Overcoming panic - should I avoid the trigger? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 34 Old 12-18-2015, 02:15 PM Thread Starter
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Overcoming panic - should I avoid the trigger?

I have a difference of opinion with my instructor so I would be grateful if I could get an outside opinion.

I'm a not very confident older novice, I started riding 2 years ago. I am happy with my progress but I have a sticking point. I am very scared of riding in the indoor when other horses are jumping.

I work myself into a literal panic attack and have to get off the horse. I have never had a single panic attack in my entire life except in that situation.

I get overwhelmed trying to figure out where other horses are going/where they are going to land/is my horse going to lose it and start galloping or reversing into other horses to kick them (both of those happened on more than one occasion).

This situation happens about once a month and can't be avoided as there is no schedule for the indoor school. Just to clarify, I can't really go to a different riding school, I live in a small non-horsey country and I tried just about every single riding school there is, this is the best one. I know it is unusual to have riding school and jumping at the same time, but it is what it is. I sometimes have to ride with the national show jumping champion, that's how backwards the setup is (poor guy and poor me, he is trying 1.6m fences with me struggling around him).

My opinion is that when people are jumping, I shouldn't ride even if it means a miss that lesson. My instructor thinks that I should push through it and get over my panic. What do you think?
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post #2 of 34 Old 12-18-2015, 02:25 PM
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Can you find a way to meet in the middle?

Perhaps start out by just sitting on your horse in an out of the way place in the indoor while people jump. When you can do that without feeling so anxious, then try walking a bit, then standing again. Slowly stretch the amount of time you are moving, then try a few steps of trot, etc.

I can understand why your instructor wants to push you, but having a panic attack is pushing too far IMO.
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post #3 of 34 Old 12-18-2015, 02:31 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by phantomhorse13 View Post
Can you find a way to meet in the middle?

Perhaps start out by just sitting on your horse in an out of the way place in the indoor while people jump. When you can do that without feeling so anxious, then try walking a bit, then standing again. Slowly stretch the amount of time you are moving, then try a few steps of trot, etc.

I can understand why your instructor wants to push you, but having a panic attack is pushing too far IMO.
Eh, that's exactly how we went about it. I'm fine standing around, my instructor takes it as a signal to try some trotting after a half an hour and I fall apart. Bleh
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post #4 of 34 Old 12-18-2015, 02:37 PM
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Generally speaking, one should work towards overcoming their fears whatever they might be -- getting out of our comfort zone is what helps us learn and develop. I also think its extremely important that you prepare yourself mentally and emotionally in order to do so. It sounds like you're not there yet so don't let yourself get pushed into it if you really don't want to do it. But don't give up on it entirely either. Look for ways to help increase your knowledge and confidence in that type of situation so that will set you up to want to try. The logical starting point would be to start observing the jumping sessions from the sidelines -- look at how the fences are positioned, study the take off and landing points, etc., all with a view to seeing how you could eventually safely maneuver around the arena.
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post #5 of 34 Old 12-18-2015, 02:42 PM
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This is not a great setup, and I would expect that others there don't like it either. Would it not be in everyone's best interest for the barn to establish some ground rules for arena use that would provide some structure to this issue? Anywhere I have ever boarded or gone for lessons has had at least some rules about this, the first being that is someone is paying to have a lesson they have the right of way and you ride around them and stay out of the way.

Not sure what is the best for you to do, but I think the suggestion above sounds like a good one. But if it truly is causing you that much anxiety then no, I don't think it's worth it to push through... this is presumably something you want to do for fun and recreation, it's not worth ruining it trying to push too hard. Nervousness is a bit of a tricky issue with riding and from what I've seen it is not something you can just force yourself to barrel through and overcome.
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post #6 of 34 Old 12-18-2015, 02:54 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by AbbeyX View Post
This is not a great setup, and I would expect that others there don't like it either. Would it not be in everyone's best interest for the barn to establish some ground rules for arena use that would provide some structure to this issue? Anywhere I have ever boarded or gone for lessons has had at least some rules about this, the first being that is someone is paying to have a lesson they have the right of way and you ride around them and stay out of the way.

