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post #21 of 63 Old 07-07-2018, 12:30 PM
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"Good riders don't fall off!" HA HA HA HA
If someone said that to me I would never listen to a thing they ever said again. Don't they have youtube?

Here's a true story! A couple weeks ago I decided while I was taking a bath to rinse my hair off in the deeper end of the tub, the one with the tap. While I was rinsing my hair with my eyes closed I forgot I had changed things and came up to sitting quite fast and just about knocked myself out on the faucet. Not much blood, a lump on my head. But it really shocked me somehow. I take a bath in that tub every night and I am STILL AFRAID OF THE FAUCET. Not mentally afraid, obviously, but my body is extremely wary of it, even though that was the last time I rinsed my hair like that.

My point is, fears are pretty non-rational (not irrational, NON rational). They can be very hard to shift, because they are embedded in your body.

Now, there are excellent way to reduce your risks, riding. Don't jump. Stay alert on the ground and develop safe habits of handling. Ride a quiet, well-behaved horse. Only ride with sane, sensible people mounted on sane sensible horses. Wear a helmet and even a safety vest.

Also, continually work on your fears, any way you safely can. Don't give them mental room (no rehearsing or imagining). Try new things that make you afraid, broken down into smaller pieces you can accomplish. Practice working through fear, but do it in SMALL bits. Create new mental pathways this way.

I know a talented young rider who will never be a success, because when anything at all goes a little south, she freezes. Her mind goes blank and she stops riding her horse. Often she will just let the horse careen around until she falls off. This is extreme, but it's an example of how fear can paralyze you and maybe even contributes to the worst happening, because you stop being proactive.

As to why people do dangerous things like drive cars and never think about it, that I think is a combo of two things -- habituation (weren't you pretty nervous when you first learned how to drive?) and the amazingly poor ability human beings have to assess risk. We are really, really crappy at that, as a species. It is quality well known to psychologists, sociologists, and politicians.
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post #22 of 63 Old 07-07-2018, 12:56 PM
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From a book about survival and how our brain affects our chances:

"The human organism, then, is like a jockey on a thoroughbred in the gate. He's a small man and it's a big horse, and if it decides to get excited in that small metal cage, the jockey is going to get mangled, possibly killed. So he takes great care to be gentle. The jockey is reason and the horse is emotion, a complex of systems bred over eons of evolution and shaped by experience, which exists for your survival. They are so powerful, they can make you do things you'd never think to do, and they can allow you to do things you'd never believe yourself capable of doing. The jockey can't win without the horse, and the horse can't race alone. In the gate, they are two, and its dangerous. But when they run, they are one, and its positively godly...

...The horse can either work for us or against us. It can win the race or explode in the gate. So it is learning when to soothe and gentle it and when to let it run that marks the winning jockey, the true survivor. And that is what the dark humor of various subcultures is all about: It's about gentling the beast, keeping it cool; and when it's time to run, it's about letting it flow, about having emotion and reason in perfect balance....

...Remarque's soldiers learned to connect a deeply instinctive emotional response to the whistling of a shell. There were no high-explosive shells when emotion evolved, but it is handily recruited into the task of avoiding them after only a few experiences to make the connection. The connection, once made, is so profound that taking the necessary action requires no thought or will; it works automatically. The proof that it's a secondary and not a primary emotion is that the new recruits didn't have the same reaction, and they died by the score as a result...

...Evolution took millions of years to come up with emotional responses. It has not yet had time to come up with an appropriate survival response for the Navy fighter pilots on quarter-mile final, trying to land a 50,000 pound stovepipe on the heaving deck of a ship...

...As the fear rises, you become more unable to deal with it because you are not even aware of the learning that is propelling you. LeDoux refers to this as a 'hostile takeover of consciousness by emotion...the body knows where safety is, and when you're a rookie and really afraid, any successful [carrier] landing carries with it an explosive, almost orgasmic sense of release. The pilot had developed a powerful secondary emotion, which told him that safety and even ecstasy could be found on the ground (or on the deck) and that if he could just get the hell down, he's be alright. He had a true and physical memory of that sensation, which was a powerful motivator of behavior developed by coupling that experience with a primary emotional state. He also had an intellectual knowledge that if you land when you are already low and slow, you might die. Unfortunately, he had no secondary emotion for that, since he had never experienced it. It was an abstract idea, forebrain stuff. It could not compete as a motivator of behavior.

--- Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales

https://www.amazon.com/Deep-Survival...ies%2C+and+Why

Humans haven't evolved to ride horses. Our learning is secondary, and it involves both conscious and unconscious thought. The unconscious thoughts can keep us on the horse or alert us to danger - provided we live long enough to develop GOOD responses!

