Scared to get back into riding - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 08-04-2020, 02:49 AM Thread Starter
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Scared to get back into riding

I switched to English riding a while ago but am still pretty much a beginner. I was working with a trainer on getting into jumping and knew the basics as I had ridden before but needed a lot of work on the canter. I was really inconsistent with it and some days I would get it and other days I wouldn't but every time she asked me to do canter I felt unsafe and freaked out. I was finally starting to improve and could canter circles and over small poles but the horse I rode tripped and went down in the front end and I fell off and landed badly and snapped my humerus bone just below the shoulder. I had to get a metal plate and screws put in and take four months off for it to heal. I got back on a horse I have known for a long time and trust right away and wasn't really nervous about riding him except at a canter. The trainer who was there with me when I broke my arm seemed really disappointed and embarrassed with me and hasn't talked to me since breaking my arm.

I have lost all my confidence in myself and my ability to ride. I have had to think a lot about if I want to be done with riding horses or not because I'm afraid I'll never get it right. I am supposed to be starting lessons at a new barn soon but I am terrified. It has been six months since I've last ridden. I know the longer I put it off the more scared I will be. I'm scared to try cantering again and I'm worried any trainer I go to won't have the patience to work with me because they want to produce good riders who win shows. Riding isn't really fun at all for me anymore because I'm so stressed about it. Can anyone offer me any advice on getting my confidence back and being able to enjoy riding again? Or how to stop being so scared to ride again?

I fell off a horse and got badly injured and now I'm terrified to ride again. How can I get my confidence back?
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post #2 of 19 Old 08-04-2020, 03:55 AM
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I am sorry you got hurt and have lost your confidence. Yes, you can get it back.

I lost my confidence as a teen and stayed out of riding for about 20 years. I just told myself that I was not any good at riding and I did not actually like horses. Then my daughter started having lessons and being around horses again, I remembered how much I actually loved them and I was not going to let my fear stop me from riding again. I decided it was something I wanted in my life again.

What has helped me is finding a kind and patient coach. Just keep trying and looking till you find one. I went through three others before I settled where I am. The first places I tried, even though they knew I was an anxious returning rider, tried to push me to canter too early. My current place waited until I was really well established and comfortable at trot. This took about 2 years of one lesson per week. It is ok to go slow! Then I was happy and confident starting cantering.

It sounds like the trainer that was working with you when you got hurt was pushing you too much. I don't think if you feel freaked out and unsafe when you are cantering that you should be cantering. It is just going to affect your position as you will be anxious and tensed up.

Trial different places and make it clear what your goals are from the get go (e.g., "I want to take things slowly and get happy, confident, and balanced at walk and trot, and only try canter when I am comfortable doing it"). There are plenty of things that you can work on at walk and trot until you have got over the anxiety.
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post #3 of 19 Old 08-04-2020, 05:36 AM
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There are few riders who haven't had an "oh crap, what am I doing on a horse?" at one point or another.

If you get on a horse then you can expect, at one point or another to fall. Majority of those falls are nothing other than bruised pride. Unfortunately for you, yours wasn't.

So, there is really only one way to get over a fear and that is to face it. Ride at a pace you are comfortable with before pushing yourself into the canter.

As for the instructor that was with you when you had your accident, go talk to her, tell her that it was one of those things, she couldn't stop the horse tripping and you hold her no ill feelings.

Riding is a risk sport, realise that. Analyse whether you are prepared to take those risks and move on.
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post #4 of 19 Old 08-04-2020, 06:48 AM
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Although a injury happened, it was a one-time in how long a period of time riding?
I'm not sure I would give up something that gave me such pleasure so easily...
And yes, I've been hurt a few times and lost my confidence in myself riding too.
The realization though that you were not afraid on a trusted mount but nervous to try to ride at a gait that was giving you trouble when you did take that fall to me is natural.
I would back up a bit and get again feeling solid and safe astride, then once you've ridden a bit again start to work on the jumping till that canter is solid and comfortable to ride for you.
Only once you are secure riding on the flat would I again start at basics of learning to jump...
This is a refresher for you, but very much needed for your confidence level and there is no shame for you in wanting a refresher of subject matter till you are comfortable doing this too before you move on and do more.

I have a feeling your instructor is avoiding you because they don't know what to say to you...
Accidents happen in riding, it is part of the sport.
Your instructor though is uncomfortable because it was under her tutelage and guidance you fell and were injured...
Were you being rushed along faster than you were ready for, faster than you had accomplished the necessary foundation of work so when jumping you would be safer, have some "tools" at your disposal to use in those uh-oh moments...only you know the answer to that.
To me, you do sound like you don't trust the judgement of that instructor at this point and their avoiding you, you avoiding them is only making it worse.
If you don't trust the instructor, find a different one...
A instructor who gives you confidence in yourself and your abilities and one you trust to guide you as you learn to canter in rhythm and time with your horse, to jump fences...

