How to Build Confidence...
...after a devastating wreck.
5 years ago, I was in my "prime". I rode 6-7 days a week, showed on the odd weekend, completely and utterly naive. I was young, and dumb, thinking horses were all candy canes and lollipops. I loved horses. I attached human emotions to my horses. I said things like, "I need to go ride my horse, or she will feel sad" or, "I need to at least visit, or she will feel lonely." When in reality, a horse is a horse. As long as they have food and water and a nice big pasture to romp around with thier horse buddies, they honestly wont miss you. They dont think and feel like we do. Only we think and feel like we do. I thought horses were incapable of hurting me or my feelings because I treated them with all the love and affection that was needed in a solid, trusting relationship.
One day my coach suggested I ride the new horse at the barn. She was a pretty palomino who we were hoping I could ride to my prom. So we figured I would try her out in the round pen. I hopped on bareback and all went well, until the barn dog came flying out of the bushes barking. She reared up so fast that she flung herself over and landed square on top of me.
I ended up in the hospital with an "open book" pelvic fracture. They called it an open book fracture because thats just what it looked like, a big ol' boney book spread out over the table. There were 7 clean breaks to my pelvis, and multiple hairline fractures, too many to count. I was very, very lucky that I was riding bareback, because if there had been a saddle there was a very good chance I would have had internal bleeding, and a good chance I would have died. Now, theres very little you can do for a pelvic fracture. The bones broke in such symmetry that I very narrowly missed mandatory surgery, and it became and option instead of a necessity, and I chose to let it heal on its own instead of having metal detectors go off for the rest of my life. So I spent 10 days in a morphine coma at the hospital and 2 1/2 months bed ridden after that, and only then could I begin to try and walk with crutches. The injury still bothers me to this day, I will probably need a double hip replacement when I'm older, and oh - I can't have children.
It makes me very, very sad to see young riders with so much gusto that they dont put thier own safety first. Sometimes accidents happen out of the blue, and there is nothing you can do about it. But whenever you can protect yourself, please do it. Feeling like a helmet looks stupid or showing off to your friends with your horse, will not be worth it when you get dealt a really bad card.
Suddenly I had a much more staggering, realistic view of horses. They were heavy. Really, heavy. And they were capable of killing you. They were instinctual animals that were prey. They were horses, not people. I could attach as many ooey gooey human emotions to a horse, but at the end of the day they were still horses, satisfied to be rid of all the strange unnatural things we make them do as apart of our equestrian routine. That mare didn't feel "bad" about what happened, because she had no idea what she had done. She wasn't "sorry" for acting the way she would have in the wild if a predator jumped out of the bushes at her, and nor did I hold a grudge against her. The lightbulb just went on, that's all. My rose coloured glasses were crushed under her and now I saw things in a more realistic light.
Well.. despite this new outlook, I really missed riding, because riding for us equestrians is like crack apparently. 3 years later I decided to start riding again, and what do you know, my first lesson and the instructor let the lead line get caught around her hoof and she reared. I didnt fall off, but that was enough to put me off for another year. I just began riding again because my husband pushed me to do it, he knows how happy it makes me and he loves to see that big stupid grin plastered to my face when I'm on a horse. I started taking lessons and everything was going so, so well. I finally had my confidence back; somewhat. So confident in fact, that I wanted a horse of my own again! *facepalm*
Well, as some of you might know, the horse I got likes to buck. In short, hes totally shattered my confidence, yet again. I don't know why, but just thinking about riding him gets my heart racing and my legs shaking. When it comes to mounting, I'm close to tears in fear, and hopefully you can all see why. So this horse is for sale, and actually has a trainer who owns a few arabs coming to look at him tomorrow, very interested in buying him. So my next hurdle will be........ how do I get my confidence back. I have always been a "just do it" kind of person... until Rummy. With Rummy, I realized how much of a push over I am ever since my accident. I let my fear get in the way of being a leader, and thus he takes the leadership role and has no respect for a wimp like me. I'm looking for ways to re build my confidence emotionally, not just by taking lessons again with a good horse. I'm really struggling with my own nerves, and I don't know how to keep them in check. Is there anything you guys might suggest for working towards obtaining a more dominant, assertive personality? Down the road, I want to buy another horse that is ABSOLUTELY right for me, no jumping the gun, no "hes sort of right for me". We'll save and save until we find the perfect horse. But in the mean time, I seriously need to work on my own self esteem, so that I dont crumble to pieces the next time me and future mister right have a disagreement (oh right, we wont have disagreements because he'll be perfect. haha. just kidding).
If you had a really bad wreck, how did you gain your confidence back? Did you struggle emotionally when it came to riding? Did your assertive leader act go down the tube? Feel free to share your stories.
