Getting my confidence back... - The Horse Forum
  • 8 Post By tinyliny
  • 4 Post By Jolly101
  • 3 Post By Woodhaven
  • 5 Post By redbadger
  • 3 Post By Patchouli
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post #1 of 7 Old 04-06-2020, 10:15 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2020
Posts: 14
• Horses: 0
Getting my confidence back...

I’m not really new to horses at all, but kind of new to being back into them I guess? But really, my issue is what I swear is leftover horse related PTSD (and that’s only a slight joke). At some point as a fearless and dumb teen, I was every one’s solution to their problem horse. I had a sticky butt and all the confidence in the world. But a family friend’s pony caught me with a double barrel to the head, leaving me with a pretty severe concussion (my fault. Semi feral mare had a new foal at her side, and I was standing nearby when friend decided it would be a great time to try to mess with the foal). Followed shortly after by my grand father gifting me a new horse.

This horse is the real source of my trauma. My grandpa picked him up out of a field as a feral, untouched 5 year old stallion. He had him cut and sent to the Amish for 3 months. At the time, this was my only shot at having a horse, and I was so worried about letting my grandpa down (I was 16 and firmly a people pleasure, what can I say), that I stuck it through. Never mind that he reared and flipped on his rider the first time I ever saw him. Not sure why my parents didn’t step in, but alas they did not.

Now, he never flipped over on me, and he never bucked, but those are about the only two nice things I can say about that horse. He was a chronic rearer (and one who would throw himself backwards if necessary), a biter (you didn’t dare stand within reach of the gate, he would get you), a kicker, a bolter, and whatever other flaw you can give a horse. All habits that were firmly cemented before he ever came into my possession. With time I had him where we could consistently walk and trot in the arena with no rearing, and acceptably safe for me on the ground (I could never, not even for a second, drop my guard down, but as long I was alert and on my toes, I could keep him from attempting to hurt me). This went on for two years before I shipped off to college and pretty much joyfully sent this horse back to my grandfather’s 4 hours away.

I spent the next years taking any riding lessons I could get my hands on, falling in love with eventing and dressage, and just enjoying rebuilding that confidence and some amazing school horses. A while back I decided it was time. I spent a lot of time and plenty of money finding myself the perfect horse. He’s an absolute saint on the ground and under saddle (sometimes I have to carry a crop to remind him that we want impulsion and good forward momentum, but I don’t have to use it). He’s just a really genuine, good horse. Very smart and quick to learn whatever we throw at him. I’m working with a trainer, and it’s going really well.

But whenever it’s me alone, I feel some of that fear come back. I sometimes have the hardest time making myself tack up, and getting on. I *know* he’s good and he’s going to try his hardest. I feel guilty always dragging some one along (I’m a grown adult and I find myself dragging my mom to watch me ride more often than not.) Will this just come with time and a good horse under me? I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to have somebody their watching, but I know I’m not riding my best and I’m worried about damaging my horse’s brain and ability to trust me with my unconscious fear.

I really thought I was ready. I wanted more time in the saddle and I was bold and confident in lessons (and still am! With the same horse!) Leasing really isn’t a thing here, so that wasn’t an option, and I absolutely don’t regret buying my boy.
Patchouli is offline  
post #2 of 7 Old 04-06-2020, 11:04 PM
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 47,981
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just as soon as you stop judgeing yourself by a past truth, and being disappointed, you'll shed that. Just, one day, you'll realize you aren't scared like that anymore.

