Join Date: May 2011
Location: Chino Valley, AZ
I know how you feel with the transference.
A few years ago, when I first got my gelding, I was pretty much fearless. I schooled naughty horses at a Girl Scout horse camp, so I wasn't afraid to get on new horses. I was being nice to a new boarder and helping her with her new rescue mare. She lied to me that the horse was broke and asked me to try her out. I ended up rodeo-bucked off this bat-crap crazy mare before my butt was even really in the saddle and fractured my left ankle. She also came after me with the intent to harm/kill while I was semi-conscious on the ground. If my friend hadn't been in the round pen with me, I probably would be dead. The mare was a black and white pinto.
Now, fast forward a few months. My gelding was broke in (he was unbroke when I bought him) and my friends were wanting to ride with me. But I had panic attacks every time I even thought about climbing up on my horse. My old BO (who I bought my gelding from and who broke him in for me) is a tough old cowboy and didn't understand my reluctance to ride. He would constantly harangue me to "just get on the ****ed horse and ride!" It didn't help.
When I finally did get up on my horse, I would panic when he'd so much as twitch. I kept having flashbacks of that mare tossing me and then coming after me on the ground. It didn't help that my gelding is a black and white pinto. The first time I climbed on him (for all of fifteen seconds), I nearly started crying because I was panicking so badly. I went on a trail ride or two and was fine, but I'd still get panicky when I'd go to mount him.
It didn't matter that he has never put a toe wrong when I've been in the saddle. That fear was still there.
Fast forward a couple of years. Life happened and I didn't do much with my gelding except groom him. My best friend was after me to ride (she'd never seen me ride before). I finally relented and got on. She almost teared up when she saw me start having a panick attack when I went to mount him. He was standing there like a rock and I was on the mounting block. She said I was as white as a sheet and my breathe was coming in short, shallow gasps. It took her just talking to me soothingly to get me to put my foot in the stirrup and swing on. I'm fine once I'm on board.
The biggest thing that helped me was making a "game" of it. We had a thread here on the forum called the "Big Girl Panties Thread." We would talk about putting on our BGPs and doing things that scared us. One day I joked that I was going to literally put on a pair of BGPs, mount up and ride, and have pics taken. I got such an overwhelming response that I decided to do it for real. I bought a pair of huge white satin granny panties and put them on over my (black) riding pants. I had my friend take pictures of the whole thing. I rode for a good fifteen minutes in the arena, rode back up to the barn, and even rode out a small spook and bolt when a mare we were walking behind decided she didn't like my gelding and tried to kick him.
Google might be a great horse, but if he reminds you so much of Opal that you can't even groom him, maybe you need to find another horse. I don't say that in any way to be harsh, but as someone who understands something of what you're feeling.
If selling him and finding a horse that doesn't remind you so much of Opal isn't an option, then just start out small. Take a lawn chair and sit outside his stall or in his turnout with him. Get comfortable just *being* around him. Work your way up to grooming him. Then, start doing groundwork with him. Groundwork is a great way to get to know and trust your horse. Once you're completely comfortable on the ground, work up to just tacking him up, then leading him around and untacking him. I think you get the picture.
The biggest thing is to not move on to the next step until you are completely comfortable and not panicky at all with the step you're on.
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