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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently started leasing an Icelandic Horse, after a 15 year hiatus away from horses (other than a few guided trails). I only see my lease horse Draumsyn, once a week because I'm legally blind and I'm husband has to drive me and it's 45 minutes away. So I've ridden her (including the "test"ride) about 7 times now. My balance is getting better, my confidence has been improving in the saddle, my seat is excellent--so two the owner and one other riding instructor have told me. And yet, I had an epic fail on Thursday! I got her out, tacked her up and took her into the arena and got on the mounting block and my heart started pounding and I froze. Draumsyn is 13.1 hands! So I'm looking Down on her! I felt so ridiculous. After dithering for a couple minutes I finally made her nervous and she walked off. I repositioned her several times and every time couldn't swing my leg over--from fear. Finally had to get my husband out of the warm car and get him to hold her and stand there with me. I finally got on. Then I was a nervous Nellie for the first 15 minutes or so--I made her nervous and she jumped at hone point and sidestepped and I tensed up so hard I almost lost my seat. I finally said ENOUGH to myself and forced myself to relax and after a few minutes we found our rhythm and I had a much better ride--although not perfect. I am still afraid to canter (even though I used to do it bareback!). But I wanted to end on a good note--so screwed up my courage and took first one foot out of the stirrups for halfway around, put it back, took out the other foot and finally dropped both stirrups for a couple turns around the arena. So relieved to at least have overcome that hurdle--and on a day when I was just full of generic "fear". Sheesh! Anyone else experience this? I think menopause is wreaking havoc with my anxiety levels. I'm 48 and I think I'm almost through the change already. Here are me and Draumsyn celebrating after our ride!
 

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The important thing is that you pushed through it! That's fantastic!

Are you taking lessons? It seems like it would be good to have someone assisting you when this sort of thing happens, and it would also be really good to have eyes on the ground to help you correct little things so you can continue to improve. I'd also like to suggest a helmet to keep that head well protected!

I don't think I ever got so nervous I couldn't get on, but there were definitely times when my heart would race, especially when I rode my very nervous mare. Even now, riding my very steady appy gelding, my heart might accelerate a little sometimes, like today, when we rode by the barn and an icicle crashed down near us, and he decided to spook a little. The good thing is that his spooks are easy to ride - nothing like my mare's explosions. But I have a bit of PTSD from her bad spooks (she gave me a concussion - lucky I was wearing a helmet that day!) so even when I know I'm fine, sometimes my body still reacts. The only thing to do is to keep riding. Eventually it goes away.
 

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Way to go!!! You were obviously very in tune with yourself and the situation. I'd call that excellently assessed and handled. And great photos! Draumsyn is so cute - look at that white face and flaxen mane and tail!

Menopause doesn't have to be the only reason that you're feeling anxious. I'm not there yet, but I've had days where I psyche myself up and confidently think "I'm going to try this today! Yeah!" ...then I get out there and my body reacts with anxiety. I think it just takes practice to become mentally and physically zen in the saddle. This is especially true when presented with new experiences (like a new horse) or more speed or heights. You don't know what could happen, and so why not exercise caution? You can't invalidate your body's reaction, but you can at least tell yourself that it's not productive to feel that way. And nothing beats riding anxiety like being prepared. We might not be able to tell the future, but we can all know how to do a 1-rein stop and be prepared for anything. =)
 

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Riding blind is 100 times, . . . no, 1000 times more difficult than riding sighted. Those of you who have never ridden with blind riders have no idea how difficult it is to find your balance when you are blind.

To help my blind friend and understand her issues better, I used to ride blindfolded from time to time. My blind friend fussed constantly about the length of her stirrups. They had to be "just so." After riding blindfolded, I understood perfectly how important balanced and even stirrups were. Your balance is so precarious when you can't see. EVERYTHING is so precarious when you can't see.
@Animalia, you used to canter bareback when you were sighted. It's a whole 'nother thing to ride blind. I think you need to cut yourself some slack. What you are doing is so so difficult. Just the fact that you get on and ride is wonderful.

Sighted riders, if you want an adventure, take your horse into an arena, put a black cloth bag over your head, and ride for 20 minutes.
 

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Well done! You are much braver than me.

I was a nervous wreck for a long time. So what I would do is just walk my horse in hand if I was too scared to get on. Until I got bored. You can’t be bored and scared at the same time. Until you can, that is :/ I took a lot of lessons but I told my instructors not to push me. It helps a lot to know that you can get off at any time. I’m not scared any more, but I avoid riding in very scary situations. High winds in a tent indoor is a no go situation for me. A pack of stray dogs saunters into the arena, I get off. You get the idea.

Don’t let anyone tell you there is nothing to be scared of because there is. Take lessons, get your seat solid and the probability of getting hurt goes down. If the horse is misbehaving and you are struggling, find a different horse. If the wind is blowing and the horse is jumping all over the place, don’t ride that day. We are to old to play tough girls and they don’t make spare parts for us.
 

