I never thought I'd be posting about this, but I've had a bad few weeks, and now my confidence is a bit shaken. I've always considered myself to be a decent rider, and I'm in college majoring in equine management aka colt starting, but I feel like if I'm going to be successful in this job, then I shouldn't be having these problems.
It started out when I was riding my friend's kids horse, and he reared up on me, dumping me in the process. He was fine while I tacked him up, and although he got snorty once I got on him, I'd never seen this horse do anything worse then crow hop a few inches off the ground. Trying to keep his attention on me I did lots of circles and serpentines, and other stuff, and he seemed to be relaxing, when all of a sudden I felt like he was coming over backwards, and then I was sitting on the ground. I think I may have dented my helmet a bit, but I didn't feel scared, although I didn't get back on him. I was alone at their house and he's too big to get on unless he's standing still. The next day I went out to my old trainer's for a lesson, and wasn't nervous at all.
Then I got back to school, and although the horse I am training in class is very cool, he's a bully and the size of a small draft horse. I also can't seem to read him, and have to keep asking for help. I know we're in class to learn, but I feel like I'm asking way too many questions, and needing way too much help. It doesn't seem like this horse should be so difficult for me since he's not a bronc, doesn't spook at anything, and didn't seem to care when I flopped the saddle pad all over him.
Added to this, I was riding my horse today, and he lost it. My horse had a bad history, but despite that he's been pretty level headed, so although I was a little nervous since I haven't ridden many times since getting piled, I didn't figure he'd do anything worse than stomp his feet or cow kick like he does when he gets frustrated. I was riding around the track when all of a sudden we were facing the other direction, galloping straight at the barbwire topped security fence. When he didn't stop when I half-halted him, I went to turn him in to a circle to bring him back down, and as soon as I touched the rein, he fell over. Luckily I've been having problems with my saddles slipping on him, and my saddle slipped just enough that I ended up standing on the ground, stradling my horses barrel with my feet still in the stirrups. I didn't know what to do, so I grabbed mane, and he was totally calm as he got up, but I had reached my limit for the day, walked him two steps, got off, and promply broke down into hysterics.
So, I guess the point of my really long story is to ask if you guys have any suggestions on how to build back my confidence. This is what I really want to do with my life, and I know I have to have self-confidence to start colts well, but I don't have the first clue about how to start building back my confidence, and now I'm really worried about starting my colt for class. Advice, tips, support anyone?
Sorry that you find yourself in this situation. No fun!
My suggestion would be to find someone who has a very steady eddie kind of a horse. Something that would pack around a beginner, you know? Even though your skills are better than a beginner, sometimes, it's just nice to ride an easy horse.
I have two polar opposite geldings, one is a been there done that horse, used to be a lesson horse for a Jumper training, and is as steady as they get. The other is a very hot, sensitive horse that every now and again pulls some naughty tricks out of his bag.
I find that if my 2nd gelding starts to phase me, getting on my 1st horse and just hacking around, doing a course or a dressage test, I give my confidence a boost.
But, that's just my experience. I hope you find something that works for you, and you get back on track with your dreams!
When you get past this, and you will, you will have a greater appreciation of the confidence issues that other riders have to deal with, and the ability to empathize with them and assure them and BELIEVE that they, like you, will end up on the other side of it will make you a much better trainer.
First off - instructors love it when students ask questions. (I have taught at both the college and high school level and I know this.) Shows you're awake and paying attention, which (I'll bet) is more than can be said of some of your classmates. Don't ever feel bad about asking questions. If nothing else, it will ensure that your teachers remember you, which will be a good thing when you start asking them for job references. And look - nobody knows it all. People who think they do are just dangerous around horses.
Second - you've had two accidents in a short space of time. Perfectly normal to feel less-than-confident. Again, if you didn't feel a bit cautious after that, you'd be dangerous. Remember your Moby Dick? "I'll have no man in my boat who's not afraid of a whale." As another poster said, these experiences will make you a better and more empathetic horseperson.
As for regaining confidence - I always recommend reading Jane Savoie's It's Not Just About the Ribbons. I know, if you're a student, more reading is probably the last thing you want, but the book is broken into tiny short chapters and is best read that way. Each chapter gives you little exercises to practice. Just read a chapter a night (takes fifteen minutes, tops) and practice the exercises the next day before going on.
