IS it time to hang up the helmet??
As many of you know, I've been back in the saddle for a little over a year, after 7 years off due to a car accident and traumatic brain injury. I'm finally back with my old trainer(not the one mentioned in posts about the "friend" stealing), and couldn't be happier.....except for one thing. Over the past few weeks, I have become terrified to ride. I had a hard fall April 14th, but got back on and went on to do my first ever show on the 17th, riding the same horse I fell off of. He was on trial, and my trainer and I both agreed he was a little too much horse for me. After the show on the 17th, I continued to ride the same horse for one more week before he went home, but could never bring myself to do more than walk around for 10 minutes and be done. Now, any time I'm at the barn, I make excuses as to why I can't ride. There are several beginner safe horses available to me, and even though I know they wouldn't throw anything at me that could cause a fall, I've been turning down the opportunities to ride them. These are VERY nice sale horses, from Trakehners to TBs, all of whom I know fairly well. My trainer has been great with my limitations, and understands my limits and fears very well, and I trust her to not put me on something I can't handle. We have a nice quiet 7 year old TB gelding(never raced) coming tomorrow for me to try for 2 weeks. I'm just worried that my nerves are going to get the better of me, and all of her hard work to set this up is going to be for nothing. I've had some bad experiences in the past year or so with some horses that were not a good fit for me, but no actual injuries resulted from that. I did give my mare back last month, after realizing she was NOT what was best for me, and my limited funds were best spent getting lessons and taking my time searcdhing for a suitable mount. I can't figure out WHY I'm suddenly afraid to have any physical contact with the horses. Even helping my trainer turn out and bring in scares me right now. WHAT can I do????? I'm starting to wonder if it's just my time to hang up the helmet and enjoy being a horse show pony mom to my almost 7 year old daughter. She fell off April 13th and broke her elbow, and I'm having a hard time telling her not to be scared when I can't take my own advice. Also any advice to build confidence with ground handling would be much appreciated. Cookies and milk to anyone who read this whole thing!
I won't say I know exactly what you're going through, but I definitely feel for you. I'm getting back into english riding, after a 2 year break and every little thing is just that little bit scarier. I'm a logical person, so I'm always thinking about the risks and weighing up the options, and that really affects my riding. A thing thats helped with me is to just ride at a level I'm comfortable at. That helped for a little while, but I got stuck in a rut, so my instructor convinced me to just progress. And you know what the best thing was that happened? The pony I ride spooked, and took off a canter and put in a few pigroots. That's quite a scary situation for someone who is just getting their confidence back, but it helped me so much. It taught me that I am capable, I managed to stay on. It was by far the most beneficial thing and it restored my confidence ten-fold.
I say all feelings are okay and if you are terrified, then do hang it up for a while. Horses will always be there as they are not goign extinct. I am willing to bet, you will get drawn back in at some point in your life and what an adventure that will be when it happens.
.sIf you hang up the helmet ( i think ) you'll always retain that fear and uncertainty. (or you might regain the confidence to ride, but that fear will always be there until you find a horse that will make you feel safe and protected)
In all honestly, I'd say you do ride again you need to ride a VERY docile horse. You need to build up that trust and confidence again, and know that no matter what happens that horse would take care of you. I recently started riding again too after some time of break, and they put me on a very docile horse. I remember thinking when I had to canter, that I was scared, but that i'd believe in him that he wouldn't do anything wrong -- and he didn't. Riding a horse which you can't trust in will always result in you being too frightened.
If you do try it, go for the docile ones. The steady plod plods -- even the lazy ones where you have to work work work to get them going.
Please note this is only in my opinion, and I don't mean to be mean to anyone who has another. I.. meh, just think you need something calm to temper your fear.
I had to ride this other horse called manzi. He's nice, except he tries to kill you when you tighten the girth. Hehe, or just bite you. I was putting the saddle onto his back and he turned his head towards me -- i got so -frightened- that I fell backwards with the saddle, straight to the ground as i leapt away from him.
I fell ass-first - LITERALLY into a water bucket. My buttocks was drenched. Before impact i remember thinking "I hope something breaks my fall! :P" lol
Have you considered seeking a professional to help you work through your fears? I was so discouraged and afraid of my gelding the first year I had him and went to a woman who specialized in sport mentality and fears. She helped me get my confidence back.
Good luck. These sorts of things take time. My mother had a nasty fall years ago off of a 16hh gelding and she couldn't walk for months. She now will ride but nothing over 14hh. It's a work in progress.
