Had a breakthrough after attending the Western States Horse Expo - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 06-10-2015, 05:47 AM Thread Starter
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Thumbs up Had a breakthrough after attending the Western States Horse Expo

I just wanted to share my experience because I've been so thrilled...I've been dealing with really bad fear of riding ever since I took a nasty fall almost immediately after I had gotten back into the saddle after a previous unrelated injury...I could do decently at walk and trot, but was jumpier than usual, and god forbid I lope, because that was the speed I fell at. This has been going on for the past...almost 5 years now. Wow.

I've been so embarrassed and ashamed of my fear. I feel that I'm too young to have such fear, like most people my age (20s) are bold and fearless regardless of anything that happens to them. I've been trying to work through it but couldn't afford decent help and guidance, so I was mostly on my own...never a good situation to be in!

I went to the Horse Expo in Sacramento, CA this past weekend and took in a ton of information...and it turned out to be exactly what I needed to build my confidence. I learned a lot of new tips for groundwork and seat positioning and general control that were news to me and made all the difference in my mare's responsiveness to me, which built my confidence, and in turn made me feel really good about riding again. I went riding the next day after getting back and I haven't felt so confident in years. I didn't even think twice about asking her to lope, I just did it and didn't feel that full-body panic I've been having...just felt like finally myself again. Finally I can actually work on normal things with my horse again...where before I was just trying to remember to breathe and relax and not overreact to every little thing.

I've felt so troubled lately because of my seemingly uncontrollable fear...but being in that environment and seeing these things demonstrated in person made all the difference, even though I was just another audience member. I can already feel the shift in my spirit and attitude...I'm sure that I'm not completely out of the woods, but this has been the step in the right direction I've been trying so hard to make.

I just wanted to share my experience and say how thankful I am to have the opportunity to attend an event like this, with such reputable and accomplished clinicians within my reach. I feel blessed. Finally I feel I can look forward to saddling up again, instead of having to convince my weary mind to do it. Progress can come from so many different places, but I do feel that I would still be stuck in neutral for a long time if not for deciding to attend this event. I would encourage anybody with similar problems to go to events like this if you can...or anybody at all. It's such a great experience to be surrounded by so many horse lovers from different levels of experience, and have the opportunity to witness the work of some very talented horsemen and horsewomen in person. This wasn't my first time attending but it was the first time I attended since this problem began, and I'm so glad I decided to go.
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post #2 of 8 Old 06-10-2015, 07:04 AM
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Wahoo, go you!

I've been in a very similar situation - cantering was a HUGE fear of mine after a number of falls at the canter, though none were serious (luckily). It took a kind-hearted trainer and an amazing horse to get me to canter without coming off for the first time in years(my gut reaction to cantering was to lean forward, and then coming off over the left shoulder). Since then I've had another couple of knocks (two consecutive weekends, cantered, horse spooked, came off), and avoided cantering for a good while because I was terrified of getting hurt.

Slowly, very slowly, I've built my confidence back up and am almost ready to canter my new horse. It takes time, but isn't it a great feeling?
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post #3 of 8 Old 06-10-2015, 08:18 AM
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Yea for you! Hope you have many great rides...
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post #4 of 8 Old 06-10-2015, 06:47 PM
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I know exactly how you felt.. I'm in my 20's too but sometimes I feel like an old woman, worrying about everything. I'd look at little kids jumping their ponies and feel like crap.

I also know what you mean by forcing yourself to ride rather than looking forward to it. Lately however I have been feeling a lot more confident about it. I still haven't cantered again though :(

If you would like to share any of the tips you learned I'd love to hear them!

I'm so happy for you, confidence is such a fragile thing and you sound like you have made a massive amount of progress. Good on you! X
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“When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.” — Robert A. Heinlein
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post #5 of 8 Old 06-11-2015, 12:03 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you guys all so much!

As far as what I learned, there was so much information I took in and there were so many really great clinicians there. Personally I felt that the best of them was Chris Cox, though I may be biased as I've been a huge fan of his for years...more recently he's made some new changes to his program that I feel really raise the bar with building an understanding and a relationship with whatever horse you're riding even in a very short time. I feel like the number one thing that has made the biggest difference is implementing groundwork that carries over very naturally into the saddle. I feel like I've always had trouble with that...I had watched a lot of shows about groundwork and felt like I got really good at that, like I could have 100% confidence and get total respect with any horse on the ground...but then as soon as I was in the saddle I couldn't seem to get it to translate over and I couldn't get that same control.

