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View Full Version : Dealing with an irrational fear - flat classes



theroanypony
Jul. 31, 2009, 12:22 AM
I have an irrational fear of flat classes. There, I said it! I know that sounds silly, but it's completely true. I've never had anything bad ever happen in a flat class, ever. Yet when I go in the ring for the flats, I get so tense and nervous that I ride around like crap and it affects my pony in a bad way. Jumping? I'm like a rock. I never get even the slightest bit tense. I like having just my pony and myself in the ring. It's comforting. Which makes no sense since everyone ring side would be looking at just us, which means more pressure?

Now that I've really realized that my main problem with flatting is the I'm nervous, and I'm finally willing to admit that, I'm just wondering what I can do to start calming myself down. It's irrational because I ride in large group lessons, packed schooling rings, a dressage ring with 8 people in it, etc, and never get nervous. It's just when I'm showing. So if there's no actual cause for the fear, how do you cure it? I've been showing for almost two years and the problem never seems to get any better. Has anyone else ever had to deal with something like this?

Bobblehead
Jul. 31, 2009, 11:08 AM
Well yeah, I have an irrational fear of jumping. No, seriously. Everybody who watches me ride says I can easily do 2'3 to 2'6 right now, but I look at the smallest vertical and my throat closes up. No reason.

What's been helping me are two main prongs of attack. First, trying to visualize exactly what it is I think will happen. For me, I'm afraid my horse will stop and I'll go over her head and hit the jump and break a lot of bones. I've already broken my back once (not during jumping) so I know how that feels. But my horse isn't a stopper. Again, no real reason for me to fear this, but at least I know *exactly* what I'm afraid of. This helped me identify *exactly* what I could do to prevent it. In my case, super duper leg and body position all the time.

Second, I tested myself about whether I really wanted to do this at all. I stopped jumping completely for about 6 months (working on my position and horse's balance) and waited to feel a real *longing* to jump. Eventually it started to come back. I still did a lot of dressage and loved the progress we were making, so I took one formal dressage lesson to see if I wanted to change over to that totally. The answer was definitely NO. Now I know in my heart that I WANT to jump.

You could try the same plan. First, what *exactly* are you afraid of in the flat class? Let yourself go and imagine the worst that could happen. If your immediate reaction to that scene is, "Well that's just RIDICULOUS," then you're already making progress. If your reaction is, "Well it COULD happen," then think about what you can do to prevent it. Then, ask yourself what it would be like for you not to show, or not to do any flat classes ever again. If that's okay with you, well fine, don't do it any more.

There's a third thing I do when my emotions get the better of me. I imagine how I would feel AFTER I accomplished what I'm nervous about. It's easy to dwell on the fears and negatives, but we don't spend as much time dwelling on our good feelings.

SprinklerBandit
Jul. 31, 2009, 03:38 PM
I've never had a fear of flat classes, primarily because I've had so many mishaps in the ring. The grey mare bolted, the black gelding bucked, the bay mare ran backwards into the fence (OTTB, ring next to the track).

I agree with the previous posted. What's the worst thing that could happen? Public humiliation isn't that bad after a year or two. ;-)

luvmyottb
Jul. 31, 2009, 03:56 PM
I am the opposite..., I have an irrational fear of jumping. I can handle the thought of showing my ottb mare on the flat, but over fences it will have to be someone other than me. I tried dressage also for 2 years and it is lovely, but in my heart I want to show hunters, but being almost 50 it maybe too late for me to work through my fears.

Wish I had more to offer you other than I understand.

jen-s
Jul. 31, 2009, 04:39 PM
Luvmyottb--It's not too late. You just may have the wrong coach/situation. I thought I'd never learn to be comfortable over fences again after a series of falls, injuries, scares (mostly on the flat although one bad o/f fall started the neck/back problems that I'll have for the rest of my life). But, my new coach has spent months working with the uber-basics and we (my gelding and I) are slowly progressing. Some days it's even really fun! I want it so bad, but I get so terrified that I forget that it's supposed to be fun. My advice, unsolicited though it might be, is don't get discouraged and instead focus on the little achievements. And make sure that your coach is really supporting you and helping to put you in a situation where you can not only just jump a bit, but really progress and excel in. And feel free to PM me if you need a cheering section.

