riding with social anxiety - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 22 Old 02-09-2020, 03:42 PM
Join Date: Feb 2020
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I also have anxiety (social anxiety too but it's more a general anxiety...which is fun because I just feel anxious about everything for no reason all the time). I also have other mental health difficulties that I won't chronicle here but the anxiety is what's the important thing to note right now.

Firstly I think it's important you know how to differentiate between what is people being mean and your anxiety playing tricks on you. It's easy to let anxiety and such lead you by the nose but it's usually not going to lead you right. There's lots of times when a person's shift in tone or demeanor can set me off thinking they don't like me or are being mean but this is rarely actually the case. It's important to learn how to cope with this because if it's your anxiety tricking you then it'll be a problem wherever you go and will continue to get in the way if you let it. I'm not saying that the person who was mean to you wasn't or even that you don't already know all this. But no amount of trying to find the right trainer or vetting barns will help with this if it's the anxiety clouding your judgement. Take it from someone who has the same issues. If you let the anxiety make all the decisions for you, you're not going to have a fun time. It's very, very frustrating on a very deep level to have mental blocks like this keep you from doing something you desperately want to. There's lots of different ways to help control anxiety: therapy, meditation, breathing exercises, even medication. But again, if you also have anxiety you probably already know this.

I've also had experience with trying to get some sort of riding therapy because of my issues but had a hard time...I guess because I'm not visibly disabled the people running the only therapy program near me didn't seem to think I really needed the help.

Put that little anxiety monster back in it's place and show it who's boss.

That being said, yeah, I'd look for a more laid back barn that offers lessons but isn't showing competitively, as has been suggested. They're usually a LOT more chill and the person giving lessons won't be as pushy because there isn't any pressure. The barn near me that I use to board at was like that. They had boarding and lessons but no one at the barn really was showing and the atmosphere was very laid back and drama free.

As an ending note though...don't let the Barn Karens run you out. This ain't their rodeo.
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post #12 of 22 Old 02-09-2020, 04:45 PM
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I agree with MerryMane - remember, the brain weasels want you to believe everyone hates you, no one wants to be around you, they're all just tolerating you because[list of thin excuses] but deep down they wish you'd leave. That's how anxiety works. And it is so difficult to walk up to that feeling and shake the brain weasels down and say "how do YOU know that? What makes you so convinced these people are out to get me?" And even if (or when) someone gets grumpy to you, that doesn't mean they hate you either. It's not easy to recognize that, though. My best suggestion is to find a barn you vibe with but that has at least one person you can connect with at that barn - another rider, your trainer (preferably) - basically someone who can help wind you down when the anxiety is bad.
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post #13 of 22 Old 02-09-2020, 07:24 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2014
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This is kind of off topic, but my niece just posted this photo of her son and our friend, taken about 6 years ago. Both these kids have some issues but are darling wonderful kids. They are teens now, making their way successfully. Love them both so so much.

Just wanted to say to Horse Forum members, if you ever do have a chance to take a young person under your wing who might have some issues, it is a supremely rewarding experience, far more fulfilling to the mentor than the mentee. It is so much fun. Today at church I gave the young lady standing by our pony a big hug. She is a beautiful 15 year old currently. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to be a part of her life.

(I look awful in this picture. It was a super hot day and we were messing around inside. My niece said, "Let's do something with the horses!" I threw on my muck boots but didn't bother to change anything else.)
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post #14 of 22 Old 02-10-2020, 12:54 AM
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Location: Montana
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I just skimmed the original post and subsequent answers so this may have been brought up already but

Have you been speaking to a professional? A psychiatrist or something like that? They will be able to give you mental exercises and tips to help you stay less anxious, or to help you deal with the anxiety when it does appear. I hate to say it but it's unlikely you'll be able to find the perfect barn that is always sunshine and rainbows - any time you deal with people, or with animals owned by people, you're going to run into some sort of drama eventually. It might be small and easily conquered, but if you have made preparations to deal with it even larger concerns may not be so much of a problem.

