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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So yesterday I was at my usual Saturday lesson. It wasn't going very well. I wasn't concentrating on my riding. I was completely distracted by all the other horses around. Back ground, I got into a bad riding accident two years ago. While I have mostly recovered physically, mentally it's a completely different ball game. I still become a nervous wreck when things aren't going well or if there are lots of distractions, especially other horses. I am so afraid my horse is going to play off the other horses and I am going to come off.

So my instructor tells me, "you're just not ready to fall off. You need to accept the fact that at some point you will fall off again."

I agree but I am just not sure how to do it. I really want to keep riding but I know I am making things worse because of my fear.

How do you get past the fear?

Do I just give up?

I am so frustrated and I know my horse is frustrated with me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
When this happens to you keep your head up or look at the ground for a spot to come off?
I tend to lean forward and look down at my horse waiting for her to take off or spook. I am completely do everything wrong. It get worse with any kind of speed. I try to sit back and look where I am going but I literally shut down when I am that nervous.

I get that it is me but I can't figure out how to turn my mind off. If that makes sense.
 

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Am I ever ready to fall off, no. Do I accept and know that I will at one point fall off? Heck I've done it twice this past week (my second and third time ever in over a decade of riding). I've known since the beginning that it's not if I'm going to fall off it's when. There's a saying that if you haven't fallen you haven't ridden hard enough or long enough. I think people get intimidated from a fall when they are in the mind set that they never will. Falling is a part of horses, so if you want to ride horses you have to know that you are going to fall off. But you're going to laugh about it, dust yourself off, and get back on. Or in one of my cases ride the next morning with your hand in a cast lol. If horses is really what you want to do, you have to start thinking that it can happen, but not dwell on the fact. Everybody falls! If you feel yourself start getting tense and worried about it, take a few deep breathes, relax your body, and think about how much you want to ride horses. If it is important enough to you, you will find a way to overcome it.
 

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Could you maybe listen to music and keep a beat in your mind? Maybe sing to yourself or talk to yourself? (When I would get nervous I would talk to the horse and my instructor non stop).
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
sounds weird, but has anyone ever practiced falling off?

Maybe if I get it out of the way I will quit worrying about it. I have fallen off many times and I always got over it. But the last time I truly got bucked off and I got really hurt. Every other time it was a lot of bruising but I wasn't really hurt. I think my biggest fear is getting hurt really bad again.
 

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sounds weird, but has anyone ever practiced falling off?
I did.

My mother worried about my getting injured riding. Hah! Not riding. Falling off. A neighborhood young woman was experienced in riding show jumpers.

Mom sent me to the woman's house repeatedly to practice a tuck and roll off their high front porch. The skills served me well over the years. Toward the end of my sessions with the neighbor, she would just push me off when she'd see I was distracted.

It's second nature now.
 

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The fear of falling off is always there. Whether or not you let it control your mind, well, that is up to you.

Singing is a great suggestion. Using the muscles in your abdomen will naturally relax you. You might feel like an idiot in the arena, singing as you go around, but it will relax both you and your horse.

Think positive. Keep looking UP and forward to where you want your horse to go. Mind over body.

I've been riding for 25+ years and I got bucked off by my colt last year. My owned darned fault, but you are never too experienced to be bucked off.

Accept it in your mind. I will happen again at some point. When you can accept it, is when you'll be okay with it.
 

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My Huntseat instructor taught us a "flying dismount." We learned it first at the walk, then performed it at the trot and at the canter. Perhaps your teacher could teach this to you? You slip your feet out of the stirrups, swing both legs to the near side and then slip off, careful to land with a bend in your knees to absorb the shock.
 

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I always have the mindset that if I know I'm going to fall off, I bail. For example, if my horse decides to have a bucking fit, and I fall onto his forehand, I kick my feet out and roll off. With that being said, I RARELY have to do that, but it is good to always have it in the back of your mind, IMO.

Maybe you can talk to your instructor and arrange a lesson time when the barn isn't as busy until you build your confidence back up? Also maybe you can work on your position a lot and have a more solid seat and lower leg. I know that when I feel really solid and secure in my tack, I'm not worried about what my horse might freak out about because I feel very confident he isn't going to get me off.

Good luck to you! :)
 

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I may be overly cautious, but I'm not a big fan of falling off. If I ride outside of an arena, then just about everywhere I might fall off would involve a lot of pain. We're just high enough in elevation to prevent the growth of saguaros, but you get the idea:



My daughter and I on a trail ride. If a horse bolts here, or dumps you off to one side, landing with a prickly pear cushion (or yucca, or cholla) is likely:



Heck, my one fall came when trying to dismount after a bolt. I had one foot above Mia's rump when she half-reared, spun 180 and took off - without me. The dirt here is about the softness of concrete, so the small rock I landed on back first went into my lower back. That was Jan 2009, and it was sore yesterday...and sore enough today that I'm going to skip riding on a beautiful southern Arizona winter day. And if I had landed about 2 feet away, I would have slammed back first on a bunch of jagged, 12-18 inch rocks, probably breaking my back.

