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ASBnTX
Sep. 25, 2009, 12:01 PM
I'm hesitant to post this because I'm beating myself up for what I think are totally irrational fears, so please be kind :) I've been riding my greenie (yes he's my first young horse, but we all have to have a first one, right?) and he's been wonderful!! Some of you may remember the not-so-hot trainer from the Spring, well I gave my boy a couple of weeks to chill out afterwards, and things have gone great since then. HOWEVER, recently I have been driving myself crazy with all of these "what-if's" to the point where I'm now nervous to get even get on :no: I picture these trainwrecks for no reason at all. As I said, he's been great and has a real want-to-please attitude, has no buck, no rear, no bolt, the worst is his little drop-n-scoot-spook (he is pretty quick and athletic), but even then it really takes nothing to get him back with me. So why am I doing this now??? When I get on I'm stiff as a board now and start looking for stuff for him to spook at. I'm starting to make excuses not to ride, like I'll get totally side-tracked cleaning out my tack box, or decide that he just HAS to have a 2 hour bath today instead, or it's too windy, etc. etc. etc., and I hate it! I really need help to quit thinking of all the disasters that "could" happen... Afterall, we could mentally irrational-fear ourselves out of doing anything in life if we allow it..flying, driving a car, getting on an elevator, going for a walk at dusk, etc.
I'm not sure if it's really relevant, but I did read when I did a search on fear issues here, that it may be.. my father passed away, after a long illness, three months ago. We were prepared for it, but I was surprised at how much of a shock it was when the time actually came. If that is causing some emotional baggage that I'm not aware of, I'd love advice on how to deal with it. I really want more than anything to just relax and enjoy my wonderful horse! Bringing him along has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and this road block sucks.
(Please don't suggest I sell my horse..as I said he's been great. It's ME that I want to fix!)

Edit to add: I work with a trainer once a week. I also do pilates, yoga, strength training, or cardio four to five times a week and am in pretty good shape. I've ridden since I was 12 (now 31), so I have a pretty decent seat. Just trying to explain why these fears seem irrational to me :)

Donkey
Sep. 25, 2009, 01:19 PM
A lot of people go through this. If you want fast and efficient help go see a therapist - seriously.

If you search, there are threads around that offer lots of tips on how to deal with fear. You've got to figure out what works best for you AND like your other pursuits (riding, pilates etc), having and expert coach you through it would make a lot of sense.

You're normal. You're not alone.

Maria
Sep. 25, 2009, 03:25 PM
Been there done that.

Quit what if'n. It does no good, in any situations. You can what if a situation until the cows come home. But what if's don't make what are's. Focus on the what are's, they sound good to me.

I found that if I got off my own back that helped the most. I put more pressure on myself than anyone else ever could have.

Also, tell yourself you trust your horse. Tell your horse you trust him. If you do that is. It takes the pressure off.

And yes, your father's passing can effect you in many ways. I'm so very sorry. Three months is not so long. Be kind to yourself.

Arizona DQ
Sep. 25, 2009, 03:28 PM
Jane Savoie has a new program about Freedom from Fear check it out on her website! www.janesavoie.com

I would try this before a therapist.......

I feel your pain :no: Good luck!

Cincinnati
Sep. 25, 2009, 03:34 PM
Don't know if this would work for you, but after reading your post and seeing myself, this is what I have decided to do for a year:
Just trail ride and enjoy it all. No more dressage training. Just have FUN. Isn't that why we have our horses in the first place? I just need the break to refresh my mind and I know my horse was needing it too. ;)

I do hope you find a solution for yourself soon and take solace in the fact that there are others out there with the same issue.

Hip
Sep. 25, 2009, 03:50 PM
Been there, done that, have the T-shirt and I've ridden for more decades than you've been alive. I deal with a fear that used to keep me off of horses. Since you said that your horse is great, that's one problem down. I don't 'do' dressage proper but use dressage principles in my riding, just happened to see your title when I looked in here.

What worked for me was backing off and just enjoying my horse. I have major 'bloody body syndrome' from all my horse wrecks over the years. I KNOW what can happen on the quietest/ferocious horse and/or best/worst trained horse, wrecks happen. :eek: Went back to rescuing horses, my first love. I don't have to ride them if I don't want, get a lot of joy, pure unadulterated JOY, in fixing the poor things up. Haven't had that in so many years, it's embarrassing to admit. I had gotten to the point with horses that I was doing things that my heart wasn't in and horses that I just didn't want to be around (that's not your problem, I know, just saying what it was for me).

