Building up more confidence... Any advice?
I've been riding for about two and a half months, but lately I realized how scared I was of horses because of what happened at my last lesson:
As I was going to bridle my horse, she started to walk out the door into the stable. This horse is 16 hands and the lead mare! Having nothing but the reins around her neck and being a tiny 14 year old, I was freaking out because I knew if she wanted to gallop back to the pasture, there would be nothing I could do about it. I'd never forgive myself if she ran off and broke her legs because the bridle tangled her up...
Luckily, my instructor and another girl who had been riding for years were just around the corner and helped me out of the situation.
After that, I was really shaken. For the first ten minutes after, I just wanted to leave horses and never look back. Once we started with our lesson, I began to feel good again. But I'm still REALLY nervous my lesson horse is going to walk off again, and this time, my instructor might not be there to stop her. (However, I think I'll put her in the middle cross-ties, facing away from the doors, so she doesn't get any ideas.)
How do I build my confidence? The horse I ride, Goose, really matches my riding style, we even came in sixth at my first show! I just get really, really nervous handling her. She's never bitten or kicked me, (she has threatened to kick while picking her hooves, another confidence-crusher.) but at my last stable, the horse I rode wasn't allowed to be tacked up by riders because he kicked, bit, and was girthy. I rubbed his neck and he tried to bite me, which I why, (I'm guessing) is why I'm terrified around a horse's head! Goose is one of the three beginner's horses. She is very calm, and is better to tack and groom (in my opinion) that the other two beginner horses. One I cannot stand riding (She fights my hands and doesn't match my rythm), and the other has tried to nip me several times.
So, what do you do think I should do to build my confidence? Ask if I could ride a super-compliant horse? Get the instructor to stand by while I tack and groom?
Thanks for all your help, horse forum-ers!
I would definitely ask to work for a while with a more compliant horse. Personally I would ask the trainer to show me what to do when she threatened to kick, and just give me pointers or kudos for doing something right. Other than that time will help you gain confidence as well as more docile "been there, done that" horses.
P.S. why was a lesson horse trying to kick? And walk off? I would ask your trainer because maybe these are habits that recently developed.
A good stable/instructor will only pair ultra-compliant horses with beginners. I would talk to the instructor and explain your situation to see if he/she can pair you with a more compliant horse. If one is not available, you might consider switching stables/instructors.
I'd be upfront and tell your instructor then. These behaviors might be something that just occurred and she needs to be retrained out of. Still couldn't hurt to go with a super compliant horse instead while that's being worked through. If it makes you feel any better we've had a couple of lesson horses where I work that got into some bad habits. We had no idea until the kids started talking to us, and voicing their concerns. While we were fixing those they got to ride the most docile horses we could find and it really helped their confidence boost. :)
I would ask your instructor to give you a few lessons off riding and focus on ground work. It sounds like you are more timid around horses when on the ground than in the saddle and the only way to get better and more confident is to work with them on the ground. In this case, it sounds like you definitely need the trainer right there to tell you exactly what to do whenever the horse tries to do something you don't want. Ask her to teach you how to lunge, lead the horse through obstacle courses, etc. It may sounds over simple to you, but the more you handle horses on the ground the easier it becomes. It takes time and practice.
As others have said, just tell you instructor. This horse might be good for you ridden but you need to get your confidence up. I don't know if this horse is this way naturally, or it's taking advantage of your lack of confidence, but tell your instructor how you feel. Hopefully they can assign you something more suitable.
To me, part of being confident is just deciding to be. Sometimes with horses I get a bit overwhelmed when they do something "bad" and start worrying about what might happen. Then I take a moment, calm down and decide to take charge. It can be scary but horses respond best to strong leadership. You're in the safest position when you're the boss, the leader. Remember that, if you're feeling scared take that feeling as a reminder to be tougher. If she's walking away you place the reins right at the top of her neck (just behind her ears) and pull until she turns around, facing the other way.
I agree with TessaMay. You need more lessons on the ground. I would start there with a super easy-going horse so you get the feel of how it's supposed to be without the added stress of having the horse misbehave. Let the instructor show you how to pick up the horses feet with confidence, bridle with confidence etc... whatever you are having problems with, watch your instructor do it, then have your instructor standing there coaching you how to do it and then eventually have her stand there without her saying anything. This should really boost your confidence and make you feel like when you are doing the task alone, you really know how to do it, and with confidence. How are you in the saddle, if anything seems confusing or scares you then let your instructor show you how to do it. I know having an understanding instructor when I was starting out helped a lot.
You could ask the instructor to stand bye until you feel ready. Ask for lunge line lessons, spend more time just grooming, ask for pointers on how to handle her more effectively, remember to stand tall and try your best to hide any fear from your horse, maybe spend some time practising lungeing and join up with the horse. Join up is based on wild horse behaviour and is used to teach the horse that you are the boss in a non-violent way.
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