Mary Twelveponies said the old vaqueros in CA had a proverb to the effect that a man cant be a horseman until he's afraid to ride.
These kinds of incidents suck but they can separate the sheep from the goats. It can be very healthy to have a deeper appreciation that half ton animals can hurt us, sometimes fatally.
In 2006 as an new and elderly re-riderI had a wreck somewhat similar to yours--horse bolted toward the fence, I had no brakes and damn little steering, she did a spectacular turning sliding stop, prop, and drop the shoulder and I came off at about 25 miles per and landed on my side. I was black and blue from my armpit to the middle of my thigh. Shoulda left an impact crater, I'm telling you I fell HARD.
Some of the stuff I worked on with that mare included having a snug girth
and her rock steady for me to mount--when you are old and decrepit mounting can be a struggle. (The moments between sticking foot in stirrup and swinging leg over cantle are still pretty fraught for me each and every time I mount a horse.) She had no confidence in me and it was a hard battle to win her trust but I have it now.
In additon to the above recommended reading I would suggest Overcoming the Fear of Riding--not that I am saying you are too skeered to ride at all--but this book addresses traumatic fear and how it relates to horsemanship, why it happens, and offers many different approaches to coping.
About two years ago I got on my OTTB for what was supposed to be a nice ride with my 12yr old Daughter, My Daughter was already mounted and warming up her Horse in the arena.
I get half way on my Horse and she took off,not at a walk,trot or canter but a flat out gallop, I lost a stirrup and somehow lost the reins..I ended up going head first into a iron gate.
After my wonderfully calm Daughter had caught my Horse my head starts to hurt, I remove what is left of my helmet and my head starts to get worse and I'm seeing double,ER Dr said I should be dead (in front of my Daughter),thankyou Dr!!
Well that was it for me I could not even get near a Horse after riding for 25 years..so get the help of an old cowboy who tells me get on and think angry thoughts he said you cannot be scared and angry at the same time..didn't work..frustrated I fall into a deep depression, Dr prescribes valium..still did not work..then my Husband buys me my super safe ex Pony Club gelding, I'm still scared but I get on and now I'm happy to say I feel like I need a Horse with more go!!
As others have mentioned in other posts to this thread, get a slow Horse and start from there,and also go to Jane Savoire website,great tips about fears.
And my OTTB went to a great trainer and became the safest, calmest Horse ever, but I just could never ride her again,she is now a Polo Pony for a college team!
Last edited by clairdelune; Jan. 27, 2010 at 09:32 AM.
Reason: Add on.
The moments between sticking foot in stirrup and swinging leg over cantle are still pretty fraught for me each and every time I mount a horse.
I had a bad wreck the year I lost Conny and was almost incapacitated by it. Broken ribs, clavicle, and a bad concussion. The horse started bucking as I was trying to mount, so your words definitely strike a chord with me, jeano. I was AFRAID to ride. Not afraid of any horse on the ground, just couldn't bring myself to get back up in the saddle. I knew I needed help, so found a trainer who helped me work through my fear. I thought I was over it until last Saturday. It was my first ride on JJ, and I had a mental meltdown trying to get in the saddle. A friend held him for me and I finally got on. Once I'm in the saddle and the horse doesn't act like too much of a loon, I'm okay. But I've discovered that fear of mounting isn't really gone, especially with a horse I haven't ridden before.
What I'm trying to say is that the fear may still be there, but I don't let it rule me any longer. I find joy in riding, and if you do too, you CAN overcome this issue.
Homeopathy claims water can cure you since it once held medicine. That's like saying you can get sustenance from an empty plate because it once held food.
And "read" a draftie? Sacred - Petra what you are experiencing is common. All of us have gone through it. My best advice to you is to please focus on the GOOD that came of those experiences.
#1 You are safe and you were never in any mortal danger.
#2 Your muscles and brain learned to cope with those experiences now they have greater strength and knowledge. Therefore NOW is the time to push yourself. This is the time you find out what you are made of.
#3 In your whole life in hundreds or thousands of rides you have had 99% good results. Do not let that small 1% steal your joy!
#4 Do not dwell on it. People ask me "How can you do that aren't you scared?" and I say "If i ever stopped to really think about it i would stop riding". Therefore i think about it in the abstract I examine the mechanics of it so i do not make the same mistakes again. And I HAVE but eventually i have schooled it out of myself.