For me, I had to find the JOY (again, that word!) in horses. Now, I'm pretty much gung-ho again and can't wait to set foot in the barn every morning and evening.

Hope you find your spot. :winkgrin:

ASBnTX
Sep. 25, 2009, 04:05 PM
:) Thank you! It definitely does help to know that other people do this too. I envy the brave and the bold!
Donkey ~ Thanks yes I do have a great group of people who don't push me too much, but do encourage me to get out of my comfort zone a little bit.
Maria ~ Yes, those stinkin "what if's"!!! I did read Jane Savoie's books and I love how she teaches to stay in the present, not worry about the future. I do trust my horse, he can be a silly-bean, but he's proven himself to be pretty reliable, in spite of the saddlebred-looky-giraffe-snort M.O. :) I've learned he's all talk. That's why I don't understand why I'm feeling this way. I am hard on myself, and on the days when I don't just "do it" I'm totally kicking myself. Last night it was dark by the time I got to the barn (darkness is something else I use to talk myself out of riding), and we were by ourselves (another good excuse!), but I tacked him up, did a little groundwork, and MADE myself get on. It was really, really, really hard (I could totally pictures the cat coming running by, or a horse kicking a stall and making a ton of noise, or big truck loud driving by, or, or...). But I did it, and we just walked a few circles, and I got off. I was happy that I got on, but wish I could do more. I'm actually much better once I get on. It's the build up to mounting that I start to freeze.
Arizona DQ ~ I love Jane's books. I practice visualization regulary. I picture these beautiful rides, and then..wham!...something spooks us and we go bolting off. It's crazy :no: It's like my biggest fear is losing all control. I think I will look into the program, because I think I need to reprogram my brain, and from what I've read, her more detailed techniques are for just that purpose. I'm not a therapist kind of person, if that makes any sense, so I think that route is more appealing for now.
Cincinnati ~ You don't even want to know what my imagination is doing in regards to trail riding right now! :eek: That's great advice though..hopefully I can get to where we can do that soon and just relax and enjoy my time with him.

Donkey
Sep. 25, 2009, 04:17 PM
I just wanted to share - This summer I was getting really worked up about going cross country schooling with my young horse, then I started to get worried that I'd encounter trains when trail riding (horse is fine with trains). Then in early August the day after a cross country school (that I was so worried about) I was walking my mare bareback and I fell off from a walk. Really bruised my tail bone (still hurts). Falling off from a walk (there was a spook!) and getting hurt made me realize that crap is going to happen and it's going to happen regardless. I'm still marvelling that I got pretty hurt from a fall from a walk! and not from what I perceived as much riskier behaviour. It was a great example for me and I have really taken it to heart, worrying isn't going to change things - now I need to see if the lesson lasts....

Blkarab
Sep. 25, 2009, 04:23 PM
Wow--OP, your post sounds a lot like my life right now, to a certain extent. I lost my dad less than 2 years ago, changed jobs, moved to a new house, sold a house, lost my beloved cat, the list goes on...

Only, I have a mare that's spooky, quick, difficult to ride, and just became not fun any longer. After beating myself up, day in and day out for about 6 months, I broke down and lost it in front of my trainer after a difficult lesson. I confessed to her how much I was beating myself up for not enjoying my horse, for feeling like I wasn't as far along as I needed to be in my riding and with my horse, and basically just let it all come out. After stopping and really listening to what she had to say, and knowing that she meant it and that I have her support. I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted. We came up with a plan. I really think that the action of just telling someone close, helped.

Yes, the stress of losing your father has affected you. My Dad was ill for 4 years before he passed. It just takes time to heal from it, no matter the circumstances. It's a heartbreak and also a relief. There are so many emotions that come from losing a parent, that you just can't expect for it to subside quickly. I found that it did affect my riding, and you know what, that's okay, because eventually, you will heal emotionally, and be back on track, as a stronger person.

Give yourself some time to heal. Take your good, wonderful boy out and do some fun things! Don't push. If all you do is walk, then so be it, at least you did that much. I would even sugget, allowing yourself to take a "horse vacation". Purposely don't ride for 2 weeks or so, and tell yourself it's OK. You have earned it. BTW--it's okay to cry and let it all out too!

Just know that the fears will subside, and you will be fine soon...what you are going through is okay.

sayyadina
Sep. 25, 2009, 04:36 PM
I had a pretty bad accident riding 2 years ago, where my younger pony spooked & took off and I fell off and ended up underneath her & got run over. Ended up with a broken finger & badly sprained ankle which still hurts. After this, just going to the stable was terrifying, and I very nearly gave up riding for good. Now, 2 years later, I'm starting to get much more comfortable riding this pony, and her own issues have been sorted out pretty well.

