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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I won't bore you with the nitty gritty details, but yesterday's lesson was awful. Not that I expect to be perfect, as I make a lot of mistakes and that's why I'm there to learn, but I actually (me, a full-grown adult) started crying. Oh my gosh, I'm so ashamed even just typing that out. But in that moment I was so afraid and overwhelmed with the situation it's just how my body reacted. Thankfully, my trainer is not the sort to yell or belittle me, and I'm very thankful he helped me sort through it and in hindsight I was not actually in any danger.

But it was one of those moments that really slapped me in the face, and not only am I feeling like I won't be prepared for my own horse for many, many years to come (which is incredibly disappointing), but I'm even wondering why I thought I could do this at ALL. I feel like I have no business on a horse if I'm going to panic when a super gentle, lazy lesson horse decides to do his own thing in an enclosed arena. It's like, I'm too old to be just starting to learn how to do this, and even though I know realistically that's not true (I'm only a smidge past 30), I can't seem to shake that message from my heart right now.

Again, I'm very thankful for my trainer as we discussed what happened, how I was feeling in the moment and how I felt after the lesson, and even though he frames everything in a positive way, I still drove home feeling absolutely defeated. I've been trying to reframe it all on in my mind, but I can't seem to shake the idea that I'm not the type of person that can do this. I'm so disappointed in myself, and I can't help but think even if I do push on and eventually buy my own horse I'll just totally ruin it and let it down.

How do I get past this?
 

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I won't bore you with the nitty gritty details, but yesterday's lesson was awful. Not that I expect to be perfect, as I make a lot of mistakes and that's why I'm there to learn, but I actually (me, a full-grown adult) started crying. Oh my gosh, I'm so ashamed even just typing that out. But in that moment I was so afraid and overwhelmed with the situation it's just how my body reacted. Thankfully, my trainer is not the sort to yell or belittle me, and I'm very thankful he helped me sort through it and in hindsight I was not actually in any danger.

But it was one of those moments that really slapped me in the face, and not only am I feeling like I won't be prepared for my own horse for many, many years to come (which is incredibly disappointing), but I'm even wondering why I thought I could do this at ALL. I feel like I have no business on a horse if I'm going to panic when a super gentle, lazy lesson horse decides to do his own thing in an enclosed arena. It's like, I'm too old to be just starting to learn how to do this, and even though I know realistically that's not true (I'm only a smidge past 30), I can't seem to shake that message from my heart right now.

Again, I'm very thankful for my trainer as we discussed what happened, how I was feeling in the moment and how I felt after the lesson, and even though he frames everything in a positive way, I still drove home feeling absolutely defeated. I've been trying to reframe it all on in my mind, but I can't seem to shake the idea that I'm not the type of person that can do this. I'm so disappointed in myself, and I can't help but think even if I do push on and eventually buy my own horse I'll just totally ruin it and let it down.

How do I get past this?
Prancer: of COURSE you can do this! (And at age 30 you’re still practically a baby!)
We all make mistakes (and I’m not convinced you actually made one); we second-guess ourselves and berate ourselves for “not being good enough “. All we can do is to tell ourselves “I’ll do better next time!”
I liken your situation to that of my own when I spend hours,or days, working on a painting and end up throwing it in the trash. I tell myself I stink as an artist but in truth I really don’t stink. I just did something with less than desirable results.
Now get back in that saddle and RIDE girlfriend!
 

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Fear can break down an adult just as easily as a child. It makes me cry, for sure, especially if you fear for your life for an instant. It makes me angry, and scared, and then I cry. Been there, done that. I am sure your instructor has too.
Shake it off and go on. There's nothing else for it but that.
 

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Could you take a step back and work on easier things? Even just working at the walk? There's honestly a LOT you can work on at the walk. Stuff that will make you a better rider in the end.
 

