How to move forward? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 05-25-2020, 11:04 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Canada
Posts: 490
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How to move forward?

I had a rather eye opening moment last night. Nothing in particular happened other than I went for a late night walk and got to thinking and I started to realize that I tend to compare myself to others a lot (even comparing to myself from when I was younger) and even worse than that, I compare my horses to the very first horse that I ever bonded with. I also have left over stuff to deal with from my experience with the first horse I ever owned myself.

So I would love any tips or advice you guys have for helping me to move on past those points in my life and begin to actually truly enjoy going for rides again.

Background Info:

1. Comparing Horses
I realize that especially because I both consciously as well as subconsciously compare nearly every horse to the horse I bonded with when I was 12-14. He was a QH that my cousin got but had nothing but trouble with him and just left him on grandparents property so he became my grandparents horse. Neither of my grandparents are able to ride anymore, so he basically was just a lawn ornament and was roughly 18-20 years old.

Well, I only was able to see him on school holidays but despite that, every time he'd see me coming, he'd nicker out a greeting and come to me when I'd come to the pasture. I'd hop on him bareback with only a halter and the rope would be tied in a loop for the reins. I'd ride him around the pasture, the farm yard, down the road, and down different trails and even along the highway like this. He was always perfectly behaved. He was careful where he put his feet and actually kept us both safe by avoiding a hole in a large pipe that I didn't see in the ground that he would've gotten seriously hurt on had he continued forward.

Not only that, but I was the only one he'd listen to when it'd come to riding. If a kid under 10 years was on him, he was a perfect angel. But as soon as anyone bigger and older got on that wasn't me, he would bolt or refuse to do more than a walk unless I walked with them and I told him to trot from the ground (I had to actually run and call to him for him to trot with someone else on him and not bolt). Even if someone experienced got on, he'd still test them. We'd spend plenty of time just hanging out in his pasture, grooming and hanging out and plenty of times going for rides.

Also, he's passed away at this point due to old age.
So now one problem I seem to have is that I compare every horse to this guy because he was the first horse I truly connected with and bonded that closely with that after months of not seeing him and no one riding him, I could show up and he'd remember me and greet me and the same day I'd hop on with the halter and lead rope and off we'd go. And I do get along with other horses and whatnot, but when it comes to riding, something generally feels missing since that point and I find myself often thinking back to that horse that I spent time with when i was younger. I can spend the same amount of time or more with horses now in the last few years, but it still just isn't the same I think by comparing, I tend to ruin the experience myself because of the way I'll want them act like that other horse and of course, no other horse is going to be exactly the same as him.

2. Comparing Myself/Lack of Opportunities
This is to a lesser extent than the horse comparing I think, but I'll often see people who are my age, older and younger and they're all ahead of me in some way or another. I try to learn and get better, but it's like every time I put myself out there to learn from someone, something comes up and puts a wall up and cuts that path off before I can take more than two steps forward.

Example of this being that I moved to the town I'm in about 2.5 years ago. It's a small town and there are several trainers and riding instructors. But every time I reached out, the instructors wouldn't get back, or they would, but then when it came time for the lesson, something came up and after that, I never hear from them again and this included trying to get someone to do online training where I record myself riding, send it to them, and they tell me what I did right or wrong and how to fix it (again, never heard back from them). Or, I did have lessons with one lady and while I did learn some stuff from her, I still never made any progress as the lessons never progressed. Over 5 or 6 months of lessons every 2-4 weeks, I felt more defeated and like I'd gone backwards in my riding ability instead of forward. She practically admitted to me at one point that I hadn't been making any progress despite my trying.

So I started to video myself riding and try to see if I could figure anything out. Well, thanks to recording some of my riding, I became aware of one saddle throwing me off into some pretty bad position which led to my bad form. Then in a another saddle, I was in the right form or close to it, but my lower leg would swing around a lot. Also, I had a trouble riding my horses trot despite the trot being a gait I did great at and enjoyed quite a bit on other horses. Turns out (thanks to an outside person) that my guy has a choppy trot which is hard to ride in general. These are just to name a few things that came up that I finally realized because I watched myself ride as well occasionally getting an outside person to take a look in order for me to realize what was wrong.

