I've been riding for 10 years now, and I still have fear issues. I get nervous about jumping, skiddish horses, unfamiliar situations, and going faster than a canter. I've taken some nasty falls over the years, and I'm sure that has added to my fear, but I feel like I've always had to fight my mind. For example, my trainer knows I'm capable of jumping 2', but I sure as heck don't feel inclined to - I will, but I'll be nervous the whole time. I do not have a horse of my own at the moment, and I ride everyone elses horses. I recently made the IHSA riding team at my school - my coach knows of my fear issues, and since I'm only in 2A, I figure showing won't be that big of a deal. I guess she figures if I'm working for a team instead of just myself, I'll get over my fears. But who knows if that's gonna happen. I do not trust any horse I get on, and I know that being aware is important whenever one rides, but I can't seem to get the extreme distrust out of my head.
I'm wondering if anyone has any tips besides practicing - I already do that multiple times a week. 8)
It sounds like you just need some confidence boosters.
I think showing will do one of two things: completely break you, or completely make you. It depends on how you look at things. During my first years of showing, I sucked. I won't lie, it was bad. I had like three horses get loose on me and I fell off once in a parade. I never, EVER placed at my first shows and my horse somehow (don't ask me how) managed to lever the left loading door completely off the trailer once.... Yea.
The only reason I'm still riding (much less showing) is that I never really took it all to heart. I took each instance as a learning opportunity. I guess, no matter how many nasty spills I had, I always figured, whats the worst that could happen? Maybe people will laugh at me, so what.
The worst fall came during a bareback class in a show. I was riding a friend's OTTB and we almost won. Well, something happened and he took off at a full gallop. To my credit I magaged to stay on pretty good untill the moron animal plowed straight into another girl's horse. The impact sent me flying about 10 feet and I landed on my head. I didn't break anything but everyone thought I had a concussion.
Instead of laughing at me, people treated me like a hero. Being only 12, it kind-of wen't to my head. I came away with more confidence than doubt, just because of the perspective I took.
The only advice I can give you is this: life is too short to let fear run things. If you never take a chance and get out there, you won't really know what could have happened. Just jump in and see; when it come's to horses, you're probably going to have more fun than you think.
I think most of us have been there at some point. I remember when I first got Dancer (also my first horse) who was a trained-for-the-track-but-too-slow-to-race-TB and I spent the first year on her.. then off of her. I swear I spent as much time in the air or on the ground as I did on her back. It totally wrecked my confidence. Since I was young when I got her, I had spent most of my previous riding career on trust-worthy ponies and older horses, so this was a complete 180 for me. I went to my lessons crying and came home crying, but my dad (bless his soul!) didn't let me quit or sell her. He told me I had to work through it. At some points I hated him and riding, but I kept going to my lessons, kept falling off, and had some pretty darn nasty ones that my parents thought would be my breaking point, but slowly (gradually) I started falling off less often... Dancer and I started to become a team rather than working against one another. It seemed that at our year anniversary, we just "clicked" and all was well after that. My point it, I know what you're talking about.
My best advice for you would be to talk to your trainer and see if you can ride one horse consistantly for a while, and make sure that horse is well-schooled, one that knows his job so you can concentrate on gaining your confidence back.
Another suggestion that really helped me: Before a lesson, imagine what you'll be doing that ride, and ride through it in your mind, and make sure you have a good ride in your mind. I once had a terrible show at this one barn (I fell off over every course I did, my horse almost killed herself on our trailer, I just about lost a thumb... it was a terrible show.) and so the next time it came to show at that barn, I was extremely nervous. So the night before the show, I laid in bed and thought through every class I'd be in. I rode the courses (it was hunter, so not hard to figure out) in my mind, not making any mistakes. I fell asleep to that and woke up confident instead of nervous, so maybe try that?
Your best bet is to see if you can ride a really reliable horse to ride and build your confidence again.
Another thing: I found that for me, the more I pushed myself to do bigger stuff (like taking that step to jump 3'6" was huge for me) made me realize that I could handle the littler stuff. The more I pushed, no matter how scared I was, the more confident I became. My old trainer can't believe that I'm now a woman who will jump on just about any horse and do whatever with it.