If this were me, my confidence would be tanked...
I would want that steady mount to again start with...from the basics onward facing my fear and building my foundation of skills so I was secure in my mind and in my actual ability..
It is one thing to take a fall..
It is something else to take a fall severe enough you needed screws and plates to hold your arm together..
Build slowly your return.
Challenge yourself but also acknowledge there is now a stumbling block you need to smooth out before you can proceed forward and past that point...that will take time, a instructor who is able to work with you, instill confidence in you and that you have faith in to get you to and past that point in your mind..

Is that the instructor you rode with or a new, different one again only you know how you feel.
To me, if you not trust your instructor then don't get astride cause your nerves will do you in and make you miserable.
There is no shame is admitting you have {some} fear...the secret is working to, facing it and conquering that fear.
You learn to own that fear not the fear own you...master it in time and then move forward with strength in what you have accomplished.
I would talk with that instructor that you were injured riding with just to clear the air, then move on in the direction best for you.
For me, riding is like breathing...a part of me. A part of me I want to never give up except on my terms and fear is not a term I do easily.
Hugs and good luck.
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post #5 of 19 Old 08-04-2020, 07:21 AM
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I didn't even fall of at canter and I was terrified of it when I started riding. So I didn't ride it for four years. I took that pressure off completely and it was a much less stressful ordeal. I only started cantering when I got my balance much, much better and when I did it was a non-event. Caveat: I learned how to at least stay in the saddle in canter before I gave it up because canter can happen even if you don't ask for it - but you already know the basics of how to ride it.

Another thing that helped my confidence a lot is I stopped allowing trainers to push me when I wasn't ready. I don't give a toss what they think of me. I've been known to dismount an unsafe horse and hand it back to the trainer and I've also been known to exit the arena if I thought that other riders and horses were unevenly matched (and I was promptly proven correct in all of those instances - total meltdowns and horse loose in the arena in each case).

When I did get back into canter it was literally as if I've been riding it all along. You develop your seat and balance in trot enough that you are able to follow the horse no matter what.

Also, jumping: do not rush it. I only started jumping when I felt a physical draw to jump. I would be riding in the arena and all of a sudden a jump would just stand out in my vision. I could feel my body flying even though I was firmly on the ground. It was a really strange experience. I actually WANTED to jump, physically. Not just mentally. I kept finding myself on approach lines to jumps and it was clear to me how I would get us over those jumps. Strange. I only jump small jumps now and both me and my mare absolutely love it. But even now, if I get out there in a jumping lesson and for some reason I don't feel like jumping - I don't.

Trust your instincts and settle your fear by going at your own pace. DO NOT let trainers push you. If they will not back down, find a new trainer. I stopped falling off when I stopped listening to trainers who were pushing me beyond my capability. And my progress got faster - amazingly.
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post #6 of 19 Old 08-04-2020, 07:27 AM
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I think that every rider has been there. We have all had a fall (though not necessarily as severe as yours) and gotten nervous about riding again. It's human survival instinct - our brain is telling us that this is dangerous and that we shouldn't be doing it. But really, what happened to you was a freak accident. It's up to you whether you want to push through this and empower yourself to overcome your fear, or decide that it's too much.

You should be very honest with your coach. It's ok for you to stay at the trot for a long time. And maybe consider cantering on the lunge line at first so you don't have to worry about controlling the horse. You just need lots of good, quiet canters to overcome your memory of that one bad incident.

Visualization helps (picture a nice, quiet canter in your mind), and practice deep, yoga breaths when you feel the anxiety coming on. This takes practice so if you've never practiced yoga, find some online classes (I like Yoga with Adrienne) and learn to breath deep. Do it at the trot - practice inhaling for two or three strides, then exhaling for the same. Make sure they give you a horse that can easily transition to a smooth canter (horses that were trained Western do this well sometimes).

Hang in there. You'll be ok if you just keep at it.
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post #7 of 19 Old 08-04-2020, 07:35 AM
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I just want to put it out there that it's OK if you never canter. I think riding should be fun, not stressful.

I agree with @MeditativeRider that you need to find a coach you are happy with. Someone who will not push you past what you are comfortable with. IMO that's what happened with your old coach -- she pushed you too hard, past what your body and mind were telling you you should do, and you fell. Some people need to be pushed hard, but I think most of us don't. Most of us need to take things at our own speed. Find a coach you are happy with and be clear with her that you want to take things super slow. Honestly, tell her and tell yourself that you NEVER want to canter, which takes the pressure off everyone. Then, one day, if you change your mind, you can!