The first few times I got back on a horse, I was totally terrified, but I had someone lead the horse, who was very steady. I then progressed to riding my other pony, who's pretty bombproof, once I'd healed enough. It did take me almost a year before I got back on the pony I fell off, but I did. When I wasn't riding her, I worked from the ground on teaching her to relax & be calm. And since then, I've worked on de-spooking her & finding ways for us to be safe when we go for a ride.

Currently, this is what I do with her. First, I free lunge her, so she can get out anything she needs to, since I don't really like going fast, while she does. If there's stuff going on that has a chance of spooking her (high winds or snow sliding off the indoor), then I may just work with her from the ground, since I don't want to set up a situation in which something could happen.

As silly as it may sound, I will talk to her and tell her that she needs to be steady and take care of me, and I'll take care of her.

The books that I think have helped me the most are Linda Kohanov's 2, 'Tao of Equus' & 'Riding Between the Worlds'.

twofatponies
Sep. 25, 2009, 04:51 PM
I haven't even had a bad accident on a horse (knock on wood) and I have a terrible time with "bad thoughts" of accidents. Both my horses are terribly sane and sensible, and I know what their quirks are, and none of their quirks are life-threatening. Same when driving a car. I didn't learn to drive til I was in my late 20s, and the first year I used to have constant pictures in my head of the car just falling to pieces around me or veering off the road of its own volition! I still don't enjoy driving on interstates. My palms sweat. Just a relic of coming from a very anxious family, I think! :D

I've found in getting to know a good number of people who appear to be very bold, confident, assertive, etc. that inside they often have the same fears and tremblings and bad thoughts. They just somehow go on anyway. Pretending to be brave is about the same as actually being brave, I think.

When I'm feeling especially distracted or worried my new trick is to sing "hi ho hi ho, it's off to work we go" - it's silly, but it has a good swinging beat that gets me and my horse focused and forward, and it forces me to breathe. :D

Mach Two
Sep. 25, 2009, 05:11 PM
I think many of us have been there in some way, shape of form. I suggest taking a workshop on relaxation (good for you that you aready do pilates and yoga!) and one of your instructors can help you find one, I'll bet! Replace the "f..r" word with FUN!
And I want you to remove the "f..r" word from your vocabulary. Go for a walk on your horse...enjoy him. Have fun, let him make you laugh, and let him be your shoulder to lean on, tell him about your Dad (so sorry for your loss)
I used to whistle "San Antonio Rose" while I was warming up for reined cow horse classes to keep me from worrying, and to keep me from over riding and over analyzing my warmup. Worked well for me. I had something else I'd run through my head warming up for dressage at horse trials...whatever it takes.
You sound like a good and kind person, and one who will love having FUN on your nice horse...and there is not a single person here who has not experienced some kind of "f..r" at some point in riding.

coloredhorse
Sep. 25, 2009, 05:25 PM
OP, this is an ongoing battle for me ... it's part of my psyche now and probably always will be. Part of it is too many "wrecks" of my own, part of it is too much education/awareness of "what could happen" even under the best circumstances, and part of it is recognition that the worst-case (or even pretty-bad-case) scenarios could limit my ability to work and really hurt the family's financial situaton/hinder me in meeting what I see as my responsibilities.

This is the only thing that works for me personally: I include worry time in my pre-ride preparations. Seriously. It sounds quite silly, but before mounting up, I take a few minutes (used to be 30-ish, now I'm down to about 5 ... I worry much faster after years of practice, I suppose :lol:) and basically invite the worries in. I run through what disaster might befall me in THIS ride. There are usually one or two things that pop right in (horse rehabbing from the back injury might buck, windy day might spook greenbean, etc.) So I worry about them. And I picture the very worst outcome. And then, I run through my plan(s) for dealing with said disasters.

And then I tell myself: "OK, that was a good worry session. Good job, you; all done now!" And I get on the horse and get to it. If I feel the butterflies, I persist, telling myself (out loud if I need to): "Hey, you worried already; now it's time to ride!"