I would suggest not buying a horse for a while. Go back to taking lessons with your trainer. They should have something that is completely safe. Start by working at grooming the safe horse. Learn to trust at least one horse to the point where you can ride but don't rush yourself. When you have a horse that you have built trust on the ground transitioning to their back will become less of an issue.
I do know a little about how you feel, I train horses and just finished backing my 2yr old a couple of weeks ago. I have to say that the first initial thought of getting on his back was intense. I always get nervouse before I get on a new horse. It's natural. The thing with him though was that we had built up such a good trusting relationship that I was able to work myself past the point of fear just enough to get on his back. Everything went fine and now we are trail riding.
So in short, get your trainer to set you up with one of the safe horses to work with. Build some trust though grooming and touching. Then when you are more comfortable saddle up and take them into a safe area like an arena. Work at getting yourself past the point of fear, have the trainer hold the horse. If you have to, close your eyes as you get into the saddle. Once you are up their you will probably feel a sense of release. Don't push yourself to move unless you are more comfortable, then get your trainer to walk you around and let you go when you are feeling better. It will take a while and a lot of self pushing but you can get over it.
You could even take your daughter with you when you work at getting on. I found that when I was scared off of a horse if I had people around that you want to show how to overcome fear then it pushes you that little bit more to allow you to get on and go.
Hope that helps a little, and I hope you are able to work through this.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being nervous. There's absolutely nothing wrong with not riding. You've had a TBI, and from my understanding, there are lifelong aftereffects. That combined with your daughter's need for you makes it appropriate for you to be careful.
When we're not sure what we really want, one way to decide is to test ourselves. You can test yourself by forbidding yourself from riding for a period of time. Even tell other people what you're doing. I don't agree that it's always appropriate to get right back in the saddle and fight your fears. This is only a hobby we're talking about, and an expensive one. The only reason to keep doing it is because you desperately want to. So taking yourself out of it for a while may help you get clear on what you really want.
Good luck, and remember, either way is fine. Don't let anybody telll you differently.
Try joining up with a horse that is suited for you, once you find one. (How to Join Up With a Horse - wikiHow) this will help you accomlish something with the horse and trust me, it's very rewarding! Also, after joining up, you may feel a bond with your horse and trust him more. You and your horse can now work together at what ever level you want and take it a little bit at a time.
Thank you to everyone for all of the kind words and good advice. I'm going to be sitting down with my trainer tomorrow and we are going to discuss our "plan of attack". I think for now I'm going to help out around the barn(cleaning, feeding, etc) to get my horsey fix, and as my confidence comes back, I will start helping with turn out, bringing in, bathing, etc. Once I feel better, we will focus on the riding and such. She's not pushing me past where I want to be pushed, and I am very grateful for that. I'm perfectly happy getting up at 4am to be a horse show mommy for my kiddo. The smile on her face is worth more than ANY horse to me.
I went through a period of being very scared of riding, and ESPECIALLY jumping. All in two weeks, I had my first fall ever off of my trainer's new supposedly broke horse (he bolted, bucked four times HUGE and I just went flying, landed on my front, was covered from head to toe in bruises and scratches, dislocated my knee, and completely broke my helmet in half, thank god i was wearing one!), then when I got back on after my knee felt stronger, my favourite, super well broke lesson horse took off bucking, with his hind legs coming far above his head every time. although I didn't fall off, my confidence was totally shaken. Right after that, I rode another horse, and somehow his bit was on backwards (none of us can figure out how it happened, or how no one noticed), and he, too, ran straight through the bit, and throughout the hour-long lesson, he bucked 17 times. At this point, I really didn't want to be in the saddle anymore.
What really helped me was taking my favourite horse for walks (on foot) every day for about a week. I brought a body brush with me, and we would walk down this nice grassy lane, then stop every now and then, and he would graze while i gently brushed him. We just enjoyed each other's company with no pressure that comes from riding.
After that, I went for lots of trail rides at the walk on completely bomb-proof horses with a few older ladies who didn't want to do anything more than meander along the trails. When I was sitting on a horse comfortably and confidently, I started riding with a trainer who just stood in the middle of the arena and told me what to do, but without the pressure of her perfecting my riding. For a couple weeks, I was just re-learning how to enjoy riding. Pretty soon, I was very eager to spend a lot of time in the saddle, working on my horsemanship. It just helped to take a break from serious riding, but not take myself out of the horse world completely. Within a month and a half, I was jumping again.
Do what feels right for you, but you obviously love horses, and used to enjoy riding, so I think you should stick with it. It's a lot of work, and there are always times when you don't want to do something (riding, jumping, mucking out a stall, etc.) but it's just a part of what you love, and you just need support and a little push. Good luck, I hope you choose to continue working with horses.
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