Horses are amazing and wonderful and everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy them at some point during their lives. Obviously your horse obsession is more than a passing fancy - otherwise you'd have stopped trying to move past your anxiety. I'm glad you're looking to conquer this, or at least make it more manageable, because it will open up more doors for you and who knows? In the future you may decide you wish to show, or go on a group trail ride, or any number of other things and share your passion with others, and that is a great feeling. Or not you may want to ride alone for the rest of your riding career, and that's wonderful too. Any life with horses is grand, and social anxiety shouldn't keep you from living it. : )

I hope you can find a barn that fits your needs, and stay with it. Or perhaps a private owner willing to take you under their wing. You've got the will for sure. You only have to find the way. : )

-- Kai
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post #15 of 22 Old 02-10-2020, 05:08 AM
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Location: London, UK
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Originally Posted by knightrider View Post
I threw on my muck boots but didn't bother to change anything else.
Amazing and kind responses on this thread. Just wanna say though that this makes the picture even better IMO! I often just go in whatever aint nothing stopping me once I'm heading down to the yard and have ruined a few white shirts coz of it!
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post #16 of 22 Old 02-10-2020, 02:28 PM Thread Starter
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i've only just gotten the opportunity to have time to post a reply but i wanted to say thank you to everyone for the replies. i've gotten quite a lot now, so it's difficult for me to reply to every one but i want everyone who responded to know i'm very grateful. i've had some lovely replies and it's made me feel much better knowing that there are people who are supporting and understanding. thank you so so much, you've all been so kind and wonderful haha :) i've seen a therapist, and now im just waiting for the letter back to tell me when my appointments will be. she'll be helping me overcome my social anxiety (i'm also possibly getting tested for autism, so if that ends up being positive she'll help me with that too) but i'll definitely bring this up to her even if i've already started at a barn or something like that. i've also mentioned to my parents about some of your lovely suggestions and they said they would do some research and look to see any other barns in the area or anyone who needs help caring for their horse and are willing to teach me what to do. i'm actually more interested in working with horses than i am actually horse riding. i wanted to lose weight and get more active before i started riding again (which i've started working out frequently) lolol.

honestly though i really appreciate all your replies and kind words it really made my day :) maybe we'll speak more through replies etc but i hope you all have a good day/week/month/year/life lol and you all make great memories with your horses and friends and family and ahha this got so cheesy hahah
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post #17 of 22 Old 02-10-2020, 10:46 PM
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I can understand your concerns, there can be far too much drama at some barns. We go to enjoy our horses, not to be made to feel less than. But I digress....

One way to get involved with horses is to volunteer at a local therapeutic riding facility.

They don't usually require more than a 3 hour commitment once a week. I got involved because I wanted to be around horses again (after many years of mom hood and raising kids). These facilities require grooms, horse handlers, and side walkers. Training is provided and I found it pleasant but not socially demanding. It was nice to work with people of all abilities and most everyone was just plain nice.

After a while they let me train as a horse handler, and after a couple seasons, I was allowed to take lessons with one of the instructors I found enjoyable to be around. Over time, I then continued to hack out or exercise a horse a couple times a week. It was great fun, and several years later, I felt comfortable buying my Thoroughbred through another trainer. Just a thought....
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post #18 of 22 Old 02-13-2020, 02:25 AM
Join Date: May 2019
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If you’re ever in South Africa, you’re welcome to come for a free lesson on my baby, and my instructor is excellent! Keep that in mind if you ever travel here for holiday!
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post #19 of 22 Old 02-13-2020, 05:10 PM
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Hi Chocolatte, welcome to the forum. I am going to apologize in advance because this is going to be a pretty long winded post and I also want to apologize if some of my ideas seem a bit woo woo or flakey

I would like to say that I feel your pain regarding social anxiety - anxiety has been a huge factor in my life, one could say that it has been been behind the wheel for more years than I care to think about - and it is a terrible driver! I have been dealing with this particular demon for a long time and have gained a lot of insight in how to put this beast in it's place.

First off, I believe that people that are prone to anxieties of any form are very sensitive people. By this I don't mean inclined to deliberately take offense where none is intended and rather than say anxious people are 'too sensitive' I believe that people with anxious tendencies are actual Sensitives - people who come into this world with a heightened sensitivity to other peoples emotions. It takes very little for a sensitive to begin to become hyper vigilant as they are bombarded by other peoples emotions. Things that begin to create anxiety can be a sibling that is a bully, a narcissistic family member. Because it is emotions that define meanings for sensitives it becomes very difficult to not be effected by things that are water off a ducks back for those less sensitive. If a family member is angry and lashes out it is the intense surge of anger that cuts us deeply, for the family member it may just be a flash in the pan, a moment of frustration quickly released and forgotten. They then go along on their merry way and then get impatient when you are still effected by the eruption and are fearful of it happening again, now you are 'too sensitive' and need to get over stuff. For a sensitive person emotion determines meaning and when someone is angry, hurtful and unkind, in that moment we know they mean it!