Do those niggling anxieties sneak back in? Yup. Much of the time. When I feel it, I take a deep breath, and tell myself (sometimes saying it out loud, if necessary): "Right, we took care of that already. NOW, it is time to concentrate on XXX." XXX might be the rhythm of the stride (helped by counting out loud, which also regulates breathing, which calms nerves), might be alternating between straight and shoulder-in on the four sides of a square, might be getting a perfect trot or canter rhythm over cavalletti, and so on and so on. The thing is to consciously recognize the anxiety and deliberately and rationally put it away and turn your attention to something else.

The whole approach is a variation on a technique I was taught waaaayyy back in college for meditation, only instead of correcting my brain back to "nothing," I correct it back to a specific something that is NOT a fear. It works for me, doesn't require any special training, just a willingness to give it a good, long try, even if it feels really silly at first.

Brooklyn Born
Sep. 25, 2009, 06:09 PM
The loss of a parent is devastating--whether it happens suddenly or not. I lost my mother to cancer and understand how suddenly you can feel so out of control in your own life. So it is very possible, if your fears are recent, that they are related to the loss of your father. My sincere condolences and hugs.

You have gotten a lot of great advice on this board. I can only add my empathy, because I also beat myself up on a regular basis about my riding fears with my young, but very sane, mare. Trail ride for relaxation???? She's never been on trails, and although she would probably be fine except for the minor spook (especially with a confident rider on board), I would be imaging her bolting off and leaving me in the dust! It doesn't help that I have had some bad falls off previous horses, including being bucked off by my previous horse on a trail ride and hitting my head and shoulders on some hard rocks (that god for helmets).

Also, I think not riding alone at the barn, especially at night, is a very sane response. One less thing to feel guilty about!!!

One thing that helps me (when I actually practice it) is, like Coloredhorse mentioned, set up some easy but specific riding goals or patterns for a ride. Even at a walk. Like "walk a figure 8, then do small circles in each corner, then walk across the diagonal, focusing on a point to keep your horse straight, etc." I can get easily distracted and also lost in my "what ifs", but if I can stick to a pattern, it helps to control my fearful thoughts.

I have a lot of fears about showing, and have not done alot of it. But I will admit that the class I had the least fears about and the most fun were trail classes, because I had to think so much about the patterns and next steps that I didn't have a chance to worry about anything else!

Anyway, just wanted to let you know that you have a lot of support on this board--we empathize with and understand your fears. You sound like a wonderful, caring person and horse owner. Take one step at a time and be kind to yourself. Pat yourself on the back for the things you do with your horse--don't beat yourself up for what you don't do.

twofatponies
Sep. 25, 2009, 06:24 PM
OP, this is an ongoing battle for me ... it's part of my psyche now and probably always will be. Part of it is too many "wrecks" of my own, part of it is too much education/awareness of "what could happen" even under the best circumstances, and part of it is recognition that the worst-case (or even pretty-bad-case) scenarios could limit my ability to work and really hurt the family's financial situaton/hinder me in meeting what I see as my responsibilities.

This is the only thing that works for me personally: I include worry time in my pre-ride preparations. Seriously. It sounds quite silly, but before mounting up, I take a few minutes (used to be 30-ish, now I'm down to about 5 ... I worry much faster after years of practice, I suppose :lol:) and basically invite the worries in. I run through what disaster might befall me in THIS ride. There are usually one or two things that pop right in (horse rehabbing from the back injury might buck, windy day might spook greenbean, etc.) So I worry about them. And I picture the very worst outcome. And then, I run through my plan(s) for dealing with said disasters.

And then I tell myself: "OK, that was a good worry session. Good job, you; all done now!" And I get on the horse and get to it. If I feel the butterflies, I persist, telling myself (out loud if I need to): "Hey, you worried already; now it's time to ride!"

Do those niggling anxieties sneak back in? Yup. Much of the time. When I feel it, I take a deep breath, and tell myself (sometimes saying it out loud, if necessary): "Right, we took care of that already. NOW, it is time to concentrate on XXX." XXX might be the rhythm of the stride (helped by counting out loud, which also regulates breathing, which calms nerves), might be alternating between straight and shoulder-in on the four sides of a square, might be getting a perfect trot or canter rhythm over cavalletti, and so on and so on. The thing is to consciously recognize the anxiety and deliberately and rationally put it away and turn your attention to something else.

The whole approach is a variation on a technique I was taught waaaayyy back in college for meditation, only instead of correcting my brain back to "nothing," I correct it back to a specific something that is NOT a fear. It works for me, doesn't require any special training, just a willingness to give it a good, long try, even if it feels really silly at first.