In my case, I adopted tack and a riding position intended to make staying on easier. I switched to an Australian style saddle:



There may be a tougher saddle to fall out of, but I don't know of one. I adopted a forward seat because my horse sometimes jumped invisible objects, and it is easier to stay on a jump - even one you cannot see - in a forward seat. I ride with a long leg because it is easier to stay on if you can wrap your legs around your horse:



I eventually switched Mia to a curb bit, because a curb ("restrain") bit makes it easier to stop a horse on a narrow trail than a snaffle does. We also practice stops, because the habit of stopping when asked is ultimately what stops a horse, and one is less likely to fall off if you can reliably stop your horse even when she is scared.

I've switched to a western saddle recently, but still tend to ride forward and keep my leg long. Mia has been good enough that I am sometimes riding her in a snaffle, but I feel no guilt in putting her in a curb bit for a trail ride.

I wish I could tell you I ride around relaxed, but I would need to buy another horse for that. Mia has improved a lot, but she is still well short of 'reliable trail horse' status.

I do not consider tack 'cheating'. If the only thing it does if give me confidence, that by itself might help me relax and ride better...
 

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Four years ago I was walking up the mounting block to get on my horse when it tipped and I fell, tearing my ACL. I spent the next three years trying to recover and get my knee back to normal. It took three surgeries total to do that. The entire time I did own a horse, a saint of an Appaloosa mare. There were days when it would take me literally an hour to mount. Not even joking. I would start to hyperventilate, shake, and cry. I would get up on the first step of the mounting block and totally freeze. I would move the mounting block ten million times. I would move my horse around ten million times. First she's too close, then she's too far away, then she's too far forward, etc, etc. All of this anxiety from one little accident. Once I got on the horse, I was totally fine. No fear there. Last winter was the worst. There would be days where I would get her totally saddled up, walk her to the mounting block, and 45 minutes later walk her away from the mounting block unable to get on. I felt so silly. Then a "miracle" happened. We had a big ice storm and a huge tree fell down into the arena. The BO cut most of it up except for the trunk which was probably about 4 foot tall when it was laying on its side. I found that when I scrambled up on to that tree trunk, and just swung my leg over the saddle and sat down I had no fear of the mounting process. So I did that. All of a sudden the fear was (mostly) gone. I still have panic attacks from time to time, but they are few and far between. I keep telling myself that you can't let the fear rule you, you have to rule the fear. Otherwise, you will never get anything done! Horses have a mind of their own, sometimes they spook, or stumble, and a fall is going to happen. If you concentrate on the fear of falling, you will never be able to ride.
 

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No!!!! I have not practiced falling off a horse. But after several centuries of riding there have been enough falls to know it's gonna happen.
My advice would be to comfortably sit up, relax shoulders, arms, wrists, BREATHE, and keep your head up and focus on the direction you want to go. Don't look down. It's the horse's job to place his feet especially in an arena. There aren't many rocks, holes or tree roots there.
I would also keep the pace slow until you get more comfortable. And don't ride more horse than you can handle. Eventually you will need to push yourself out of your comfort level but for now it sounds like you need to get some confidence. Could you find a time to ride that might not be so busy?
I admire people who want to ride even after a scare or injury. I have had a couple of incidents on a motorcycle and I am never getting on another one!
 

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Look at something at the far end of the arena and keep your eyes glued to it. This will tell your horse, through your body, that this is where you are going. Keep picking out spots as you move about the arena. Do not look down or at your horse as that tells him you're at a loss and you don't want him making the decisions.
 

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After I came off, I found myself looking for accidents when I rode and my horse picked up on that.
A couple things that helped me is singing when I ride and trying to have a goal. That way I'm not thinking about falling. The biggest thing though that helped was just riding and spending time with my horse.
 

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the minute you think you are likely to fall off, you will. MOST falls happen when the rider gives up and accepts falling, for better or worse. I figure, I am going to fall whether I imagine it or not, whether I think it's going to happen or not. But, I can make that a lot more likely if I start picturing it, and "preparing" for it. I am going to be better off if I assume it's not happening this time, so I'll enjoy my current ride a bit more.
come to think of it, the last few times Ive come off have been when I least expected it. so, why would I waste mental time and stress imagining that THIS time is THE time.

I do, however, use a bit of common sense now that I am 55. I don't trot around blind corners, I dont' jump logs from a standstill, I don't canter in a group of like 4 horses up a hill. I think those limitations are reasonable, not overly fearful. my body, my choice.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thanks everyone for the really great advice. I just need to keep trying and not give up. I don't want to quit riding so I guess that is a good start. I still have the desire to ride. I just need to work on the fear control. I know things will get better if I can learn to relax. I think I will try some music or singing. My instructor does a good job. It's a private arena and for the most part we are usually alone. I am jumpy even then but not as bad. But on days when they are riding and training colts in the arena I am terrified.

Yesterday there was one young horse that started hopping around while tied. Like a half hearted buck. Then when they were lead her out of the arena she reared a little and start backing toward me and my horse. I completely freaked out. From there the lesson went down hill.

I know it is something I need to get over and that is what my instructor keeps telling me. I know that if I freak out my horse is more likely to spook. I know all of this but can't seem to get that in my head at the time. I am constantly in "flight" mode.
 
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