Now, we know that people have the full gamut of emotions - and rightly so. Every single one of is allowed to be human and that means we get to be angry, frustrated, unreasonable and stupid sometimes. We can not change other peoples behaviour, we can only be responsible for ourselves. The answer for those who are sensitive and anxious is not to only go where people are always nice and kind and pleasant because that would mean that we would never go anywhere - which is how we end up with people with extreme phobias. The answer lies in three strategies Acceptance, Allowance and Focus.

Acceptance: learn to accept that people are people. As long as you are telling yourself that you can never be happy or safe as long as people are mean, angry and unkind then you are affirming an unhappy life. You can not base your happiness on the behaviour of others because there lies a black whole that can never be filled. Accept peoples right to be who they are - you do you, let them do them.

Allow: as you accept that people are going to do what they do, allow yourself to begin to see yourself as separate from them. When those feelings from other people begin to overwhelm you, when you can feel that someone is grumpy and cross ALLOW them the right to do so and separate yourself from their experience. Consciously make the effort to rationalize those feelings "oh Sarah is angry today I wonder what has knocked her confidence that she is feeling so defensive?" Allow the feelings that you feel coming from other people to be about them and make the conscious decision to - even though you can feel them - not let them be about you. Ask yourself the question would this person still be grumpy if I wasn't here? You will be surprised at how often the answer will be yes.

Focus: most importantly of all FOCUS your attention. There is a saying "where your attention goes, your energy flows." You are hyper vigilant of other peoples emotions, you have learned avoidance to be safe and you do it because you are trying to be responsible for your own welfare. Unfortunately as a coping strategy - it sucks. Once you can accept that people are going to be people it is now time to change your focus to things that give you purpose and power in your life. Remember you can not change other people but you can change yourself. It is time you began to experiment with ways that make you feel strong! It is not other peoples behaviour that is the problem for you it is the fear that you can not cope with others strong emotions. Find things that empower you, find ways to tap into your own strengths - they are there! The world is not going to get safer but by golly you can get stronger!! You can come to realize that you are strong enough to cope with anything the world throws at you!

Take a good hard look at yourself and decide what you can do to turn yourself into a warrior. This is easier than you think - but also harder. You need to get physical, start moving your body, start looking at physical activities that you wish you could do, that make the people who do them look like gods in your eyes. Horse riding can be your end goal but find an activity that will build your confidence in your own strength. Work out what sort of activity you could do that would make you feel proud of yourself. Look at things like martial arts, cross country courses, cross fit, boxing, weight training, bouldering - anything that when you look at it, it makes you think "man, if I could do that I would be so darn proud!" You don't actually have to go out and do these things immediately, just entertain the idea that you are actually a lot stronger than you think and that you can achieve great things if you focus your mind - after all, look at how good you are at being anxious, imagine if you put that same amount of energy into being brave and bold! Start with a walk, a push bike ride, do something that makes you proud of yourself.

Focus on building the true strong you, you have the power to create the life you want through action and conscious thought - less reacting more acting with intention. At the moment you simply have a bad habit of using your power unwisely but you can do things differently if you are determined enough. There is help out there but ultimately it is your life and it is worth living well.

I am so sorry for the epic post.

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.D Adams

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post #20 of 22 Old 02-16-2020, 05:22 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2020
Location: durham, england
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i think you really put things into perspective for me there and i really appreciate that. thank you so much, that's really quite inspired me. i've actually been doing fairly better i think in all honesty. i've been going for more walks recently and it's definitely done some good!! i've also found a good riding centre i think. haven't checked it out properly yet as my parents are away for the night and i only found it yesterday (and also this storm in the uk right now is pretty crazy!!) but it seems really nice so we're going to take a look when we have the chance.

you're right about the sensitive thing though, i definitely am, and it will have been caused by my sister yelling at me a lot for things i can't help, not that she can help it either she just gets really frustrated sometimes, but i think that triggered it a lot.

i'm working on getting better and will try to take your advice of possibly taking something else up. i want to start running more so maybe i could start that? thank you for that post though, it's really helped :)
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anxiety , helping out , riding , social an

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