As for the cantering thing: my trainer once told me you can only ride as fast as the horse can go. I don't know why, but that really helped. Whenever a horse started going faster than I wanted it to, I thought "oh, well.. I'm still on him... this isn't so bad! Calm down, and figure out how to stop him." Freaking out is not good. Take a deep breath and think: you've been riding for 10 years.. how do you stop a horse? It's pretty much the same at any gait.
Truthfully Tim, I understand where your coming from. I don't really think that everyone was incredibly amazing for their first few, or a lot, of shows.
I am going through a confidence builder right now. There are some times when I'm riding and me and my horse are doing great and I feel more and more confident and then there are days when he just goes crazy, bucking around and rearing with the saddle on before I even get on and those are the days that bring my confidence down a few notches even though deep down I know he is just chock full of energy since he hasn't been turned out yet but instead I think the worst and I think that if I get on him he'll buck me off and run away. I got on him and we rode and he was fine. A little frisky and jumpy but he wasn't trying to hurt me or be dangerous he was just playful. A few times, since I hadn't trusted him yet, I got scared once or twice and hopped off right away to see that my horse had only been trying to step past a rope or cone or that he was staring outside at a passerby.
My whole life I have never trusted horses and now I do. There are times when I second guess myself. It may help you to say trusting your horse is the best thing you can do. I was afraid to trust them until I found out that horses make mistakes too, they don't try to hurt us and if they do it was an accident or they were scared. Horses sometimes cant help some of the things they do. When they get scared and jump and you fall off they weren't thinking "Lets make my rider fall off!" They were thinking "Ah we're going to die!"
:) Ya know? I still am unsure of my horse at times since he is scared of a lot of things but to be honest, the times I'm unsure of him, are the times bad things happen. He's only bucked me off once and that was my fault and I know it was and I would have bucked me off too.
To add to all the great stuff everyone has already said, to get over some fears it was important for me to be able to put a label on what exactly it was that I was afraid of. George Morris says in one of his books that there are 2 kinds of fear: physical fear and mental fear.
Physical fear is what most people have when they start, and apparently what adults start getting when they get older! A fear of getting hurt, of falling off, etc. I rode a really spooky horse for a while and it started making me ride really defensively. I started assuming what my horse was going to spook at and bracing myself (which only makes him spook more...). So I put myself on some great solid confidence builders for a bit that never spooked at anything. I quit thinking about it so much and now I really don't care too much, even when I get on spooky horses.
Mental fear is a fear of making a mistake. That was my biggest problem! I rode with a trainer for a while that would FREAK OUT if you missed a distance to any fence, was horrible if you did poorly at shows, etc. I STILL suffer from some fear from her! I can barely stand missing a distance... But I have to rationalize to myself. Is it that big of a deal? Honestly? no. Does it really matter to me what people think of me as a rider? Honestly? no. I had to tell myself that over and over until I started to believe it. What you say to yourself and how you label yourself is important. If you think of yourself as an unconfident rider? You will be.
I would like to add too that you need to give yourself a little grace. It's ok to be scared, almost everyone has a little fear in them (I think it's safe to have a little healthy fear!), it's what we do with that fear that matters. Don't let people think you're stupid or a wimp. Deal with it in the best way you know how and enjoy yourself!
i have found that riding that same horse has REALLY built my confidence ... it has made me really poor into her and then in turn she trusts me, building my trust as well ... i rode in college and was always riding a different horse and it tested me for sure. I was trying to get through the ride ever day opposed to enjoying the ride.
just a thought ...
Thanks for all the tips so far!
In regards to riding the same horse consistently: I did own a horse previously - riding him every day actually hurt my confidence, because he was inclined to rearing me off or galloping away. (I was overmounted.) I do ride some horses consistently, with lessons it's a mix, but I am riding my friend's horse multiple times a week. I understand what you're saying, and I would love to ride just one horse, but that's not possible for me - I just don't have the funds, and I move from state to state too much, to own a horse of my own right now. =(
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