Fear of Loping--Need Some Advice!
I am a novice rider and am currently in lessons. I have a 15 YO QH mare who's also in training for some tuning up :) We're both coming along nicely. Anyway...the first time I ever loped with a horse, she took off across 5 acres of pasture without being asked and I flopped like a rag doll since I froze until she reached the barn (yes, barn sour!) So...I'm now nervous about it. I've been working on the trot, both posting and sitting, and am much more comfortable. For my lessons I'm riding an OTTB (in an indoor arena) who's doing quite nicely, but I'm the first student to ride her off the lunge line. Though we're both doing well, last night we were trotting well and she broke to a lope...first time she did this we were on the lunge line and it felt like she may be starting to buck me but of course she wasn't. I didn't fall off and she stopped when asked. Well last night she didn't stop, and I got nervous (part of it was my fault as I couldn't relax to tell her with my seat, I was balancing on the horn, and she doesn't have a 1 rein stop installed as she's more of an english horse and has only been ridden western a short time). Our trainer stopped her from the ground and afterward we went back to our pretty trot and ended on a good note. On the bright side, she did have a nice lope, stayed relaxed and didn't go into race horse mode, but I can't seem to relax due to fear. Over the next few weeks we're going to work up to the lope on the lunge line again so I can be prepared should something like that happen on her or my own horse, but I'm nervous. I want desperately to learn to relax and progress in my riding. I would appreciate any help and advice!
When my OTTB (only a few months off the track) took off at a full speed gallop and wouldn't stop when we were supposed to be cantering, I was a little shaken up. I cantered him in a smaller arena once after that, but he was still in "run" mode. I went to strickly only walking and trotting under saddle with him, in the meantime working him on the lunge with side reins (obviously not under saddle) to work on his speed, learning voice commands (especially "easy"), and transitions. I haven't lunged him for about two weeks, but have still ridden him and now his trot is getting much better (in terms of relaxing, going slow, etc.). If it continues, we will try the canter under saddle again very soon.
In my case, I am keeping things slow for the horse, as I have no good reason to canter him right away (especially if I know it might not go well). I would rather his trot be as relaxed as possible, so that when I ask him to canter he will just go right into it and not get too excited.
Try to find a mellow horse you can ride to get your confidence back before you go back to riding the horse that took off with you. It is also good you will be working on the lunge.
I would take a few rides and just work on stuff that you know and are good at to get your confidence back. If you are at all nervous or tense the canter will not go well. Once you are back in the groove and feeling relaxed I would take her into the arena and ask in a corner for the canter, canter a stride or two and transition to back to trot. I find that it is difficult for a horse to balance on the lunge with a rider at first so its best to be in the arena. It will be more comfortable for both of you. Just breathe deep and relax. Stick to a couple strides of canter mixed in with lots and lots of trot.
I would also agree that you want a nice, slow relaxed trot for the upward transition to the canter. If you get a running trot, you'll likely get a running canter.
What I did was practice in a round pen, if my mare got too fast I would slow her down by pulling her in a bit........didn't take her long to catch on we weren't racing!
There are a couple of things here that would make me nervous as a riding instructor!
I'm in a similar situation. I'm not scared of the lope, I'm scared of 'what if she bucks' when I'm in the lope. I fell last year from a surprise crow hop during the lope and broke my finger.
Then when I think of riding in the roundpen first, I am scared of my leg being squashed against the side....lol.
Most of my students who are nervous about trotting or cantering for the first time I'll put on a lunge line. I prefer they start with their hands on their hips and their breathing relaxed - I have them sing the ABCs to help keep them breathing while they do it. If they need to they can hold on to the saddle - but the moment they reach for it I slow the horse back to a walk. When you grab forward you close your pelvis and tense your core all of these things give horses good reason to run off. Typically for the lope I'll have them do a relaxed sitting trot, with their hands on their hips and I'll get the horse to canter- so they just have to worry about getting used to the feel of it - not worrying about the horse an ounce.
Can your trainer do that for you?
A little scared myself
I decided that I was getting a horse 2 years ago. I have noticed the more I work with them and the more I ride the more confident I become. There are still things that I am nervous about and one is putting my standardbred into a canter. I am afraid he will take off on me. I have however rode him in a round pen at a canter and was fine.
But doing it out in the open makes me nervous. But my love for horses has always been there and now that I have them home I work with them much more than before. I will get there on my own time. I believe that you need to gain your horses trust before they will truly do what you ask of them.
Also when I ride only once a week my nerves seem to just stay... :-P.
I hope this helps a bit:)
Thanks everyone, I really appreciate all your help. And as to the last question, yes my trainer will do that for me :) Thanks again everyone one!
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