That's brilliant. I'm going to try it! :D

xQHDQ
Sep. 25, 2009, 07:22 PM
sddlbrdgr,

Stop beating yourself up. You seem to have a lot of emotional stuff going on. I think you just need some time off from riding, or at least riding with a goal. Maybe just brush and lunge. Maybe just walk on a loose rein - practice walking your tests. Anything that doesn't add stress to your already stressful life.

I think you'll be fine with a little time.

Good luck and know that we've all been there at some point.

slc2
Sep. 25, 2009, 07:25 PM
"your entire problem is due to a grief reaction"

I am not so sure. I don't think we human creatures are always that easy to read. Fear and anxiety when riding isn't always due to a loss in the family, even when it's fairly recent.

Actually, I felt you were afraid of your horse when you made your first posts about the trainer concerns in the spring. I thought you were very afraid of your horse. VERY.

I think the thing to do with those fears that seem to come out of nowhere, is to get riding lessons. From someone who's very strict and keeps you working and busy all the time. As your horse gets more and more trained, and you get more and more balanced, you will find one day you're looking back and wondering what you were afraid of.

ASBnTX
Sep. 25, 2009, 08:25 PM
Thank you all for your replies! There's a lot here to think about! I'm writing from my phone so I can't type too much :)
Slc2 - that may very well be the case, but my concern is WHY? Sure I know he's capable of going from 0-60mph in 2 seconds, but has he ever....no. Even with the trainer, whom he had every reason to try and dump, he was very very good. I would not even call him hot..he's quiet content to motor around at a walk..he does have a motor if I ask for it, but he's never chomping at the bit so to speak. That's my point..he's hardly taken one wrong step with me, and I'm feeling this way. I started out the first few months with a little nerves riding him, but nothing too bad. Not like this.
It may too be some form of grief, or maybe a mixture of both, who knows? But in my mind there's no real reason for it, and I just want to be over it. I'm going to think about everything you all have said. I like the idea of having a very specific plan.

Jane Savoie
Sep. 26, 2009, 07:56 AM
SBG,
For what it's worth, I used to have "irrational fears" about flying. It was so bad that I would only do clinics within driving distance. It turns out that the fear of flying was just a convenient "hook" to hang stuff on. It allowed me to express fear/grief.

After all, no one was going to tell me I was crazy to be afraid to fly. After all, how weird is it to go through the air in this huge cylinder?!?

No one is going to say you're crazy to be afraid of being out of control on a horse. After all, they outweigh you 10x, and they're creatures of flight. They don't operate "logically".

So hanging our fears/grief on something like flying/bolting horses is something we can justify to ourselves.

Here's a quick tip I use that I learned from Susan Jeffers who wrote Feel the Fear...And Do it Anyways.

Preface your "What if" questions with the word "So". Then answer yourself with "I can handle it".

What if my horse bolts becomes...So what if my horse bolts...I can handle it.

What if I'm tense becomes...So what if I'm tense...I can handle it.

What if I fall off becomes...So what if I fall off...I can handle it.

Hang it there!
Jane

PS I also schedule "worry time". Better to allow and give permission to it than fight it sometimes. Tell your fears they have 15 min...Then worry your head off. Then when time is up, if the fears return, acknowledge them but tell them they have to wait until your designated worry time tomorrow.

slc2
Sep. 26, 2009, 09:51 AM
Agree, except as one trainer told me, '15 minutes is too long to let those fears boss you around', LOL. I think at first it's good to take all the time it needs, and then start to pare down over time how much 'maintenace' those fears require.

'Yes, SLC, but WHY'.

Why are you asking WHY?

Fear is an emotion. It doesn't HAVE to make sense. It is an emotion. Fear can have a million reasons, or none at all, or just what reason people LIKE according to their own social theories.

Teens and young adults often simply suffer from anxiety as their nervous systems mature. Middle aged gals often get fear of riding as they go thru menopause and their reactions, perceptions and physical reactions change and their bodies and hormones are changing.

And fear, it just ... it just HAPPENS sometimes. It is not always something so terribly logical. If it makes you FEEL better to declare, 'Oh yes, my fear, my fear comes from poor toilet training when I was two...' THEN GO AHEAD, LOL. Fear is an emotion. It does not always yield to rational analysis. It just bubbles up and it's going to fade away just as simply if it's managed properly.

My suggestion?? Stop trying to make it be logical and giving it a 'reason'. It's just fear. It's like rain. Sometimes it rains! The more you analyze it, the more you cede to it. So a certain type of motion, your perceptions just aren't very good at analyzing, are aren't routined to. So you fear. So you have bad memories.