At my barn, the barn owner is a pushy instructor. However, there is one rider in one of my group lessons who took two lessons a week and only started cantering, and only for a few steps, after a couple of years. This rider has some sort of brace inside her back from falling off before, and was super clear that cantering was not in her comfort zone. And even the pushy instructor respected that.

I agree with @horselovinguy that your old instructor isn't embarrassed about you, she's embarrassed about herself. She no doubt feels bad about pushing you past what you were comfortable with and thus contributing to your accident. She probably feels so bad about it that she doesn't know what to say to you. At least, that's how I would feel.

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post #8 of 19 Old 08-04-2020, 09:25 AM
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"The trainer who was there with me when I broke my arm seemed really disappointed and embarrassed with me and hasn't talked to me since breaking my arm."

Depending on where you are and liability laws, insurance (lack there of), advice from lawyers... there are other reasons why the trainer may not be talking to you.

Horses trip over poles. Even the best of them with really good riders. Accidents happen. This was an accident. It wasn't the instructors fault as the slip could have happened at a trot, it wasn't your fault and it wasn't the fault of the horse. Perhaps you shouldn't have been doing pole work and maybe that was the mistake if there was one made.

Some of us don't even have to fall to have nerves kick in and confidence shattered. I joke now about doing the tango with one of mine but cheek to cheek with an animal of that size and injury happens. 8 hours of reconstruction. I was off horses for a total of two years. I still have some qualms not so much because I fear falling off but because I am older and know that I won't bounce back quickly. My balance isn't what it was prior either.

Be upfront. It doesn't matter if you never canter though I agree with knowing the basics of it as a just in case. If cantering isn't your goal then unless you plan to be in the show ring and know that you'll need to get past walk/trot start with someone that is all about basics and not about their students ribbon collections. Do you enjoy trails - find a group that rides at a barn that you can use a barn horse and get out of the ring. Relax. If you aren't there yet then ground work made into games and then in the saddle for more of the same. When you feel ready then ask to canter whether on a lead line or just on a large enough circle in an area where the horse has nowhere else to go and leave the poles out for now.

Some horse people change their horse, they change their tack and discipline, they change their instructor; they never change themselves.
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post #9 of 19 Old 08-04-2020, 03:35 PM
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I have had this happen, minus the broken bone. I think what makes this a harder fall to get over is that the HORSE tripped, not you losing your balance and falling off. Right in the middle of something that should be 'ho hum' just basic riding, he tripped and went down, hard. This can be really shocking, because you figure that your horse should be able to do his thing, and you are more worried about YOU doing your thing correctly.

We kind of take it for granted that the horse won't go down like that, so when it happens, it erodes that naive confidence. Never again will you ride with no thought to the possibility that the horse will go down. It's happened to me three times, at least, two of which resulted in very hard falls (I seem to have bones of steel, tho).

Afterward, it was very hard for me to trust any hrose at the canter. I had to work at it by doing a lot of trotting, and very short canters. I still am not very confident at the canter, but you can get back to it, in time.

As for your trainer, well, I am so NOT impressed. She should not have been pushing you forward so much when it was apparent that you were still hit and miss on the canter. And that she has not spoken to you, well, that is heartless, IMO.

Look into a totally new way to ride, for a bit. get out on the trails, ride uneven terrain, a lot, walk and trot it. This will make your eventual transition back to canter a non-event.
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post #10 of 19 Old 08-04-2020, 05:44 PM
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Lots of good advice here, so I really don't have anything new to add. I just wanted to reiterate that 1. There is no law that you have to canter and 2. Having a horse fall with you is scary!

I had a horse fall with me at the trot, and I rolled right down her neck and landed in front of her and luckily she didn't step on me and I wasn't hurt. But even with the "easy" landing, you bet I think about the horse falling with me whenever I go faster than a walk, and my heart starts racing if they trip at a walk too!

I would just start out with the goal of having fun, and only having fun. If cantering is scary, just have fun at a walk/trot and as you gain confidence, one of these days you will find that your horse transitions to a canter almost my accident and it will feel natural. That's the best way to do it, in my opinion.

I know a lot of instructors like to push their students, but one of the things that stuck with me from childhood was a swimming instructor that scared the crud out of me by putting me in deep water (where I couldn't touch the bottom) and made me swim, supposedly spotting me so I wouldn't drown. I didn't trust them not to let me drown, hopefully they wouldn't have, but it sure felt like it, the fear was real. I refused to go to swim lessons after that. I was pretty young and I have never forgotten that feeling. I would think cantering before you feel comfortable would feel pretty similar.

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