There was a really great combination of demos that Chris had, because they built on each other in a really cool way that I feel did the most for me. First he demonstrated ground work, which he explained that he usually keeps somewhat to a minimum because it doesn't take a lot to establish that respect and it can be accomplished from the saddle as well. Then in the next demo it was really cool to see how that proved true, because he rode these two people's horses who were kind of all over the place, and without doing any groundwork at all with either of them he was able to establish the exact same thing and it carried over even after he stepped out of the saddle, he left the reins up and the horses willingly wanted to follow him around the arena and readily yielded to any pressure he put on them without complaint. That was what really got me, because I've found myself and a lot of the people at the stable I came from always seemed to get stuck on the ground and couldn't get that to carry over into the saddle.
Anyway, the groundwork he was doing was pretty simple, he had changed that somewhat from what I remembered he used to do. The main thing he did was "direct and yield", where you send the horse in a half circle around you, then ask them to yield their hindquarters to stop. I like it because it's simple and makes a lot of sense, because you get their legs moving which is such a powerful tool with horses that you see them use on each other all the time, then getting control over the hind end is invaluable. The whole way he was describing exactly how he asks the exact same thing from the saddle, and then we saw it clearly demonstrated on the two horses he rode later. From the saddle he literally just had them do the exact same thing. He practiced getting it to transfer over to the reins while on the ground just very briefly before mounting, then did it in the saddle. It really helped me understand, seeing everything in steps like that, it's kind of hard to explain because I'm sure it sounds kind of simple but I've always hit a wall with that and something just clicked with me. When I worked on this stuff with my mare she seemed to respond extremely well to it, better than what I was doing with her before for sure. It even carried over that I could get her to ground tie, and the problem I was previously having with picking her hind feet (she'd pin her ears and offer to kick) had vanished. I'm sure a lot of it just had to do with my attitude. I really felt that things got through to me really well just being there and seeing it in person, which is interesting since I've seen a lot of it on TV. Anyway, this just really built my confidence and gave me something to focus on instead of "Oh god I'm gonna fall and die" or whatever, lol

Then he had a great demo on how very small changes to improve your seat can make you so much more secure in the saddle, and he demonstrated exactly how unstable of a position you put yourself in when your seat is poor at faster gaits. I'm sure this information was a lot of what any good riding instructor would tell you, but it's been a long time since I could afford a trainer unfortunately. He was just talking about how no matter what you're riding, a good seat is a good seat, and how you want to make sure you're lined up properly (feet, knees, hips) and he was saying that keeping your shoulders just behind your hips can bring more stability. I tried that and I definitely noticed I felt a lot more secure at the trot, and when I went into the lope I had to be very careful about it because I too have a problem with leaning forward at the lope. My mare is really unstable with her trot but loping went better than ever, I felt. In the past I've had problems getting her to move out because of my insecure seat, but she wasn't at all reluctant during this ride despite it being hotter than average.

There was so much more I learned that helped me, but I thought I'd limit it to those two things because I know I tend to explain things in way too many words, lol, so sorry for the novel, but hopefully I was at least able to get the points across anyway. I think that's why watching it and having it explained by professionals helped me so much...text can only explain so much!
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post #6 of 8 Old 06-11-2015, 12:12 AM
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well done! send Mr. Cox a thank you email. I bet he'd love to hear what you've just said.
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post #7 of 8 Old 06-11-2015, 12:20 AM Thread Starter
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Tinyliny, that's a great idea! I was fortunate enough to get to meet him and tell him what an inspiration he's been to me and thank him, but I'm sure when you have a big line of people in front of you it all can be a blur. I think I will send in an email where I can better explain just how much his horsemanship has helped me.
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post #8 of 8 Old 06-11-2015, 01:43 AM
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i watched a bit of a clinic, back in May. the guy's name is Wayne Robinson. sure was fun to watch him work with horses. he's the real deal, and I like that he answered all my questions, and me just an auditor. and, I hung out long enough to personally shake his hand and thank him. I think that must mean something to these folks, even when they meet SO many people.
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