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When I was coming back into riding and would get nervous, I had a hard time speaking up in the moment (like you, I thought I SHOULD be able to ride a nice, gentle lesson horse without a knot in my stomach). But not saying anything just made the nerves continue to bubble up until they bubbled over. I found asking to have lunge line lessons helped so much, because those allowed me to focus totally on my own position and balance without having to direct the horse. Not sure if you've ever had that kind of lesson, but might be something to investigate.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
@BethR I think you might be right, because when I told my husband what happened he had the exact same reaction as my trainer and said it's not nearly as bad as I think it was 😆 I know growing a thicker skin is something I need to work on, but dang it, I've been trying to do that for the past 20 years! Thank you for your encouragement 🧡

@tinyliny Thank you for the reminder. As a child I was a total crybaby, and it's something I've tried to grow past as an adult, so when I do have a breakdown I feel so immature!

@ACinATX and @egrogan My instructor has this method of teaching where he likes to push you out of your comfort zone, then pulls it back again to something easier and more comfortable. So I'm sure after yesterday's lesson I'll be returning to the basics for a week or two. I actually really like his method, but I'm frustrated feeling like I've slowed down my own progress by freaking out over something so totally mundane. It's like a part of me wants to keep doing MORE, but then when I get the opportunity my brain freaks out.
 

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I've been riding off and on for years and years, and had to restart riding nearly six years ago, at age 33, after sixteen years of next-to-no riding. I've probably ridden about 650 times since restarting, give or take. I've had hundreds of lessons. I now own a steady old schoolmaster (the same lesson horse that helped me relearn everything). In over 600 rides on her in all that time, I've only had two falls from her, neither of which was particularly scary or eventful.

And yet. And YET. Last week, I had a "ride" where I only sat on this wonderful horse for about five minutes, shaking in my boots and terrified, because it was a bit windy and she was a touch hesitant, but not actually doing anything wrong. I know the other woman who rides her will ride her in all conditions and everything is always fine. But I was absolutely having a "fear day" and cut my ride off after literally walking and trotting about two laps.

It's perfectly normal to have major moments of fear and self doubt in your riding. It's all part of the process. And it will come and go. You'll have a great stretch where everything is wonderful, and days where you wonder why anyone lets you near a horse.

Keep going!!! You can do this!
 

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Another one here who started riding (or re-riding) again at an "older" age (36 now 40 going on 41), and I am not a natural horse person. It does not come easily to me. I am anxious. I over think things. I am at first impressions "the person that cannot do this" but I have persisted because I love horses and I enjoy riding, and slowly over time I have got better. I still feel fear and anxiety sometimes, but that is totally natural. Just last weekend I had my first ever canter down a beach and it was a total mind game for me to stay focused during the canter (flipping back and forth between "you can do this, you are fine" to "no, you are going to lose a stirrup and fall off"). I was more happy to stop cantering than canter more, but will I try it again. We may be "older" learners, not natural horse people, and feel anxiety, but that should not stop us from riding. I let it stop me from riding for about 25 years (my break between riding as a child and re-starting as an adult), and I wish I could have that time back to have been riding rather than letting my fear, worries, and lack of confidence in myself put me off.

Enjoy grooming next time before you tack up. I always find that helps calm me down if I am in an anxious phase.
 

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And I wanted to add that, honestly, as long as you just keep showing up, and have horses and coaches who are worthy of your faith and trust in them (and it sounds like you do), things will just happen. When I started again in 2015, I knew about 3% as much as I know now. I would never have guessed how much I would learn or how far things would go. I used to know the basics of riding but very little about horse care and health, or tack fit, or... wow, so so so so many things that I now have strong, informed opinions about. But it's still just 3% of what I COULD know about any of it. It's limitless.
 

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One thing I learned while I was taking lessons with a tough trainer (when I was younger, probably 13/14) is once you are beginning to feel nervous/frustrated/anxious/etc is to start either talking or singing to your horse. As soon as that trainer saw me get stiff in the saddle, or teary eyed, or whatever, he made me rehearse the ABC's. As soon as I did that, the wheels in my brain started turning once again and I got out of my own head because I had to focus on something other than the emotions (which were often pretty silly looking back), and it allowed me to work through the issues I was having.

It seems a little silly while riding with others, but it really does help. Even now at 23, I still occasionally rehearse some sort of song when my green mare is being a little silly or if my steady-eddy gelding decides to be a rocket trying to blast off.
 

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I don't have any advice -- I often find myself in a headspace similar to Prancer. I just want to thank everyone for their kind words on this thread. You made me feel a lot better, too! We're all improving and getting braver with every ride, but there will always be hiccups along the way.
 