Mine is of getting whipped on the back by an instructor - I get very nervous when I have to work close to an instructor - and I do it. And I'll KEEP doing it. Because I need to and the riding is more important than the fear. It's that simple. What's more important to you? Riding. So you decide you are going to make it happen.

FEEL IT. Feel how fear affects your stomach and your muscles and your vision. And say, 'HELLO FEAR. So, what do you want from me today', LOL. And then tell it to go sod off.

I know a few folks, who their way of facing their fear, is every time they feel it coming on, they CUSS. YUP, LOL. A friend of mine does this and I never understood it til she told me, 'When I get scared, I cuss, and the more I cuss, the more I fight it back'. She'd let out a string of cuss words, then laugh a little and then on she'd go.

It's a wave. Waves ALWAYS seem bigger than they are. And do you know something? A wave never actually moves ANYTHING. You put a ball in the water, this big wave passes by, the ball bobs a little bit, and in the end, when the wave has passed, it is right where it was before the wave passed by.

First, I want to let you know that I don't think these fears are new or due to your sad loss in your family, though losses can often make feelings more sudden and extreme. It came across loud and clear as you talked about those problems in the spring. I remember thinking, 'she's going to have one heck of a time when she brings that horse home, she simply is not taking the right steps and setting this situation up for success, she is NOT getting enough help or the right help.'. I felt sure you would get to the spot you are talking about right now. Especially because you chose to bring the horse home and not get enough help. What's happening now is inevitable and I've seen plenty of people go through it.

The solution, in every case I've seen, is first a basic, very basic decision that you resolve to fix this. The first step is to make a decision that you are going to find a way, whatever it takes, and to start picturing yourself, visualizing yourself, riding your horse across that field or arena, responding cooly and briefly with your seat, rein and leg when your horse makes a little scoot or wiggle, knowing just what to do, and having your horse respond, and going back to that loose, relaxed, supple, well balanced feeling without even thinking about it.

If you do the right thing, if you apply the aids, and your trained horse does not respond, there are two possibilities. One. You are not applying the correct aid or reinforcing it. Two, your horse is not quite as trained as you think. The solution is simple, have an instructor who teaches you how to teach your horse, and lets you know when you are not riding in an effective way.

Then to get help from a competent riding instructor, if need be, every single time you get on the horse, and that doesn't mean getting on the horse once a week or once every two weeks or letting the instructor ride the horse and you getting on now and again - there's too much time between rides to think and worry, and too much underlying knowledge that one can only do this if the instructor is there to set everything up perfectly. Riding the horse has to become a normal part of one's routine, that one doesn't even think about, like driving a car.

Establish a routine. You come home, you get a snack, and out to the barn. You longe your horse, and you tell your fear, 'Now just relax, fear, all I'm going to do is longe'. And you longe, and you get on your horse, and you tell your fear, 'Now just relax fear, I'm just going to walk in a circle', and then you do the same with a trot circle, and you canter one circle, and you get off, and tomorrow you canter ONE MORE CIRCLE, and pretty soon, you are free.

It just takes what it takes - help. Therapy from a counselor does nothing if the basic problem continues - riding technique and skill. It does not good to learn to chant 'I'm not afraid, I'm not afraid' as you go tumbling off because you lost your balance, without knowing why you lost your balance or what to change.

It's recognizing that all fear is an emotion, not a reality, but an emotion, that washes over you, and is like a blanket that disconnects you from your riding perceptions and reactions, and whatever you have learned and could apply. It's just like turning off a light, so you can't read a book.

It is also recognizing that almost everyone is afraid from time to time. One of the greatest riders in history, Reiner Klimke, had a little trick that he'd take a very deep breath and breathe out slowly. He was doing this after he saluted and rode off down the center line in the Olympics, in the world championships, in every major competition he was in! Everyone has tricks like that.

A lot of people pick a focal point and stare at it, STARE at it, like you are going to burn it down, and KEEP staring at it. As you ride around on a circle, you could look at one fence post, and then switch to another as you go around. Get some tools, and use 'em!

EVERYONE IS AFRAID. One learns to manage and work with and control fear. NO ONE IS COMPLETELY WITHOUT FEAR.

It's mostly riding technique and skill that makes an unsure person, an afraid person, unafraid, or just not so afraid that he's paralyzed, and can still think and focus. It's also about getting one's head straightened out, leaving old ideas behind, and doing what you dream of doing with a joy and a freedom from fears that cripple one or prevent one from enjoying life, and that makes your life even brighter and more wonderful. Nicolas Cage had a very funny speech in the movie 'Moonstruck'. Basically what he said is we aren't born to have everything be perfect and tidy. So sure, be afraid, and so what. You can still learn to manage it and do what you dream. All it takes is hard work!

DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho"
Sep. 26, 2009, 10:41 AM
I agree with all the others who have said that your response is a displacement - when you feel out of control in one aspect of your life (as in the death of a parent), the feelings can be focused on something very different. And you have gotten some wonderful advice.

I, also, worry. In my line of work, it's always "what if" and preparing for the worst case scenario. But then, I've always tended to be like this.

And it has taken me a long, long time to be able to marshall those fears. One important aspect is having a trainer I absolutely trust. Last lesson, we worked on shoulders in to haunches out at the walk to striking off in counter canter. We have a small indoor, I have absolutely NO depth perception, and even though I was ready for this, my horse was ready, in the forefront of my mind was, "We are going to slam into the wall." Then, of course, you ask the horse, but tell him "Pssst...by the way, don't really do this." And because I trust my trainer, I was able to think, "She is not going to ask me to do something where we will go splat into the wall."

The other aspect is the trust you have between you and your horse. I know, because mine reads me so well, that if I am off kilter - worried about something - anything! - he'll worry too. If I am okay, he'll relax. This is how we ended up getting a 69% in a test at an outdoor show when a helicopter was literally hovering outside the ring. Apparently, everyone else scattered. I was so focused on our ride, I never saw it, never heard it (so much for Sally Swift's soft eyes!!!), and so my horse continued on as if it was nothing out of the ordinary.

Since you do yoga - try this. When I start working with my horse, I say, "Namaste." All I want to do in our session is what that word means - leave us better than we were before, with respect. It doesn't matter what you do - goodness knows, these past few weeks I've been so cranked at work that by the time I get to the barn I'm fried. So I do what I feel capable of doing well, and let the rest go.

It's not so easy, is it? It's like you're always holding your breath.

You love your horse, you appreciate your horse. Look for the joy in the small things. Really, it's not a competition. (You can always buy those ribbons from Hodges.)

It's not as if you can say, "Fear - Begone!" and it goes, you know that. So just try. Try for small pieces, and celebrate those.

And good luck. It is a battle we all fight.

FancyFree
Sep. 26, 2009, 11:29 AM
You need to ease up on yourself. Baby steps are okay. When I moved to the barn I'm at now, I was trainer-less with my greenie. It hit me all at once, OMG I do not have a trainer to guide me through this! I have to deal with this wild woman all on my own! After I was done freaking out, I would do things to make myself feel more comfortable. I'd longe my horse before I rode. I would make sure I rode at a time when the one other dressage rider, a very experienced lady, was there. She didn't help me, but it reassured me to know she was around, rather than no one. Also if I felt stressed, I gave myself permission to just hack around the barn. Gradually I began to gain confidence in my horse and my abilities. She still has moments, like spooking at the palm trees around our dressage court (I don't know if she'll ever get over that) but so far, knock wood, I've been able to handle them.

I think sometimes riders are way too hard on themselves. It's either I have to be training consistantly and effectively or I'm quitting. I would regularly beat myself up about being a chicken and I was very ashamed of having fear after riding for so long. I considered quitting too after feeling like such a coward. But sometimes you just have to be gentle with yourself. Cut yourself a break as you would with another rider. It just takes time.

Good luck!

wildswan
Sep. 26, 2009, 08:20 PM
I almost quit riding entirely due to fear of things that "might" happen.

What has really worked for me is to learn to "stay in the moment". When I find myself worrying about what might happen, I focus more on what is happening now and how I can influence what I want to happen in the next few seconds.

I've learned to go through a very specific thought process. When my mind wonders to the "OMG, what if's", I bring it back to the moment by setting up a very specific task to accomplish in the next few seconds. It can be as simple or as difficult as you want, but it must be very specific. Example, the lawn maintenance guys just drove in, my horse hates the noise of the mower, oh dear, what if he starts spooking when they start the mowers and he bucks me off, or he bolts, or.....and he or I get hurt?

As soon as I find myself thinking in this manner, I remind myself that I have 2 choices. I can either chose to continue the "what if" thinking into total panic attack/quit riding mode, or I can start thinking of something else. Then, and this is the most important part, I give myself something else to think about. I plan and execute the next 15 steps of my ride in minute detail (e.g., his right front will land at that exact spot 6 feet in front of us, or his shoulder will reach the rail at that exact spot 10 feet in front of us, etc.) so that in order to accomplish those 15 steps, I MUST focus all my attention on what I am doing for those 15 steps. Then I do the same with the next 25 steps, or the next 30 steps, etc. always keeping focused on the here and now and keeping both my mind and my horses mind occupied with what we are doing at the moment.