Horses endure the same process. My horse has not evolved to understand correct responses to trash cans lining the street. His suspicion of them is reasonable, until successfully passing them enough times teaches him the correct response.

Unfortunately, the old joke about what is best in life kicks in:

What is needed to live a good life, Master?

Good judgment!

But Master, how do I gain good judgment?

Experience!

But Master, how do I gain experience?

Bad judgment!

When we don't have the experiences for our bodies to respond correctly at the near-instant subconscious level, when we have to rely on conscious thought to respond, we ARE in danger. If riding is worth it to you, then you can take precautions (helmets, lessons, body protectors, saddles, horse selection, etc) to REDUCE the risk until you acquire the right reflexes. But in the end, it requires riding in increasingly challenging situations, along with analysis of what went right and what did not, do develop those "secondary emotions" that allow us to stay safe.

Riding horses is worth the risk, to me. Climbing cliffs is not. Fear is not wrong, but it may need to be channeled before it can be helpful.

Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"
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post #23 of 63 Old 07-07-2018, 02:01 PM
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I read an extremely interesting article once, wish I knew where it was. It was about the two different kinds of reactions to adrenaline. These are genetic and physiological and cannot be altered. One kind of person experiences an adrenaline-producing situation as a hyper-heightening of clarity of thought. "Time slows down so I can see exactly what to do and have enough time to do it in" is a very common description from this type of person. They feel extremely 'in the now", with a marvelous sense of aliveness. Most thrill-seeking, risk-taking people are in this genetic category.

The other type of person has the reaction of the world freezing up, their mind going blank, no thoughts connect. They may feel that they are free-floating without being able to control anything at all. It is terrifying and no one having this reaction wants to ever have it again.

I'm the second kind of person, by the way. I have never once experienced that amazing in the zone thing. Like never, ever.

But that is not the interesting part of the article. The research subjects for this study (there was a lot more science and EEGS and electrodes & stuff I don't remember) were fighter pilots.

You'd think that fighter pilots would all be in category one, the Time Slows Down people. It's true that those are in the majority, but there's a surprising percentage of fighter pilots who are in the Mind Goes Blank category as well. When faced with a totally new, frightening experience, they perform as badly as, well, me. So what is the difference between me, and a Mind Goes Blank fighter pilot?

PRACTICE.

That's right. Fighter pilots practice and practice and practice until every possible emergency scenario has an embedded rote reflex response that kicks in no matter what is going through your mind or if nothing is. And that is how they survive.

I think that the common observation that riding in a wild carefree unstructured way as a child is a huge advantage for later adult fear-free riding, is mostly due to the above: practice. A lot of the things I do to keep safe with horses I don't even know that I do, they are habits laid down decades ago. They are embedded. But that doesn't mean that someone who missed out on that early experience can't develop good reflex responses through practice. After all, few ten year olds are flying bombers.

I guess it is hard to set up exercises which teach this sort of thing, as it doesn't have that much to do with equitation per se (a very dim concept to me growing up riding). It would be interesting to try, though!
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post #24 of 63 Old 07-07-2018, 02:40 PM
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Fighter pilots also have "boldface". There are situations that rarely happen, but need an immediate response. Those immediate responses are printed in boldface in the checklist. During training, you are tested every week. You have to write out the boldface procedures, from memory, and getting a single letter or punctuation mark wrong results in being grounded and remedial training. Once operational, you took the boldface exam every month. Again, any failure - even a missing comma - meant you were grounded.

For example, in F-4s, if you went out of control:

1. Stick - Forward
2. Ailerons and rudder - neutral
3. If not recovered - Maintain full forward stick and deploy drag chute

For a spin:

1. Stick - Maintain full forward
2. Ailerons - Full with spin/turn needle
3. Aircraft unloaded - Ailerons neutral

Step 4, not in boldface, added "If out of control at or below 10,000 feet agl - EJECT".

29 years after my last flight in F-4s, I had to look it up. But once I got started, it flowed again.

It would be nice if someone could come up with boldface procedures for riding horses! And here is part of the magic: Because you knew WHAT to do, you were not afraid! That tends to be true riding, as well. If you know HOW to respond, you just respond. You may well feel nervous, but no crippling fear.

An Australian saddle kept me on my spooky Arabian mare until I learned - by experience - which things resulted in my staying on. The response is subconscious. It has to be. Fear comes either when you reach in your bag of tricks and come up empty - it is EASY to freeze when you are clueless! - or when the previous similar situations resulted in bad memories.

Same as my horse. If I whip my horse to make him go past trash cans, he associates trash cans with pain. He (she, actually, my spooky Arabian mare who I made more spooky at first) remembers "Trash can = pain. Scary! Run away!"

