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Hi all!

So a big problem I've had right now is that when I'm riding without an instructor, I kind of avoid doing 'difficult' things. And by difficult, I don't mean like jumping or cross country or whatever, I just mean like, trotting a 20m circle if my horse is being nervous.

Like the other day, I was trying to trot him on a circle and he cantered off and started bucking, and I stayed on fine and I never thought I was going to fall off or anything, but for the rest of the ride I didn't try to trot the circle again without transitions or something else to make sure he couldn't misbehave easily.

And the horse I ride, Ninja, he's only 5 so I know he's going to misbehave sometimes and I've gotta learn to deal with that when the instructor's not there, but once I actually start riding I just seem to avoid 'triggering' him. I don't even know why, really, because I know he's not gonna try and get me off.

It's just frustrating because I know I could do more when I'm riding, I just don't. It feels like I don't achieve anything when I'm riding alone, or like I'm building bad habits or something.

Any tips?

Sorry if this doesn't make a whole lot of sense, I don't really know how to put it in words
 

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I think you need more practice and confidence-building on a more experienced horse that you know isn't going to pull anything silly with you. This sounds like you're not fully confident, and your young and green horse needs you to be his leader. You can only do this if you have the confidence within yourself to be his leader. Confidence is best built on a more experienced horse before working your way down to more green horses. You very well could be building bad habits if you avoid activities that "trigger" him because now he's learning he doesn't have to work as much or do certain things if he's silly.

Good luck!
 

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If a horse I was riding took off on me and started bucking... I'd just stop riding that horse, from that day on. But that's me.

If you don't enjoy riding horses that do that kind of thing, though... you're totally justified in sticking to horses that DON'T do that. Especially if these aren't horses that you own. :shrug:

That "nervousness" is called self-preservation, and it's perfectly healthy. Some riders can push it away to a VERY impressive extent, but that doesn't mean it's the "right" thing to do!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
If a horse I was riding took off on me and started bucking... I'd just stop riding that horse, from that day on. But that's me.

If you don't enjoy riding horses that do that kind of thing, though... you're totally justified in sticking to horses that DON'T do that. Especially if these aren't horses that you own. :shrug:
He's done worse in lessons, and it wasn't like mean spirited I guess? Like he's not a horse to buck because he wants you off. He was just scared because of the wind.

And I should say, I do really like riding him and working him through this stuff. It's the most rewarding thing I've done with riding. It's just when I don't have an instructor too, well, instruct, I get a bit weird about it.

Like, we've got schoolmasters I could switch to and ride and my brother could have Ninja, and that would work fine. I really do want to work through this though.
 

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I know what you mean. It's much easier to push your boundaries when an instructor tells you to do something. Gosh, I think this is true of all of us.
I remember doing just exactly what you are saying; avoiding any 'trigger' activities that might end up have me riding a huge, spooking horse in a large arena. Now that I have a very gentle, older horse, I don't worry much about that. it sure is nice to not be scared when out riding!
 

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I know exactly what you mean. My lesson horse spooked (to quote my instructor, "the wildest spook he's ever had!"). When he did, he scrambled side to side, reared, kicked, and bucked. I landed flat on my butt and got right back on.

But ever since, I've been more nervous. Instead of thinking, "Cool, time to canter." I'm thinking about what would happen if he spooked at the canter, or how I don't want him to break from a trot to a canter, or how I'm afraid to apply too much leg pressure in case it makes him shoot off.

I tried a different horse, and it was no better. Actually worse, because he had a seriously fast, bouncy trot (it was like a slow canter, really), and I was tense and grippy the whole time.

All I can say is maybe switch to another horse, but just for a while! See if you're more confident with that horse. Build up your confidence again. Ninja is a young horse and doesn't have much mileage. I wish I could say he won't ever spook again, but he's green and sensitive to this big spooky world. He'll probably become quieter, but in time. It won't happen overnight.
 

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It is very common to feel more comfortable when someone else is around to provide emotional support. When nobody else is available, the responsibility of keeping a horse calm falls on the rider.

Try to think as though you are a parent or even a baby sitter who must help a nervous child relax. You can’t do this if you do not present the appearance of relaxation. I once saw a comic strip which illustrated this idea well.

A little girl ran up to her mother in the house saying: “Mommy, Mommy. Spider, spider.” The mother replied, “Oh, its just a little spider. We’ll just pick it up, take it outside, and turn it loose.” After the mother did this, the child ran off smiling. The last frame illustrated the mother’s true reaction – she quivered with nervousness once the child was gone.

The idea is that this woman controlled her own emotions for the sake of her child. In a similar way, we riders must sometimes control our own emotions for the sake of helping our horses control theirs. The added bonus is that, if we can help our horses relax, their relaxation will help us relax “for real”.
 

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So he's not your horse?

What helped me was making a lesson plan and then when riding alone pretend that my instructor is there, including a running dialogue in my mind. It gave me purpose in the earlier days when I was unused to riding alone.

Secondly learn to identify when your hose is the following: just excitable, spooky/distracted, gate-sour (for example, he only misbehaves when you are riding away from the gate/direction of his "home/friends" but eagerly rushes with no problems towards them). Also learn when he is focused and when he is relaxed.

Thirdly, as your goal is to have him focused and relaxed, give yourself a plan for when he is not. For example, when my horse is giraffing, refusing to even take treats or acknowledge I'm alive, I will do walking exercises. Serpentines, changes of direction, backing up. It once took me 20minutes before she finally had her head down and was listening. Only then, and literally only then, did I ask for trot. Not a moment before. This doesn't happen often to me in the arena but it did and will happen occasionally. In the past it would take me 15minutes to mount but I learned to just patiently wait her out. No drama just a simple "I'm gonna wait here until you stand still enough so I can get on." When she did, I gave her a big treat and a pat and got off after 5mins walking. Some days just don't go to plan but if you achieve something big for that day then end it there IMO.

Fourth - active relaxation. Seriously, have an ABC plan that you practice out of the saddle for when you are stressed. Mine is take a deep breath and I focus on relaxing everything beginning with my neck down to my toes. When I reach my arms and hands I check to make sure I'm not gripping and I'm in motion. At worst, I let myself slump like a potato as I'd rather that than be too tight.

Fifth - In the past I would hand walk her in the arena before I got on. As if I was leading someone. Proving to myself that she could walk/trot nicely with no drama meant that when I got on all I had to do was the exact same pattern from the saddle. I don't do this now ofc but I am a cautious person who hates to rush. I did what I felt I needed to to feel safe, when alone. You bet if she couldn't handle walking a simple pattern or trotting it, without drama, then I'd not be getting on lol.

But anyway different people and all. Personally I'd not be riding such a green horse without supervision or some sort of guidance, more so I didn't ruin it by not knowing what to do. A green horse, not necessarily even young, needs someone to give them guidance and confidence. Like a parent. Understandable when we are scared WE want the horse to reassure us. Well heck no, a horse is more like a toddler. You can't ask a toddler to get over themselves haha ;). I mean, when he plays up has your instructor given you a plan XYZ what they would like you to do in response? Or is it "get on and deal with it"?
 
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