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xdrybonesxvalleyx 05-13-2010 04:36 PM


I know confidence is problably about 10% of all of the questions asked on here, but I've been having my share of confidence issues.

To start with, I'm not a very outgoing person at all. Through medical disability, my entire childhood was filled with what first came from not being able to climb on the monkey bars to losing faith in my own form. That comes from just being a girl, but from thinking myself overweight at 120, I only moved up from there, and up. I have tons and tons of neurological pain and the meds have made me gain at least 30 pounds. I got off the bad meds, but I'm working now on losing that weight and gaining my strength (and the deteriorating nerves and muscles so aren't helping).

Nothing really /happened/. I ride a good horse that loves to go fast. The problem is control. There's the nice controlled trot, and then there's the "I'm going to run this as fast as I possibly can". I've been getting better at planting my heels and not leaning forward, but the problems mainly come from when he takes off. I've getting better with controlling him, but my main problem comes from fear itself. I just can't get over fear.

My trainer has a paint, who gets very very moody, was freaking out about some guys in a pasture across the road. My horse had been ran recently, and he bolted. His freaking out turned into my freaking out. Part of the problem came from my stirrups stretching over a period of time so that they (as far up as they would go) were still too long for me. So, I couldn't get my heels down while bending my legs. I've recently switched to a better saddle, but I've been leaning forward and making him go faster. He went from a run to a canter and in turning him I slipped off, and in what was more of a bail, I hit the ground.

Regardless of jeans and a helmet, hitting concrete still hurts, but I've mostly just been shaken to return to a canter on him. Even his trots I fear just because I don't know if he's going to just trot or if he's going to become a speed demon.

Rule of Reason 05-14-2010 09:56 AM

Concrete, ow! I'm glad you weren't hurt. Believe me, practically everyone who gets on a horse has fear issues sometime or other. The biggest way to deal with them is to adjust your attitude. Different things work for different people. For myself what works best is to step back and take a longer view: How would I feel if I never rode/cantered/jumped/left the arena [put your fear here] again? Then I try to imagine that. Usually what I come up with is a sense of loss or embarrassment. That tells me that I really do enjoy what I'm afraid of, and that helps turn the negative thoughts into positive ones.

It sounds like you have a physical problem that makes your legs less effective--am I understanding you right? If so, is your instructor experienced in teaching students like you? It IS possible to ride effectively with disabilities. But it's really important to have the right horse, and I'm not sure you do. Are there any other options?

If your biggest physical problem is overweight, though, then it sounds like you're already working on this and in fact are making progress, which is great! Here again, I'm wondering if your horse is appropriate for you. If he's not big enough for you, then when you lose your balance and fall forward (which we all do), he really has to speed up to compensate. Your instructor should be able to explain this in detail to you, and in fact ought to be able to demonstrate it to you herself.

Do you do other exercise besides riding? Everyone ought to--hardly anyone does--but for you it might be especially important. You need control over your own body before you can control your horse.

A book you might be interested in is Jane Savoie's That Winning Feeling. Even if you're not going to be competing, she talks a lot about how to convert negative thoughts into positive ones. Also, the Chronicle of the Horse bulletin board has a separate forum just for equestrians with disabilities.

Don't give up! Look for different ways to get there. I'm sure you can do it.

Ridehorses99 05-14-2010 10:47 AM

I agree with Rule.....I am not sure this is the correct horse for you at this time. If you do not have any other options of horses to ride, then move back into a controlled environment (arena) to work on the little things and get your confidence back. Once you have complete control at all gaits in the arena, expand your riding area to include places outside the arena. If this takes 6 months, it takes 6 months. Improving the little things (seat, balance, control, heels down) and your riding skills in and out of the arena will be greatly improved......along with your confidence.

RawhideKid 05-14-2010 11:03 AM

If'n I can add my two cents....

It certainly may be the horse not being appropriate for you, but if yer like like to conquer a thing and push through it. Well, certainly be wise and know your limitations. Knowing where your horse is at is one thing, and then knowing where you are another biggy.

You certainly need a horse that you can control and which is controlable, but as they say..."we learn to walk before we run"....and we need to be CONFIDENT with each step and level of progress, with each speed or activity...and build up to the next as we are ready. The muscles, balance, feel and the relationship with the horse ALL grow together. It doesn't matter HOW LOOOOONNNNNGGGGGGGG this takes.

Keep focused on where you and your horse are at TOGETHER. The balance, feel, strength, confidence and relationship...the control, the trust and responsiveness between you both.

Confidence isn't meant to be false or elusive, but is based upon REAL building blocks of a solid foundation and understanding.

So get solid with each pace and level of movement. Feel and sense everything about you and your horse growing into it. Let the roots GROW DEEP before you expect a tree! :D

EPMhorse 05-14-2010 11:15 AM

Dry Bones Valley,
There are two videos (part three coming shortly I believe) on overcoming rider fear at They are linked on their front page, and you don't need to be a member to view them. These short videos are just a start, but talk about the psychology of fear. They may help you to think about the situation in a different way.

It is common to have a fear after a fall or tramatic event. You are not alone in this. I would agree with the others that a change in horses may be a good thing. Switching to a more dependable, quieter horse is not a step back - it's dealing with an issue so that you can move forward.


RawhideKid 05-14-2010 12:00 PM

For me, the biggest contributer to fear or nervousness is not knowing what to expect. When I first got my little 5 year old Gypsygirl and got on her we BOTH felt very disconnected and didn't know what to expect of each other. We need to be aware of this reality between two very sensitve and intelligent creatures.