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FWIW I personally don't think you should be pushing yourself to canter, just because you used to be able to do it. I think a lot of older people who used to ride feel like they should just be able to get back on and do whatever they used to do, but it doesn't work that way.

Really good job, though.
 

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Well done! this should have left you feeling GOOD, not bad. You went forward, when every molecule said back away.


The nice thing about getting older is that we are gentler with ourselves, and our expectations. We allow ourselves to enjoy the little things, . . . and it's great!
 

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I think you are awesome! And very inspiring! My hubby is legally blind and I've thought about talking him into taking riding lessons on a good safe school horse. You've given me inspiration to get him thinking about it! I know you have the courage to overcome this setback. There's no reason on earth to feel bad about a scare, and every reason to just think about and savor that big win you had!



Carry on!!
 

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Well done! I have a huge mare and at the start she was very antsy at the mounting block. I used to have to mount in front of a crowd with ppl yelling at me to hurry up lol. It made things WORSE and I would get so anxious. I always had a fear of being dragged by a stirrup mounting... When I moved yards somewhere quiet it would take me 15mins to mount as I refused to get on while she was fidgeting. I wasn't ready to take that leap and eventually she learned to park herself and wait lol. At old yard I saw one woman at the mounting block for half an hour who eventually gave up, after refusing help. It seems so silly but its not really. We're so vulnerable when we lift our leg over and it's even worse when we gotta do it on our own. Honestly some of the most nerve wrecking rides were when I was alone for the first few times. The first arena ride. The first solo hack. The first solo trot and canter... You're not alone. It will pass and soon become second nature ;)
 

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@Animalia Hi, I understand your problem... I think the body sometimes instinctively remembers how certain situations could be dangerous for you even if you are in a totally different situation. It works the same with horses. They once had something really bad happen and their instincts and survival gut tell them to tense up/be scared every time in a similar situation. (which is kinda normal, you would want to survive above all) You are probably experiencing the same. After all humans are also animals. I think what the other riders said is true: you are very brave and if you try to get past your fear every time and move a little bit forward in your bravery every time, then you can retrain your brain. What also helps are positive visualizations and a good bond with your horse. I ride a non-beginners horse (and I am a beginner, so you can imagine...) and he used to pull all kinds of tricks on me, but now I have gotten to know him and I truly trust him. I know he will never intentionally ditch me so that helps me relax. :)



And also sometimes you just have a bad day... That's only human. Try to build your trust and self esteem by feeling safe (maybe you can add a neck rope or something to balance yourself? Or maybe grab the pommel to feel the movement of the horse...) Or maybe you can even train the horse to make a certain sound when he is gonna do a different gait?? Or you can add some sort of thing to the tack that gives you some tactic feedback??) You could also wear a body protector so you are more protected in case of a fall. Personally I do wear one always (I seem to be the only adult that does this.) The horse I ride likes to unzip it though, haha. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Acadianartist----Thanks for that! Oh, and I always wear a helmet when I ride. I just took it off for a couple quick photos at the standstill. :) I am not currently taking lessons but have been considering it. I was always a Western Pleasure girl, and even showed in that discipline a tiny bit when I was younger. But English riding is a bit more tricky, I have limited experience with it, and I'm way out of practice in general. So I'm going to see if the boarding stable where Draumsyn is has an instructor--and if I can afford a couple lessons. Her owner is an excellent rider and while not an actual instructor I thought about asking her. The only problem is that D is so bonded to her--when Brianna is around, I cannot ride--because all Draumsyn does is constantly try to go where her owner is to be near her. It's ridiculous--and a little cute.
 
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
knightrider; Sighted riders said:
Thanks for the vote of confidence Knightrider! Actually, to experience my level of vision, put a couple layers of cheesecloth over your eyes--with several more layers over the right eye for more complete white-out effect. You can still see where you are going pretty much, and some colors and even some detail close up--but you can't see more than 4 or 5 feet in front of you with any sort of detail and everything is a little blurry. My vision has been this way for at least 10 years now, so my brain as adjusted to my new "normal". I function very well all things considered. But yes, balance is an issue and I find myself looking down at my horses's neck and ears all the time instead of looking towards where we want to go--because it's all a big blur. But I can still look that direction. I have the same problem in yoga, but I can usually find something on the wall--a dark spot or light spot or something--that may be a clock or poster--to focus on. LOL
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thank you for all your wonderful replies! I am very lucky to have a sweet, safe horse. She does challenge me and test me and act up more than I'd like, but we're working on it. I've done some groundwork with her in the round pen and that has helped us bond a bit. And at the end of my last two rides in the indoor arena, I got off and let her go cause I wanted to her walk a bit to see if she was limping. I figured she wouldn't go far and I can see her overall outline to know if she's limping or not. Well, she just stayed glued to me like Velcro horse. Now it's a game--I get off and walk and run all over the arena and try to "get away" from her and she heels like a dog. Very endearing. She is not a beginner horse in the saddle, but she's not too advanced for me. I'm just used to riding only completely idiotproof guided trail horses (Dude ranch type) the last many years. Now I actually have to RIDE. :) I have a goal. My goal is to be able to ride at the walk and trot--bareback, by next Summer. Seems achievable. Especially since her "trot" is actually a tolt or a pace--and both are smoother than a trot. As far as cantering (in the saddle!) that may take longer. Or not. I'm not going to worry about it too much, but it is a goal eventually.