Not sure what is the best for you to do, but I think the suggestion above sounds like a good one. But if it truly is causing you that much anxiety then no, I don't think it's worth it to push through... this is presumably something you want to do for fun and recreation, it's not worth ruining it trying to push too hard. Nervousness is a bit of a tricky issue with riding and from what I've seen it is not something you can just force yourself to barrel through and overcome.
It's a strange setup, the indoor and outdoor schools are a business on their own and there are quite a few barns around them using their services. My instructor tried getting them to organize it so that there is at least one hour per day when there is no jumping allowed but no luck.

Thank you for you answer.
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post #7 of 34 Old 12-18-2015, 02:56 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Chevaux View Post
Generally speaking, one should work towards overcoming their fears whatever they might be -- getting out of our comfort zone is what helps us learn and develop. I also think its extremely important that you prepare yourself mentally and emotionally in order to do so. It sounds like you're not there yet so don't let yourself get pushed into it if you really don't want to do it. But don't give up on it entirely either. Look for ways to help increase your knowledge and confidence in that type of situation so that will set you up to want to try. The logical starting point would be to start observing the jumping sessions from the sidelines -- look at how the fences are positioned, study the take off and landing points, etc., all with a view to seeing how you could eventually safely maneuver around the arena.
I will keep doing that, I enjoy watching them. Thank you for your answer.
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post #8 of 34 Old 12-18-2015, 04:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Horsef View Post
It's a strange setup, the indoor and outdoor schools are a business on their own and there are quite a few barns around them using their services. My instructor tried getting them to organize it so that there is at least one hour per day when there is no jumping allowed but no luck.
That's really unfortunate... you would think they would see the business value of keeping the non-jumpers happy too. Although I still don't quite understand the reasoning as you would think that a little separation would keep the jumpers happier too. What's really too bad is if there's truly nowhere else for you and your instructor to take your business because that's exactly what I would want to be doing! Sorry I don't have anything more helpful to say, best of luck to you.
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post #9 of 34 Old 12-18-2015, 05:12 PM
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If you're paying for your lesson with trainer and feel way out of comfort zone then things should change.. fine pushing you to get over this issue gradually.. maybe occasional riding with others around but this is deflecting from your enjoyment and improvement, it's causing you stress.. why pay for a lesson where you can't learn because you're stressed out? You can get over it in time but the more confident a rider you are the less it will bother you long term!
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post #10 of 34 Old 12-18-2015, 05:28 PM
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Certainly not an easy situation. You've gotten some good advice already, and I fully understand your predicament.

It is absolutely true that pushing though one's fears is crucial to overcoming them, however as in a psychological "flooding" approach to phobias, this cannot be universally applied.

I'm not a big believer in the opinion that horses are "intelligent" per se. Show me one that does its own taxes and we'll talk. BUT, they are incredibly observant animals that feed off of the atmosphere around them.

So...

1. If you cannot control your reactions and your panic, your horse (any horse) will suffer from this, and itself become nervous and scared. You should not underestimate this mutual emotionality. I've learned things about my own friend's emotional state from watching how a horse reacted to him, despite seeing nothing telling on his face myself. This brings me to my next point...

2. You mentioned that you were an "older" rider. As AbbeyX said, riding should be a pleasure, and fun. Due to the constant rhetoric about confidence and control in magazines and between riders, it is easy to forget THE TRUTH, which is that an animal that weighs 1'200lbs is something that you simply cannot take for granted. I don't mean to worry you, simply to confirm that being nervous around giant animals is totally normal!

That being said, the real issue at hand is balancing between pushing yourself to learn and grow, whilst minimizing risk and the potential for injury, for you and your horse.

The situation at your stable is a mess, let's be honest, but if this isn't changing, then you will have to try and work around it somehow...In the meantime, don't be bullied by your instructor, your peers, or anyone else. Just like our 4-legged partners, we are also animals, and our "gut feelings" and instincts also exist from millenia of evolution, and hence for a reason.

Confidence is a huge part of success, in horseriding, in business, in most things. Your horse will need to feel this from you, and you will need to feel it in yourself to proceed safely. Take your time and be cautious, always remembering to challenge yourself, but AT YOUR OWN PACE!
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