But, it's not on your timeline.
egrogan, QtrBel, Woodhaven and 5 others like this.
tinyliny is offline  
post #3 of 7 Old 04-07-2020, 06:35 PM
Join Date: Jul 2018
Posts: 369
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It takes time and small steps towards improvement. Every time you go to the barn, I'd pick one thing that makes you moderately uncomfortable doing yourself. Work on that until you feel a bit more comfortable and then pick another task. What I wouldn't do is flooding yourself by taking on something that causes you a lot of anxiety. Leave those things for later.
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post #4 of 7 Old 04-07-2020, 06:47 PM
Green Broke
Join Date: Jan 2014
Location: Ontario Canada
Posts: 2,816
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It's really hard to get over these bad experiences and move on from them, I know it's happened to me but as you get to know this horse more you will be more confident about riding him, It does take some time but set yourself small goals and work on them and build on that and try to keep in mind what a sweetheart he is.

good luck and happy rides to you.
egrogan, redbadger and Patchouli like this.
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post #5 of 7 Old 04-08-2020, 10:12 AM
Join Date: Nov 2017
Location: Massachusetts
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I think you're perfectly reasonable to call this horse-related PTSD. Look at it this way: you had a horse that, while you could ride him, you were basically in fear for your safety the whole time, right? That kind of experience wires in the association of "alone with horse = danger". That makes sense, and I'll bet part of your worry now is that you did do all this work and effort but "what if" this horse turns out the same as the other one? To the trauma part of the brain, that's a very sensible worry.

Imagine if were out riding your horse on the trail and you came across something weird or different - a deer, some turkeys, a creek, some rocks, a garbage can - and the horse said "nuh-uh that's SCARY I'm not going past that, what if IT EATS ME?" And you know the garbage can is just a garbage can, the deer are just deer, the rocks are just rocks. So you tell the horse: "it's okay, really, I've seen all these things before, and they won't hurt us." You wouldn't correct them for just getting alert and letting you know, and you might even take him over to check out the garbage can or the rocks just to prove they're ok. That horse is your anxiety/PTSD/trauma-brain, telling you LOOK OUT THERE'S DANGER, and you can appreciate that it's doing its job, but just like the horse, you aren't going to let it turn you around and go back to the barn. So, what would you do if your horse saw something scary on the trail? What's your brain telling you, that you know, 99%, isn't actually true?

It's a very difficult process and sometimes it's like a half-step forward and seven to the side and maybe one or two rungs up a ladder, but it's kind of the same process. Don't overdo it (like, don't go hurtling through a field of garbage cans), but take it a piece at a time.
redbadger is online now  
post #6 of 7 Old 04-09-2020, 09:42 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2020
Posts: 14
• Horses: 0
Thank you guys for the replies! Especially you redbadger. That was very validating to read. We had an exceptionally warm day and I ended up riding entirely solo and we had one of the best riding sessions yet. Bless my mom's heart, my little thoroughbred has stirred her memories of being a crazy young foxhunter and galloping warm ups for her best friend's father back in her youth, and I actually found it surprisingly calming to be able to take things at my own pace without someone constantly commenting on how she'd be going faster by now. I appreciate her experienced eyes on the ground, but it was nice to work at our own pace. I actually found us cantering figure eights! I've been mostly working on walk and trot work, because someone's history as a polo pony means contact and frame were extremely foreign concepts. But everything really clicked into place for that one session. We also got our first big spook together out of the way, and I'm happy to report my boy's brain is everything that drew me to him in the first place. He's incredibly sane and smart. Just took a big side step, looked at the scary magazine that had hit the fence, gave a big sigh, and walked out when I asked him to.

I'm sure I'll have plenty of steps back as I move forward, but I'm really going to soak up this positive day while it's been good. And it's so nice to hear that it's normal and makes sense that I feel this way. I'm really happy I took the time I did, and found the horse I did. I'm already finding working with him to be so therapeutic. I've really got to double down on my solo riding now that stay at home orders look like they're going into place. Fortunately I'm in a situation where I'll still be able to provide care and ride, but I think lessons might be off the table for a time.
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post #7 of 7 Old 04-10-2020, 12:37 PM
Green Broke
Join Date: Jan 2014
Location: Ontario Canada
Posts: 2,816
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You go girl, that's terrific news about your ride. This may be the time for you to spend with your horse by yourself with no goals that have to be met. Just take each ride as it comes and get to know him better at your own speed.
Woodhaven is offline  

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