If I let him do a detour - the distance depending on HIS evaluation - around the trash can, he starts to associate trash cans with...nothing happening. Until, of course, he sees a trash can with the lid open and things hanging out its "mouth"!

Fear is a type of memory stored in the brain. It literally has proteins and connections - physical structures - inside the brain that says "Bad! Hurt! Avoid!" You can try to override those memories with reason. It sometimes works. If the things isn't too scary. Just like I can sometimes tell my horse, "That trash can is safe. Go on by." But if I push my horse too hard, he'll explode. My reason and the "control" I have thru the reins won't be enough, and the explosion itself will make the bad thing even scarier. Thus "bad memories" - existing as physical structures in the brain - need to be overwritten with "good memories". And sometimes, that means backing off and taking smaller bites at the problem until you learn AND REMEMBER that you CAN handle it!
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post #25 of 63 Old 07-07-2018, 03:06 PM
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Every horse like every person, has a breaking point, past which there is no learning, just panic. If you want to lay down new neural pathways, you have to stay well to this side of that point. That's why I emphasize small pieces.

Because we are pretty much just like horses, in terms of learning to trust and go forward. When I get really shaky and feel I can't go on, I talk myself through it exactly like I talk my horse through a long mud puddle that I know is solid gravel on the bottom, but she doesn't. One step -- good girl! You can do it! Try for two steps! Way to go!

And never, never let someone shame you into believing you are in some way defective for being at the place where you are right now. That's a dark hole to fall into.
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post #26 of 63 Old 07-07-2018, 07:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Finalcanter View Post
I guess perhaps I should add that I always have a certain someone remind me of the dangers involved with horses. So this isn't always helpful. I know good and well the dangers.
I don't think that's very useful behaviour on behalf of that certain someone, and especially repeating it over. That kind of thing can undermine you and rob you of confidence, which then actually increases your risk when around horses.

In Australia, we'd say to someone like that, if they're harping on, "Go jump in the lake." They may feel like they are helping, but they aren't.

And in some cases, it's a psychological game people play that lets them look all concerned and helpful while actually affecting you adversely. It may be deliberately done, or subconsciously done from unresolved emotional baggage. I'm not in a position to comment on the cases you encounter, but it's something that some people do. Especially if they prefer others in the "down" position, for whatever reason.


Quote:
Also about the shaming thing.. sorry. I've been experiencing people shaming me right now for something along the lines of 'good riders don't fall off' and I've been told this as it happened. Not by just one person either. And worse when it's coming from those you love..
Excuse me for being blunt, but are people who behave like this worthy of your love? Their behaviour is appalling. There are plenty of good people to love in this world, who won't treat you like this. Loving the right people doesn't feel like a black hole that sucks away at your personhood and dismantles your confidence and joy.

Real friends are supportive and kind and cheer you on and celebrate your small victories, and are happy when you succeed.

On this thread, I didn't read anything negative directed at you or implied or insinuated. @gottatrot thinks very similarly to me; using the left brain a lot to examine various risk situations, and also being aware of emotions and trying to figure out if they are a hindrance or actually helpful. She works with some pretty hairy horses and it's very important for her to think things through.

Humour can also be helpful - laughing at our own human foibles, like being afraid of things that are statistically highly safe, and blasť about objectively dangerous stuff. And then acting on the rational information, letting that inform our actions. We can't always help how we feel, but we can generally choose what to do.

The great thing about learning to laugh about yourself is that you'll then always have something to laugh about!

I'm sending you a big !

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post #27 of 63 Old 07-07-2018, 08:40 PM
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@Avna , interesting posts and very good advice, good reading!

Just one thing here:


Quote:
Originally Posted by Avna View Post
I know a talented young rider who will never be a success, because when anything at all goes a little south, she freezes. Her mind goes blank and she stops riding her horse. Often she will just let the horse careen around until she falls off. This is extreme, but it's an example of how fear can paralyze you and maybe even contributes to the worst happening, because you stop being proactive.
I understand what you are trying to say in this illustrated and useful example, but I've highlighted the bit that isn't helpful. When someone is having a problem with fear, we can't conclude that they are never ever going to be successful at overcoming it - and to say so can create a social jinx for them, and actually make it harder for them to overcome their fear - because of what other people are saying about it; and older, experienced people at that.

I'm pretty sure what you probably meant to say was, who will not be a very successful rider until she learns to overcome her fear.

We've got to create the expectation for people that they can do it.