Theroanypony--Sorry to hijack. I hate schooling rings and am very thankful that I'm not doing the hunters any longer as schooling rings at CTs and HTs are much less chaotic. Flat classes I always felt fairly comfy in. I still get very nervous jumping at shows with all those eyes on me alone.

Across Sicily
Jul. 31, 2009, 04:52 PM
I think you have to figure out WHY you are frightened. I will occasionally find myself apprehensive before getting on a horse (I think due to a particularly nasty bucking incident that left me unable to ride for some four months) and have to talk to myself. What am I afraid of? The horse doing something silly and me getting hurt. Has this particular critter ever done anything dumb? Well they will get a little fast sometimes but that's about it. If it's fast, self, you can ride through that, and you know it. Yes, self, you are right, but I don't want to get hurt. The worst thing that will happen if you get hurt is that you will die, self. Well I guess I am okay with that. (and I am, I don't fear death - just pain!) If you are hurt you will be taken to a hospital and they'll make you feel better. You will be just fine. Now get on that thing and ride.

That, plus making a "contingency plan" (if the horse does X, I will do Y) seems to be helpful. For a long time I was partially petrified of riding my VERY FAST and VERY HOT gelding and had to really think about what I was going to do if he got fast and hot. It made me more confident and assertive, and it also made it possible for me to get on without having a meltdown. ;) Everyone wins.

Maybe something like that would work for you?

Horselove
Jul. 31, 2009, 06:17 PM
You sound relatively young, so yoga may not be in your "world".....however, with that being said, learning how to effectively use yoga breathing can be a very very calming exercise.

rottngirl
Jul. 31, 2009, 06:23 PM
Luvmyottb--It's not too late. You just may have the wrong coach/situation. I thought I'd never learn to be comfortable over fences again after a series of falls, injuries, scares (mostly on the flat although one bad o/f fall started the neck/back problems that I'll have for the rest of my life). But, my new coach has spent months working with the uber-basics and we (my gelding and I) are slowly progressing. Some days it's even really fun! I want it so bad, but I get so terrified that I forget that it's supposed to be fun. My advice, unsolicited though it might be, is don't get discouraged and instead focus on the little achievements. And make sure that your coach is really supporting you and helping to put you in a situation where you can not only just jump a bit, but really progress and excel in. And feel free to PM me if you need a cheering section.

Theroanypony--Sorry to hijack. I hate schooling rings and am very thankful that I'm not doing the hunters any longer as schooling rings at CTs and HTs are much less chaotic. Flat classes I always felt fairly comfy in. I still get very nervous jumping at shows with all those eyes on me alone.

Thank you to the OP for opening the door on this and thank you to Luv and Jen for sharing stories similar to mine. It's amazing how much better you can feel knowing some one else has the same issues. I am doing the exact thing, getting back to basics and waiting until I am bursting to jump to get back over fences.

eqrdr92
Jul. 31, 2009, 07:50 PM
I have an irrational fear of hacks too! The reason that I always stink in them is because I worry about doing bad at such a regular or "simple" thing. Does that make sense? I hack my horse on the flat everyday and therefore I feel like flat classes should be a piece of cake. This then makes me think that I'll be stupid if I mess one up, which then causes me to mess up.

The thing that has helped me the most is acting like its just a normal hack at home. Relaxing and breathing deeply helps to calm me and my horse. Sometimes just a big sigh at the beginning of the class helps me focus and not freak out about the flat class. This may sound weird and slightly embarrassing to do in public/in your own class but sometimes just shaking out your head or arms releases whatever tension you have. I'm still working on not freaking out about the flat classes too (which is probably why I've felt so much more relaxed doing the jumpers!!) but good luck!

Meliora
Jul. 31, 2009, 09:00 PM
This is going to sound a bit silly, but a little chuckle and smile always makes my heart beat normally (and stop palpating...yes my heart beats irregularly when I am nervous). Just remember that this is all supposed to be fun- and everyone in the class with you is trying to handle their nerves too. It is just part of the game of showing. Good Luck:)