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I have to admit that I was nervous about asking Angelina to canter when I first acquired her. She didn’t want to do a slow easy lope; she acted like was leading the cavalry charge. Maybe this was her way of reminding me that Morgans were the preferred mount of the Union cavalry during the Civil War🙂
Until I learned to control her more effectively it was a scary proposition!
 

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Sometimes the simplest things can be scary. When I was picking up riding again seven years ago I was on my sweet little pony who was the gentlest and quietest horse I’ve ever ridden, and I was going to try to open a gate. He took a couple more steps past the gate than I asked him to and he tossed his head a bit. I got all shaky and started crying. I was super embarrassed until my trainer, a woman who had been riding for decades came and took my pony by the halter and told me that it was fine, that it was normal and that the same thing still happened to her occasionally.
Things like this still happen to me. My horse did a little jump on the trail a couple weeks ago and it scared me horribly and I felt ridiculous.
it’s okay to be scared or nervous about anything, as long as you don’t put that before your love for horses and your want to improve. It sounds like you have an awesome trainer too :)

I loved reading through these replies, they’re so kind and encouraging :) it helped boost my confidence to read them too.
 

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Okay, first of all, you are in NO WAY old. Seriously c:

Secondly, hi! I just started riding five months ago after never riding ever in my whole life (I'm 21) so I'd like to think I know a little bit about rough lessons. I'm not the kind of person to shy away from doing new things, but the first time I was on a lesson horse that decided to bolt into a full-on canter because trotting over poles just wasn't doing it for her (mind you, this turned out the be the first canter I'd ever done), I was shaken. I know how to canter now, but in the moment all I could think to do was go into two-point and try to stay calm. I had lost control over a thousand-pound animal who had decided to take it upon itself to do something I had no idea about (and this particular horse was considered an 'easy' lesson horse)- I had every right to be scared despite the fact that cantering is something super normal and even something I look forward to now. Luckily, it seems that we both found ourselves some kind instructors who let us take it easy once we get spooked.

What I'm trying to say is that feeling fear when you're on the back of a mega-powerful machine is never something to be embarrassed about. You have every right to have yours and the horse's safety as a top priority and feel upset when that's been threatened- the best thing you can do is not give up. Come into every lesson with a smile and try to twist everything into a positive. Even if the only positive you can get out of a lesson is that you stayed on the horse, or even that you got to be around horses for an hour or so, that's better than focusing on the negatives. Positives thoughts bring positive results; my trainer tells us that all the time <3
 

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Hi Prancer... Lots of great posts here and advice. I'm 38 and I just started riding for the FIRST TIME (minus a few lessons and summer camps as a kid) last May. I can completely understand the anxiety, trepidation, and even feelings of shame when a lesson or maneuver doesn't go well. Adults are definitely more "in our heads" when it comes to riding. My group lesson is with 2 other middle aged women and we were just talking about how overcoming fear and anxiety is almost more difficult than the actual physical act of riding. A HUGE part of this for me has been giving myself permission to be a beginner as an adult. I don't think we let ourselves be beginners and WE SHOULD! Every lesson, every experience with a horse is a learning moment, even if it doesn't go the way we planned.

Back in November, I had my first fall (lost my balance at the canter) and ended up breaking my arm and having surgery. Trust me, I really thought about not going back to riding. But when it comes down to it, I love horses, I love learning new things, I love the feeling of partnering with a horse and I wasn't willing to let fear take that away from me.

So, trust that you are normal. Fear is normal. But take lots of deep breaths, ask lots of questions of your trainer, and remember how fortunate you are to be able to spend time with one of the most amazing creatures on our Earth! We do this for fun! :)
 

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As many contributors to this (wonderfully empathetic thread) I’m also a re-rider with tons of anxiety and about 14 proper lessons under my belt now. I question my motivation, I question my ability and I questions why horses don’t have a “switch off” button to press, once things start going sideways... I had one lesson from hell where the horse just lost her mind over a new horse walking by the arena and a couple of spooks on the trail. I heard my own voice pleading a very weak “no” when the animal started dancing around, head up, shaking in fear.... I just have to accept, as meditativerider says (thanks for your private message!!) that this is who I am, but I STiLL have business with horses. We all have a lesson or two gone wrong, I promise the next one will be progress! I believe a lot of anxiety around horses is the fear of not being fully in control. But how many instances in life are similar? Are we always in charge? I learn to let go of the expectation that I must look good, do good, perform AND, feel a certain way about it. Horses make me happy (most of them, the non-spooky ones) reconnect this city girl with a full time corporate job and small kids to nature, to fresh air, to dirt, to the ground, oxygenate me and refocus me. Horses are a great challenge for me but every time I embrace the full package, I feel a little bit more alive.
 