You zigged when you should have zagged. That is all. Your horse and your friends horse were having a moment - so? Do not let their moments define you.
Have a few rides on a steady eddie. Breathe(great advice from Sally Swift) Pull those shoulders back, raise your chin and settle your seat - feel the confidence Relax those toes and thrust those heels down. Breathe the confidence - you can do this!
Again I say "Girl, do not let a few bad rides decide your fate. You are more than that!"
And about "reading a draftie"" - those breeds in my experience are a bit "dull" that is why they become bullies. Be the alpha mare lots of in hand work - showmanship stuff - makes a new man out of them. Work the tar out of his brain in hand then he will learn to read and communicate. I am not saying "work him over". He just has no tools to tell you what he is thinking. Probably all he is thinking is "Duh leave me alone so i can eat more food". So it is not about you. i have found with these bullies in hand walk* trot * stop* pivot * set up * trot * back * pivot until they learn to focus on you! and read You! THEN you can feel those brain waves popping back and forth between you both. Pfft - he is a draft horse - a COLD blooded guy - not meant to do more than work bred & raised to work work work - when they get off light they get lazy and belligerent. It's not a fine minded TB or arab. He does not "think on his feet". So get him thinking. Teach him to think and stop trying to give him credit for a personality he does not have. Harsh? Yep - get mentally tough yourself so you can teach a thick minded horse to use some of his pea brain. Once you get them thinking YOU CAN take them far - the sky is the limit!
Read Julie Goodnight - great inspiration for confidence return.
"If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there"
Agree with those who say get your confidence back first with a quiet, steady-eddy type horse. You mentioned you may have dented your helmet (or at least it did make contact with the ground). Make sure you replace it as it sounds like it may have been compromised.
tack them up, tie back their reins in small increments and lunge them till their eyes cross....
I am a big believer in pre ride work down. I find that so many horses, if they are going to act up or be snitty about the work of the day, they are going to do it within the first twenty minutes.
take your time! so many peeps lunge for 5, maybe 7 minutes and quit because it's boring and tedious. I say, stay out there until you reach at least twenty minutes.
If the horse gets bored and makes you work too hard to keep him going after a few minutes, add trot poles, tarps, obstacles to go over and around. Makes them think, keeps them going forward.
Doesn't matter if you have them on a lunge line or free lunging, just give their brain the time to get focused and get to work. and do it with tack on and some contact on the bit with reins tied or sidereins added. they can't just be nekkid and free wheeling around. They must have their work clothes on.
Then get on, start yourself back slow, just cool them out under saddle. As your comfort level grows, you can do more but don't get on without this work down. It's not to get them fitter or to wear them out physically, it's to unscramble their brain. Do it in a small work area so the wide open space doesn't prompt a run for the hills moment.
Staying on the ground isn't backtracking in the training, it's just another training route.
As a student ,you probably can't just abandon your school project horse and ask for an old schoolie. You must soldier on. so do it this way. Keep us posted as we all want you to succeed!
My only comment is that you say you were alone at your friend's house riding the kid's horse. ...... don't do that, please. Everybody does it when short of time, etc., but if there was an accident it could get serious.
Perhaps some of these horses were giving signals that they were not ready? Also, your saddle fit needs attention. Maybe don't take on more rank horses until you have done more of the steadier candidates? People say, oh, can you come ride my horse, he is acting up, and you do.
I had a bad fall last spring and was full on scared of horses, not just riding. I didn't have a trainer at the time but I found one who was completely non-judgmental and had a nice level headed horse I could ride. Not being pushed past my comfort zone was a big thing, she didn't make me do anything I wasn't ready for. Sometimes I pushed myself too hard and had a relapse, but that was okay; I could be jumping cross-rails one week and then the next week just walk. You've sort of got to reestablish with yourself that you really do have skills, starting with the ones from the beginning. And it really is okay to do that, no matter how long you've been riding the basics are always there to go back to.
For me though, riding a nice steady horse wasn't enough to get over my fear, though it helped tremendously. I had to find a therapist to help. I got to a point where I would be fine on the horse, then the fear would catch up to me a few hours later. If you find it continues, especially because you want this as your career, get the help you need.