That kind of freeze response is sometimes produced by very adverse childhood experiences, which can take quite a while to excavate. But even those can be excavated. I'm not speculating on the cause of the freeze response for a particular individual I don't even know, just commenting that this is a not infrequent reality for many young people, and that as a community we can and should help people who may not have had many positive vibes directed at them when young, by doing exactly that for them.

Glad your head survived that tap, ouch! You must have a very tough head. And you know, irrational response or not, it's going to stop you from banging your head on that tap for the rest of your life, I'm sure!

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post #28 of 63 Old 07-07-2018, 08:42 PM
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@Avna Sems I recall another study that listed a third fear reaction. The running in circles, waving the arms, screaming, full panic reaction. I see it demonstrated mostly in folks who are terrified of insects.


I doubt a test group of fighter pilots would even have the room to exhibit that reaction.


This is a good discussion. I hope it is helping the OP.
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post #29 of 63 Old 07-07-2018, 08:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Finalcanter View Post
...Alright I'm going to be up front and say your post was a bit nasty. Maybe I'm reading it wrong but I have some rebuttal to it.
I apologize if my post came across as shaming to you. It was not my intention at all. When I said you were making it "personal," I didn't mean that you should take what I said "personally," but rather I was just interested that we all find rationalizations to make our own personal reasons for fear. This might mean one person thinks going in an airplane is unacceptably dangerous, and another might think crossing a bridge is unacceptably dangerous.

My examples were just to note that we decide for ourselves what requires more caution, regardless of whether something is statistically more dangerous or not.
It is good for you to be safety conscious, and being careful or afraid is nothing to be ashamed of. I personally am often afraid. It's just that I believe it's important to use logic instead of emotion when making decisions about what we do with horses.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Finalcanter View Post
I agree with you that we make our fears much larger than they should be and it shouldn't preoccupy our minds. But that wasn't what was happening to me. I don't obsess over getting killed by a horse. It's just a passing thought if a horse is being very unruly or hot.
All of us struggle with making too much of fears. That's why this is interesting to talk about, and thanks for bringing up the subject.

I'll tell you where I make my own personal rationalizations for fear. Sometimes I'll convince myself that the horse I'm riding is more likely to trip and fall down than another horse. I'll have thoughts about how my horse is older, or had an injury once, or etc. Even if I tell myself this is no more rational than someone thinking they're more likely to shatter into pieces because they hit age 25, or that they'll fall off because they still have 5 extra lbs left after having a baby, it is something my brain would like to dwell on sometimes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Finalcanter View Post
I certainly wouldn't think a dead broke riding horse is going to kill me. If something is presenting a dangerous situation I think it's pretty normal to have a thought like that. It's fight or fight sometimes.
And that is where we humans err quite a bit. I've read in several places that people are far more likely to be injured by horses that are dead broke. We can think about the danger when we know a horse might hurt us. People are very careful with green horses and hot horses. You'll be watching the horse that bit you very carefully, so it's unlikely to happen again. But we forget that dead broke horses are still horses, and those are the ones people drop the reins on and the horse gets spooked, or forget to follow basic safety measures because the horse is so trustworthy.

Saying that good riders don't fall off is like saying if you're a good driver you'll never get into a car accident.
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post #30 of 63 Old 07-07-2018, 08:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SueC View Post
@Avna , interesting posts and very good advice, good reading!

Just one thing here:




I understand what you are trying to say in this illustrated and useful example, but I've highlighted the bit that isn't helpful. When someone is having a problem with fear, we can't conclude that they are never ever going to be successful at overcoming it - and to say so can create a social jinx for them, and actually make it harder for them to overcome their fear - because of what other people are saying about it; and older, experienced people at that.

I'm pretty sure what you probably meant to say was, who will not be a very successful rider until she learns to overcome her fear.

We've got to create the expectation for people that they can do it.

That kind of freeze response is sometimes produced by very adverse childhood experiences, which can take quite a while to excavate. But even those can be excavated. I'm not speculating on the cause of the freeze response for a particular individual I don't even know, just commenting that this is a not infrequent reality for many young people, and that as a community we can and should help people who may not have had many positive vibes directed at them when young, by doing exactly that for them.

Glad your head survived that tap, ouch! You must have a very tough head. And you know, irrational response or not, it's going to stop you from banging your head on that tap for the rest of your life, I'm sure!
Actually in this person's case it seems to be a neurological thing. It is not a previous trauma ptsd thing, she has been like this since she was very small, with horses, even though she loves them and has ridden consistently since she was five (she is 18 now). It is frustrating for everyone, and no, I do not think this particular person will ever change, so I guess she wasn't the greatest example.

My experience is that you don't "overcome" fear -- you create new patterns that 'over-write' it so to speak. Force of will can put you in the path of fear, but it can't in my experience, control the emotion.
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