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The only cure for this ailment is more lessons. And more, and more. Also, get that horse eventually. Heck, get a bunch. I'm kidding of course, but stop telling yourself you can't do this. Of course you can. I had horses as a child, then not for a long time (though I still rode on occasion), but now I have three. I'm 50 and I have been riding since I was a very young child. I'm still not a very good rider. Do I let that stop me? Heck no. I'm good at other things involving horses, and I AM getting better at riding. But the rides I enjoy the most are those when I feel truly connected to the horse. They might just be a short bareback, bitless ride on my horse where we don't accomplish much to the outside eye, but I feel a connection, and my horse is willing, so that makes me happy. Those moments I keep as snapshots in my mind. Not the ones where I fall off, have the coach yelling at me, am terrified because my horse is getting anxious. I remember the good rides, and try to forget the bad, telling myself I'm still learning. Horses sure do keep us humble.

But I have learned that I don't care about becoming a competitive rider, or even doing lessons that often. Not to say that I discourage lessons - on the contrary! But I know enough to ride all gaits, deal with different temperaments, and do the kind of riding I want to do on trails or in the arena so for now, that's enough. I am more interested in being in sync with my own horse than riding a bunch of lesson horses - although again, I think that's important too, but after doing that for a few years, I decided I now just want to focus on riding my own horse and growing our relationship in my own way. We might not look perfect, but as long as we are not regressing, then we are progressing, as slow as that might seem.

I did find the book Centered riding by Sally Swift tremendously helpful. I only discovered it recently, but it did help me refocus on the feeling of riding rather than the thinking. And when I do that, I smile. Seriously, it sounds silly, but when I sit back, center myself, use my "soft eyes" and think of my whole body connection to my horse, it makes me happy. Suddenly, my body remembers the child in me who was just happy to be on a horse, any horse, in any kind of tack or none at all. We should always feel the joy of riding. All too often, riding becomes frustrating and makes us feel incompetent. Those feelings only block the positive, and sometimes we forget why we were drawn to these amazing animals in the first place. Coaches may forget that we do not all want to become competitive riders and that we all progress at our own speed.
 

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@BethR I think you might be right, because when I told my husband what happened he had the exact same reaction as my trainer and said it's not nearly as bad as I think it was 😆
Can you ask your husband to take a video? Or photos? I started bugging my husband to do this. I have probably thousands of photos of my daughter riding (she's 16 and a competitive rider who has had lessons for 10 years and is now about to be certified as a riding coach), but I had none of myself. And sure, some of them are bad, but a lot of them aren't. My daughter keeps telling me I'm not a bad rider. And that scary canter? When you watch the video you'll laugh at yourself for thinking you were going fast. Seriously, I did find it helpful to see myself riding because a), it makes me happy to have those images to look at which also helps with my visualization and b) what I felt was scary or bad riding turns out to not look nearly as bad as I thought. I actually look like I know what I'm doing sometimes! LOL It might just help you feel like you are a better rider than you think, and that those anxiety-causing moments really aren't so scary.
 

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Hey, you've got this! I started riding at 24 - 6 years ago, so not only was I an adult beginner but I was an extra-hesitant, anxiety-prone adult beginner. 6 years later and I still cry in lessons at least a few times a year. I still am terrified of cantering new horses (and sometimes at all.) I also bought a pony this past summer that ended up being not at all beginner safe like I was looking for so I've learned an additional lesson in stepping back, taking it slow and easy, and avoiding putting pressure on myself.

And, we need to stop being hard on ourselves for crying. Someone on here told me recently some people are just more physically prone to being "easy criers." You're not alone and there isn't anything wrong with you. 💕
 
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