A combination of feeling like I've taken a huge slide back in my riding ability which has led to me comparing myself to others as well as lack of opportunities has left me feeling quite defeated and tired of trying to fight to get better and I'm not sure how to keep going with things, espeically since other people in the same amount of time would be way farther than where I'm at. And I am aware some of it is because I haven't ridden as consistently as I should have, but even so, I should be making at least a tiny bit of progress and not constantly feeling like I'm slipping backwards all the time.

3. Losing Friendships
When I graduated high school a few years ago, I was given a mare as a grad gift from my dad and step mom. She was my official first horse and I was in the process of figuring out boarding, getting the right feed, and all those general details. I hadn't worked consistently with a horse in 4-5 years at that point and she was the first I actually owned so there was a lot of new stuff.

About 3 months after graduating, I had friends who wanted to spend time together before the adult world really hit us and I was all for it. However, I told them I wasn't able to spend the night as I'd just moved my horse to the stables and I didn't have my own vehicle at the time so I couldn't keep the vehicle away from home in case my parents needed it. So instead, I just spent several hours with them instead and still hung out what I could manage. But that's what set things off and over the next few months (nearly a year) this incident kept being brought up and thrown in my face and so on since it turned out my friends were very mad that I wouldn't spend the night back then.

So thanks to me following my dream of having my own horse and trying to put that horses needs before mine and giving her the best care I could especially since I was just starting out, I lost my friends. After that, I literally had 0 friends to hang out with (I only the 2 before that as I generally don't have a lot of friends all at once anyway). Since then, going out to ride and whatnot feels very isolating because I've been left to do it on my own all the time. Instead of horses being an escape like they were with that very first one, it was now just one more way that I was left alone.

This tends to translate to current day too since there are lots of times I just feel like going out to ride is very lonely. If someone else comes out to watch me ride, or they want to ride, or we go riding together, it's the best thing ever and I can't wait to do it and I enjoy it. But otherwise, it's very hard to drag myself out to ride because it feels so isolating.

4. Bad Experience with First Horse
So, the first horse I had was a mare and she was a red roan appy QH cross. She was also green. Now, honestly she wasn't a bad horse. It's just that her personality and mine did not mesh at all. She had a very sour and prissy type of personality. I did learn a lot due to working with her, but because we were such a bad match, things didn't go well. Now, I'm not an angry person. Usually it takes a lot for me to get really upset. But by the end of the year of having her, there were times we'd be riding and I'd get so mad at her that I wanted to beat her black and blue. I never did. I would do one thing that would result in something positive, then end the ride there.

Now, she was never bad under saddle. I honestly don't remember what made riding her so unpleasant other than she had a hard time going straight. But a combo of losing my friends over her and then her and I just not meshing made that a very miserable year.

Since then, I find I'm quicker to get frustrated when a horse is acting up and I can't get them to settle down and behave which is also due to a lack of knowledge because I cannot find someone who's willing to properly teach me and be honest with me on what I need to actually get better and what to stop doing.

So ya, as I said, any tips and advice on how to move past this stuff would be appreciated.

I have next to no one in my personal life to ask about this and other horse people around where I live tend to think it's their way or the highway (usually the old fashioned cowboys type people who think you have to run your horse into the ground/actually break the horse to get it to do what you want type of thing) or just won't bother with you to begin with.

Recently I have come across one lady who I may be taking lessons with so that is a positive and I'm hoping it works out, but considering the luck I've had so far, I thought I'd ask you guys on what you think.
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SummerBliss is offline  
post #2 of 8 Old 05-25-2020, 11:33 AM
Join Date: May 2014
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I think you are well on the way to solving all sorts of issues which are making you unhappy, just by being this introspective and articulating those issues. I wrote a whole bunch but I sort of realized that no one can help you grow except yourself and this is your journey.

