then you will feel obligated to push yourself and your mare and that could make both of you worse.

You are not a terrible rider, I have been riding for more than 20 years and would not have the courage to take on a 3.5 foot jumper course. You are a very brave person for getting back into it. Don't ever let anyone tell you different. The fact that you were so badly hurt and all you could think about was your mare speaks volumes to what is in your heart. Good luck to you and I am sure that everything will work out.
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post #10 of 15 Old 07-22-2009, 09:49 AM
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I've had one or two nasty experiences with my mare...the culmination of which being an ambulance ride to the ER right in the middle of my mounted police certification and crutches for 2 weeks. That was the last time I was going to let anything even remotely like that happen again.

Mares can be funny. I remember when I bought her, my mom (who's been training horses and riders for over 30 years) said, "I told ya you's crazy for gettin' a mare!" Now, I've been riding for 28 years and have been in all kinds of death-defying (literally) situations, and I've always gotten right back on, but that last one shook me up quite a bit (maybe because it dawned on me that, for once, I might not actually be able to walk away from a hard throw like that if it happened again). I even considered selling my horse and getting a gelding. But then I was on YouTube watching the world class dressage people...riding their....mares...and the horses were behaving wonderfully. I also had a hard time selling because I would look out the window and see my horse, and to me she looked like one right out of a magazine, just like I'd always wanted. I realized that she wasn't a bad horse, she just had a few issues that needed to be addressed.

So, I started researching everything I could about mares and what makes them tick. They really are worlds away from geldings, and the things I learned actually gave me a lot of confidence to try again and "see if this works". I'm glad I didn't give up. Now, 2 years after what we now recall as "the day the lights went out at training", people just can't believe 1.) how great she looks; 2.) how well behaved and responsive she is; and 3.) she's a mare that is as even and well-tempered as any gelding (if not moreso...and without the use of any fancy supplements, etc.)...and the best part is to hear people say "I wish my horse was like that".

Here's what I learned, maybe it'll help distract you from your bad memories a little and help the both of you become a way better team than you ever have been before:

1.) Diet, diet, diet. You can't feed a mare like you feed a gelding, just like a woman can't eat the same way as a man. Of course, what you feed and how much depends on how active she is, but unless you're riding for several hrs/day or going over fence after fence after fence (or anything athletic that consumes huge amounts of the horse's energy) then check your feed. For example, high protein performance feeds may be great for a gelding, but it might be too much for your mare. What a horse (and a person) eats directly impacts the health of the thyroid gland. Females have a significantly more difficult maintaining a healthy thyroid than males do, even in horses. In males, thyroid problems may simply result in decreased sexual appetite, muscle weakness, and lethargy. In females, an over or under active thyroid can cause (deep breath): weight loss, heat intolerance and profuse sweating, frequent bowel movements, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances and tremors, hair loss, fatigue, dry skin and hair, hoarse voice, constipation, heavy periods and mood swings, muscle soreness, muscle weakness, lethargy, depression, trouble w/ concentration, slow heart rate, poor memory, nervousness/irritability, fast/irregular heartbeat, muscle aches, and of course the cherry on top...rapid hormonal fluctuations which leads to irregular monthly biological occurrences. Males don't have the same horemones, nor do they experience them on a monthly cycle like females do. When it comes to biology, you and your mare are both you have quite a bit in common in that department. Our diets have everything to do with whether we retain too much water, experience cramping or not, moodiness, discomfort, etc. Your diet effects your thyroid, which is responsible for regulating all of that. Fun stuff, huh! LOL **Note: don't just check your grain-feed. Check your hay and any supplements she gets, too. Alfalfa hay is extremely rich in protein and calcium...but it's a bit much for the average mare to be having more than a flake or two/day (depending on the workout). Supplements bump up your percentages, too, sometimes. ** You can also give her a tbsp of dried cut red raspberry leaves in her feed to help her with the cramping, bloating, etc. and help tone her uterus. It's the stuff that's in Mare Magic, but I just used food-grade stuff from the herb store. It works like Midol, that's all. Doesn't impede performance and it isn't a drug, so it's legal. It's like drinking tea when you don't feel good.

2.) Go over your tack. The equipment that you're using may not be quite suitable for your mare, or maybe she just needs something different. There are so many bits and saddles to choose from. She may find more comfort in something else. Maybe the saddle doesn't sit right on her...all that stuff.

3.) Health. You already said the vet gave her a clean bill of health, but that was for her being safe to ride physically. How is she internally? Does she have ulcers? Do her "piles" look like healthy horse piles? Is her urine overly yellow, cloudy, or smelly? Drink too much? Drink too little? Etc. These are things we sometimes take for granted or that we pass off as being temporary (if we notice them at all). Even though they're not necessarily serious ailments/symptoms, they CAN cause a decrease in performance or even willingness to perform. Your horse can't tell you what's wrong or what hurts, so you have to learn to watch for the signs and fix the problem (not just mask them).

4.) Go back to basics. When my girl threw me, the first thing I did when I was able was to go all the way back to the beginning and start all far back as basic groundwork. Horses have an amazing way of learning/unlearning behavior, and how good a horse turns out when all the training is said and done, is directly related to how solid his groundwork foundation is. Going all the way back to that stage of training also helps the horse focus on refining old skills, which gives the both of you time to forget "what happened". It also helps the horse regain its confidence and helps erase the negative associations from its mind. Since these are basic lessons, your horse will succeed in them by leaps and bounds, which is good for anybody's or anything's self esteem. Go slow. Stay at the same training level for a couple of weeks if you have to. You can still ride, but just do "fun stuff" - trails, play games in the arena with others, walk down the road, etc. Going back also helps the horse remember some things she may have forgotten along the way...things that might have let up to the "shifting hind-quarters" issue that got you here in the first place. I certainly don't remember everything I learned in elementary school, so it's unreasonable to expect your horse to remember every little thing...especially the stuff that hasnt been practiced as much. Something else that I started to incorporate into my horse's training were some "Extras" teaching her to use voice commands instead of aids all the time, and even learning to do some simple tricks, working around obstacles - bubbles, balloons, walking over mattresses, tarps, hoola hoops, etc. Horses actually do like to learn, so you can help keep your horse mentally fit and sharp by teaching her something new every so often...doesn't even have to be related to jumping...just anything!

After I took this approach, I wasn't afraid anymore (and I learned a TON about horses that I never learned in my 28 years riding), and now I hear "Man, I wish my horse was like yours." It's nice. ;^)

Didn't mean to write you a book...just trying to offer some hands-on help and encouragement.
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