Jolien---I'm going to think about the stuff you said. Some very interesting ideas!
 

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I cannot tell you how inspiring your posts are to me. Seriously.

And yes I have experience this (in recent history). I was almost too nervous to even ride but I forced my way through it and my nervousness was making PopTart a nervous wreck as well so we just rode in the round pen until I could breath again. I honestly do not know what gets into me sometimes. I am so glad that you rode through it and were able to talk yourself down from the fear monster.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Rhonda--glad to know I'm not alone! I had almost forgotten this, but one of the last times I really rode, on my own, on a green broke horse I was working with (the horse was the daughter of a horse I had a great relationship with for many years). She spooked--badly--went up and spun and I went off the side and broke my wrist. I was losing my vision at the time and everyone blamed it on that. That was over 15 years ago now, but I think I might have some latent PTSD from it. It's the first time since I was 6 or 7 years old that I've fallen off--and it involved an ambulance! And it involved my family and boyfriend at the time coming down on me hard for what they considered "reckless" behavior (riding horses when you have chronic inflammatory conditions and are going blind). Horses never seemed a scary activity to me. So, now I'm just finally getting ALL the part of my life back together.

Thank you so much for your kind words. I so often feel like a dolt, it's nice to hear I can actually inspire people!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Oh, by the way Rhonda--did I see in another post you are working on barrel racing? Or did I get that wrong? If so, that's very brave!
 

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Thank you for all your wonderful replies! I am very lucky to have a sweet, safe horse. She does challenge me and test me and act up more than I'd like, but we're working on it. I've done some groundwork with her in the round pen and that has helped us bond a bit. And at the end of my last two rides in the indoor arena, I got off and let her go cause I wanted to her walk a bit to see if she was limping. I figured she wouldn't go far and I can see her overall outline to know if she's limping or not. Well, she just stayed glued to me like Velcro horse. Now it's a game--I get off and walk and run all over the arena and try to "get away" from her and she heels like a dog. Very endearing. She is not a beginner horse in the saddle, but she's not too advanced for me. I'm just used to riding only completely idiotproof guided trail horses (Dude ranch type) the last many years. Now I actually have to RIDE. :) I have a goal. My goal is to be able to ride at the walk and trot--bareback, by next Summer. Seems achievable. Especially since her "trot" is actually a tolt or a pace--and both are smoother than a trot. As far as cantering (in the saddle!) that may take longer. Or not. I'm not going to worry about it too much, but it is a goal eventually.



Jolien---I'm going to think about the stuff you said. Some very interesting ideas!



Here's what I thought when I first read the bolded part:


If your balance is compromised, you have some health issues that mean a fall would be more impactful to you than to another person, but you have the heart to want to ride again, . . . then. . . ride SMART. To me, that means you do not ride bareback, at all. It's just too easy to come off, and if coming off could set you back in your dream, or re-stimulate the PTSD that is holding you back, then why increase your odds of that happening?


To me, I'd work on being a real rider, IN a saddle. Take your slowly building confidence and become the best rider you can in your saddle, working on becoming a 'pilot' to your horse, not just a passenger.
It's great to have a seat that's good enough to ride bareback, but bareback riding is not a requirement to becoming a better rider.



If I were younger, I'd totally do that, ride around bareback. Heck , I used to do it a fair amoungt. But, I want to ride for a long time, and I am more likely to fall if I ride bareback, so I'm going to consign that to my younger self's dreams.
 

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I think that is great!! Way to go! :D Don't push yourself to canter though, do it when you are good & ready. There's no rush. Just because you used to be able to do it doesn't mean you necessarily HAVE to do it now. Take your time. Take baby steps. Little wins mean a LOT. Keep it up! Very inspiring!
 

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Oh, by the way Rhonda--did I see in another post you are working on barrel racing? Or did I get that wrong? If so, that's very brave!
I am going back to barrel racing! I did it my whole life from age 10 to about 30, but I've been off for a few years. I'm now 38, and I'm pursuing my passion again! I'm actually going to go over to a barrel race tomorrow and just do an exhibition for fun. :)

And yes, you could have some latent PTS from that. It always pops up when we are least aware!
 
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