I would just give you a few pointers: riding is a hobby for you and if it's making you miserable, it's time to rethink it. Even if it means just grooming and spending time with them - if that is what makes you happy. Again, you are there to enjoy it, not work yourself into an angsty ball of anger and depression. No one is watching but you.

Friends: It's much more difficult to make friends as we get older. You are not faulty because of it. Again, if you aren't enjoying spending time with someone, don't do it. But to make friends, you need to go out and make yourself available.

Good luck.
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post #3 of 8 Old 05-25-2020, 12:16 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2013
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Sounds more to me that you have started to grow up and away from some childhood fantasies that get in the way of real life.
Trying to keep friendships alive when the common ground of high school evaporates...that doesn't exist so good in the real world when your life changes direction as a career and life goals intrude.
You've become responsible and aware of other peoples needs are as important as yours where your "friends" are wrapped up in them yet it sounds.

Seeing that first horse only through child eyes is a rude awakening I think many of us have had occur as an can not compare child dreams with real life adventures of a adults eyes now seeing things with.
You need to find you and be happy & content with you first before you will find joy in your life.
Riding is a solitary endeavor whether you are with friends or not, true riding is between you and that horse you are astride. Being surrounded by people at a barn... it is a place you do your thing and converse with them about their thing.

Stop trying to find that now dead horse....stop looking for it, it is gone in reality and what we think we remember.
Every horse is worth a chance to show you why they are special...look for it.
Compare to not another...its hard to not do, but you will never have your first horse ever again, fact.

For you, you are a unique special person.
No matter what it is in life, nothing just falls in your lap that you truly don't work some for...
Somethings you work so hard for an make tiny forward steps, sometimes you have a epiphany and suddenly a large jump in understanding occurs along with your body doing what your mind has been telling it to do.
Do not compare you to you to you.
You need to find what makes you happy deep inside first.
You have to be your own friend and like/love you...
Be content to be with only you...
Then and only then can you venture outside that small box to find if others can share things with you but not stomp on you and your happiness..
It took me years to figure out what that meant, being happy in your own skin with only you.

My apologies for sounding so harsh...
You have so much to offer...but you need to find happiness inside you first before you find it outside of you, forcing a bravado to the world and miserable inside.
You've already started that journey by writing what you did...your rosy glasses becoming clearer and again will turn rose shaded when you find happiness with you, just you first.

The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
horselovinguy is offline  
post #4 of 8 Old 05-25-2020, 12:56 PM
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Seattle, WA
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Comparing ourselves to others, and to our younger selves , I think is an almost universal human trait. I think wistfully of my younger days, and how I would canter bareback down the trail. Now, no. It's part of growing older.

You, however, are not at an age where you should look wistfully back at what you can no longer do, because you are entering the part of life where you become able to do more and more and more, with each year.

Riding isn't easy. It takes self confidence, and risk tolerance. Some of us have to grit our teeth to get past scary parts. But non-stop teeth gritting is no way to enjoy riding. I'm not saying you are gritting your teeth, only that it sounds as if you ride because you think you are 'supposed to' ride.

Maybe, riding isn't your thing now. Maybe it's a good place to step away from it and do something else. God willing, you will have a long life, years and years to consider whether riding really is that important or not. It's OK to walk away from it, even for a while. What you learn from other activities may bring a resurgence in your enjoyment of riding when you come back to it.
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post #5 of 8 Old 05-25-2020, 01:06 PM
Green Broke
Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: Southern California
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One thing that leaps out to me is that you rode your childhood horse bareback, and now have trouble riding in a saddle. I, too, have problems with riding in saddles. I do not feel secure or in balance due to riding in my youth with a bareback pad. I was really happy when treeless saddles came around, I have one that makes riding comfortable and secure.
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post #6 of 8 Old 05-25-2020, 10:15 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: Canada
Posts: 490
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Thanks for your input everyone. It's greatly appreciated.