I have never had a confidence problem. Because the way I see it -your horse uses its instincts, so you have to give them credit for that. But if I were you I would completely start over. Meaning don't rush into riding. Get control off the ground. I know that accidents happen, it makes you a better rider. But its your choice to live your life in fear or rejoice to show that you are not afraid. Start by grooming, leading, lunging, ground work! Then you can start riding just start off slow. Get the connection back with your horse. (:
I was going to start a similar thread and then saw this. I'm in the same boat so have no advice, but it's good to know I'm not the only one going through this. You're so right in saying horses are like crack once you've been involved with them once lol, I attempted to get out of horses completely, I sold all my horse gear, didn't read anything about horses, didn't talk to people who had horses and didn't miss it at all for a few months and then one day I missed it more than anything and that feeling hasn't gone away, yet at the same time I'm too scared to do anything with a horse due to extremely dangerous past experiences where I came very close to being seriously injured/killed several times.
Thanks for posting this, I'm looking forward to reading the replies :)
I was training a mare that was very powerful, but lazy. one day she discovered if she did a realy good imitation of a saddle bronc she could get me off(that is the one vice i really hate). from that day forward when she no longer wanted to go, i got dumped. no amount of ground work fixed it. 3 concussions, a torn shoulder and 2 cases of whiplash later, she found a new home. then i had a two year old that was 16hh and violently spooked onto my foot, breaking 2 bones. then the stallion jumped backwards from a bee sting and broke my right leg.
i just about called it quits, but i knew some people with really well broke horses who needed them excersised. no buck, bolt or rear. so i started riding again. some days i would tack up, lunge, get on, walk 15' and get off. that was as much as i could handle. eventually i found my mare who had issues i wasnt scared of. she spooked, but didnt run, buck or rear. she had attitude, but i could handle that. i had a good friend get on her a few times so i could watch. started slow, and two years after this all happened, my confidence is back.
Wow, you have gone through a lot! I applaud your courage to get back on...that is something to be proud of, I think.
I once saw a video (wish I could remember the particulars) of a young woman that was, like you, "in her prime" in her equestrian career when she was injured (not by a horse), and paralyzed for life from the hip (or maybe both knees, can't remember) down.. Anyway, I forgot most of the video except one thing, she said that she had thought "why me?" every single day for a very long time, then one day she said, "why not me?", and with a lot of work and specially fitted saddles, she started riding again. It makes you think.
I have not experienced anything like your horrible accident. I dont' know what I'd do if I had. I know that in general, if I am helping another person, who is perhaps more afraid than I am, that I gain a measure of confidence there. And, knowing that I can work a horse on the ground helps a lot when I get in the saddle..
Is there anyplace where you could work with horse, such as a therapy center, where your experience as a horsewoman will make you a "teacher" of others?
I'm so glad I joined this board, this is exactly my problem! I had a bad fall last year, broke some ribs and was off work for a time. I got rid of the horse that hurt me but I still haven't been able to get back up on a horse yet. Not even my old tried and true mare I've had for 10 yrs. I just have no desire to get back up there. I bought an older gelding that I felt would be much more what I needed but since he's new and I don't know what to expect from him I'm nervous about getting on him too. I don't think I should get on him in my current frame of mind either. I am looking into taking some beginner lessons, not because I don't know how to ride but because I hope that by riding under supervision I'll get to feel more comfortable and get my confidence back.
I think that anyone who rides has either already had or will have that moment that will haunt the rest of their riding career if they let it.
Getting hurt scares you because it is supposed to. Just like touching something hot burns you and causes you to instinctively pull your hand away, you're going to want to avoid things that you can cause pain.
Your accident was very serious and you are extremely brave to have jumped back on again (no matter how long it took). To have another horse rear on you right away is really unfair to you and to your riding.
The only thing that will help with the nerves and the fear is time. You should really look into finding an instructor that understands where you are coming from and really tell them what has happened in your past and how it makes you feel. Don't rush yourself to get back into riding. Maybe your next horse should be a horse that just needs some TLC or a foster mom to spend time with on the ground. When you are ready to get back into riding, don't be cheap about really putting money into the right horse for you. A $10k horse is way cheaper than a hospital stay.
I've been there with confidence issues. I bought my newest horse and within 10 days was in the ER 3 different times. First time for a slight concussion, second time for a torn tendon in my finger and finally the third was with broken bones and a concussion that came with loss of consciousness. With a broken hand I was unable to ride for a few months and couldn't do much around the barn, so it took almost a year to get the confidence back with that horse and build a relationship where I could start to trust him again. 5 days ago, he spooked at the wind while I was fixing a stirrup and I fell off him again. I was nervous about getting back on and the next time I rode him, but if you let it cripple you it will never get better.
Keep your chin up and keep on taking baby steps...the confidence will come with the right help and the right horse.
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