We can't side step or leave out that ground level (literally) eye to eye, hand to hand, grooming, talking....getting to know each other starting point. They learn to see that you feed them, care for them, love on them....they feel your affection....and you become their comfort zone. We take this with us when we get on.

I remember getting on an elephant with my then 3 or 4 year old son. We were to just sit there and be led around by someone else. I never felt such fear and apprehension! I really had to control myself and tell myself everything was okay!

And why? Because I felt NO connection with this HUGE animal! There was absolutely no relationship or any control. It was freaky. What added to the fear was the thought of this beast sensing my fear! AAGGHHH!!

xdrybonesxvalleyx 05-14-2010 12:46 PM

I'm actually fairly fairly shocked at the responses. Thanks a LOT.

Rule of Reason--I'm big on education, and anything I fall in love with I read to death. I'm the type of person that has books and books and books and knows in the literary way how to do things, and I'll definetely take that suggestion and to look that up.

I've been working a lot on exercising. My body is odd, and I've been discovering how to exercise effectively. I can't run, running is /very/ bad for me. Due to foot pain caused by plastic hurting my soles I stopped wearing my braces (which I can't ride with, I just can't), but having them for years I think has effectively adjusted the way I walk. I've been working on my calves and stretching--I almost had to have surgery to help my foot go up because I can lay my feet flat when I lay on my back. I've been able to do pushups with a ball because I can't hold myself up with just my toes, and I've learned lots of non-impact exercises like biking and using an elliptical for exercising. I'm also trying to do swimming, since summer's coming up.

I do agree the problem is the horse, but the problem's also with me. When I first started any little movement freaked me out. I'm very comfortable with him on the ground. I understand how he is, and I do agree that the grooming/tacking moments are very important for your connection. My problem is that I've seen the potential with him, and my fear isn't necessarily cantering or trotting, it's the fact that I don't know if he's going to do a controlled canter or trot, or if he's goiing to do what he loves to do, and that's run as fast as he can. I was moved to him because of my leg problems, and I was put on an older horse who was recovering from some abuse, and with my legs at that time I really couldn't kick well, and I needed a horse that was more responsive to kissing and less to just kicking. I kicked her for hours just to get her to trot, and she wouldn't. Buddy's good with kissing and he's good with trotting, my problem is just the control factor. I just fear losing control. I've hit concrete, and to tell the truth, that wasn't half as bad as I thought it would be. But recently I've lost control with him cantering and I've gained control back, and every time I do that I get a little more confidence. He's very sensitive, and I've learned that me calming down and doing things a bit more relaxed has indeed helped him gain control.

I am looking for a horse to buy, and these horses are her lesson horses, and they're like people. All of them have their personalities. The horse that I'm going to be moving up to has more problems with staying still, and walking, but he's very gaited, and she thinks he'd be good for me. Buddy's actually very rough trotting, which I think is good for my experience, but this other horse will be good for me once I get the strength to get on alone. To tell the truth, everyone says I never should be able to considering my condition but my doctor's told me of several men with my condition that have been able to overcome it. My relatives, who are only in their early twenties, some have to have people stay at their house because they fall and can't get up, but I'm really concerned with my health and I want to overcome this. I just really, I just don't know.

I'm the type of person that really soaks up information. Having a better saddle's really helped, and I have been more observant..jst those little things, are helping. When she says I'm leaning too far forward I am making a conscience effort to try to make that better, and I'm hoping that all of this will turn into good habits. He's not my horse, and I understand his personality, and he's been getting better, I've been getting better, I just have somewhat unrealistic goals.

For instance, I /am/ wanting to move to English. English means handicap ramp, in a sense. I seriously just, I do enjoy running, and I've considered racing, and jumping. I do poles and barrels with Buddy, but it's not what I've been interested in all my life. I am also feeling the lighter tack will be good for me, and English style riding woiuld benefit me. My problem is gaining my strength to get on. The good thing is I've been very blessed to have a trainer who is actually very knowledgable, and very kind, and she is trying to find what will be best for me. While I'm working personally, she is knowing what's good for me, and she's actually working on certification for handicapped. I'm not completely handicapped, and I do feel that my problems I can overcome. A lot, with him especially is fed on fear. I think I read someone's signature saynig it's like nuts and bolts, and when the horse is nuts the rider bolts..or maybe it's when the rider's nuts the horse bolts. All I know is that when I freak, he just gets worse, and I have noticed staying calm is helping, and I am thinking maybe just cantering on a lunge or just around the arena will make me feel a lot better.

Cheers for anyone who read all that. Sorry for the rant, but thanks a TON for all of the opinions and support.

EPMhorse 05-14-2010 01:07 PM

Dry Bones Valley,
I reccomend the book "Centered Riding" by Sally Swift. She had physical problems that made it difficult to ride. The concept and classes are structured around feeling the horse, and your body in space - connecting with the horse. Second edition is better.

I have taken two workshops through some top Centered Riding instructors, and have learned a great deal from them.

xdrybonesxvalleyx 05-14-2010 01:34 PM

Thank you, that will be a new buy!

Ridehorses99 05-14-2010 03:57 PM

Well, I can truly say that I not only admire your determination to learn and overcome your fears and apprehensions, but also the fact that you are not letting your physical challenges stand in the way of doing something you obviously love to do. A lot of people would have used the fall as an excuse to walk away. You definitely have the right attitude and a determination to improve your riding and your partnership with the horse you are riding. Kudos !!!

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