I do enjoy riding. What has made it sour to a certain degree is the fact the horses I ride most of the time (typically mine) end up having to have a certain period of time off for some reason or another and then when I go to ride again, they act up and because I haven't been taught how to deal with different situations properly, I get stuck and continuelly run into the problem which leads to other problems and then I get frustrated and annoyed and it ruins the ride.
However, if i ride a horse that I don't have to worry about acting up and can actually enjoy the ride and even work on making sure I'm riding correctly, I enjoy the ride. I actually want to get into working/training horses professionally. I'm just struggling to find a way to learn and not to revert back to the mentality of the first horse I bonded with being so much better than any other horse as he literally sat for months at a time and I could hop on and go like we'd been riding constantly.

You didn't sound harsh at all! I really appreciate everything you had to say.
It definitely gives me something to think about and gives me a clearer idea of what I need to do to start making progress. No doubt I'm going to struggle with this for a while, but it's also good to know that I'm not the only one that's struggled with this.

I appreciate you saying that. I've definitely had family say that if you have a horse, you better be out riding it as much as possible and make him work for his supper type of idea. So if feels kind of nice to be told it's ok to take a step back.
At the same time, I've stepped back for like, 3 years and it feels like it gets worse the longer I'm sitting back. I do want to get up on the horse and go and I think to some degree, I am gritting my teeth like you described. But maybe I need to do something in the middle. Take a step back from my own horse that I struggle with, and just focus on lessons on a horse that I don't have to worry/struggle with and can focus on working on myself for a bit instead of taking on everything.

Interesting to hear that. That could be part of it, but I've ridden in a type of treeless saddle and it didn't feel much different. It's the stirrups that throw me off since I'm feeling so lost on how to have them since one person says they need to be longer and another says they need to be shorter lol.

Well, after writing out these responses to you guys, I've come to realize something else. I think the core of this is that I'm honestly scared. Scared of getting hurt, scared of hurting the horse out of frustration, scared of causing some avoidable situation that leads to mental/physical damage to the horse and honestly, just plain scared of failing at the one thing that I actually have passion for and being looked down on for my failings.
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SummerBliss is offline  
post #7 of 8 Old 05-26-2020, 10:31 AM
Green Broke
Join Date: Apr 2015
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Fear tends to creep in as we age. As adults there is no safety net - if you get hurt and can't work then bills don't get paid etc. But many of us still ride and get tossed occasionally. You need to stop beating yourself up for being afraid. And you need to relabel it. It is not really fear but being cautious. Our mental perspective plays a huge role in how we interact with horses.

As others have said maybe you just need to stop back and just start over. Start with grooming and bonding, do this for as long as you need to, move onto ground work and games from the ground. This can be a lot of fun and you can do amazing things from the ground. Only get on when you are 100% comfortable. Lessons are great but the trainer can do nothing more than help you physically ride in the correct position - that is not going to make you more confident.

I will be 50yrs old this year - and have had many many horses in my lifetime. Personally I hate the term "heart horse" because for me I cannot see myself without a horse. So if I only have one heart horse it is going to be long life without another horse to fill my heart. Yes, I have grieved after a loss, had a hard time bonding with a horse but this is where your mental state comes in. For me personally when I have had a hard time I try to reframe my thoughts. So I say - I love this about my horse. I love this about my horse. And I think that and try to find more things to love about the horse I have at that time. I have had horses that I felt more emotionally connected to - but I have loved all of my horses and I hope to love a few more before my time on earth is over.
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post #8 of 8 Old 05-26-2020, 10:43 AM
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@SummerBliss I am going to step outside my lane here for a second, since I am not a professional in this particular industry - but I am a professional in another one. If you are planning on a professional career as a horse trainer, then there can't be any stepping back. It's just like any other skilled job, you need thousands of hours to get proficient. I sense that you are mainly scared of future and what you will make of yourself and your life. Which is basically the default state for young people. You need to sit down and think long and hard if this career plan is realistic for you (from what I gather, horse trainers generally have no fear of riding but I could be wrong). If you come to the conclusion that it is, then you need to go all out. Most professionals worked full time under other trainers for years. That means that you might have to leave your home town and go where opportunities are. Just imagine that you wanted to be a doctor. If there is no medical school in your town, you have to move.
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