I will probably never stop the fear issues from raising their ugly head, but by using this method I am able to put them to rest much more quickly and that's good enough for me.

RodeoQueen
Sep. 26, 2009, 09:59 PM
OP,

Oh my, I am sorry that you are going through this. It is hard and even harder to try to understand. I have been there - every scared, ashamed, painful step of the way, but here's the good news: You Can Get Through It.

The first thing you do is allow yourself some space to be ok wtih your feelings. I had bad crash - really bad. And I healed and promised myself that I would NOT have the fear. But I had FEAR!

Once I allowed myself permission to grieve and to be scared and even to sell my horse. This was NOT what I wanted but somehow, allowing myself the "out" allowed me the room to process the whole mess. Then I acknowledged that I probably had Post traumatic Stress. Maybe you have this, too. I had "visions" of horrible horrrible things happening.

I practiced changing my mind. Before falling asleep at night, I envision myself tacking up my horse, brushing him, feeling confident and warm around him. Then I envisioned the warm up - again, positive, relaxed, connected, balanced - you get the idea. I do this every night STILL!

Five years later -I proudly prepare this horse for show. He's marvelous and completely different in mind and manner - he was 3 when I crashed and today, we're a mature, happy team.

Mind over matter. Give yourself space to process, take it slow and celebrate the Baby Steps. you can do it.

Cheering you on from Michigan - laura and Elliot 8 years old!

ASBnTX
Sep. 26, 2009, 11:13 PM
THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH FOR YOUR REPLIES!!!

It really does meant a lot to me, and each of you had EXCELLENT advice! To hear about other's experiences is very valuble as well. It's nice to know it's somewhat normal to got through this. I guess it doesn't matter why..it's there and I have to take the steps to deal with it. I know I will...I'm determined to not let this "thing" get the better of me :)
So today I did a little goundwork until I felt that I had his focus. I took some deep breaths (DGRH - I did say Namaste..love that!), and got on. I did just take it one step at a time with no pressure. I set a line of cones up all down the arena, and made it a point that at each cone we made a specific change (stop at this cone, transition to trot at the next, walk and direction change at the next, leg yield at the next, etc. etc...) I think having the VERY specific focus helped because I didn't feel nervous, and I also told myself before I got on "So what if..xyz..I can handle it!" That really did change something. I was hard to get on, but after we got moving, I felt good! So baby steps..here we go!
My youngster has been fabulous with all of this! He stands at the mounting block so patiently while I take a zillion deep breaths and put my foot in the stirrup 3 or 4 times. He "got" the cone game, I could tell I really had his attention because he knew something new was coming at each one..he seemed to enjoy it!
It's definitely going to take some work though, but I feel like I've got a lot to work with now.

DreamsOfGP
Sep. 26, 2009, 11:47 PM
sddlbrdgrl- Sounds like you are on the right track. I havent' dealt with anxiety issues with my riding, but have in other aspects of life. It definately helps to stay focused and busy. Surrounding yourself with supportive other people is also helpful. I thought I'd offer my 2 cents, too. I actually teach lots of older ladies. Many of them just took up riding after retiring or else haven't ridden in a very long time. I would tell them to approach their rides just like I approach training young horses. Do everything very routinely, so it gets to be habbits. Habbits, good or bad, are comfortable to us. Find where you are comfortable. If your comfort zone only consists of tacking up, longing, then getting on to walk one lap around the ring, just do that! Stay in your comfort zone until it really feels good and you are looking forward to doing that and more. Then, just add on one baby step at a time. So, if you just walked one lap around the ring, when you're ready for more just walk once around the ring each way. Just keep building slowly. Lots of my ladies would get very nervous to canter. I'd work their horse to make sure they were going to do it politely first. Then, during their lesson I'd tell them to pick up a canter. When they'd hesitate, I'd say well canter for 3 strides then you can stop. I'd say there's no reason you have to canter for laps and laps around the ring. When you break down things you are worried about into small steps it helps. If things go wrong, put faith in the fact that you and your trainer have created an obedient horse and you can always ask him to stop. We all want to push ourselves so hard. We (well good riders/trainers) would never dream of pushing our horses so far out of their comfort zones, so don't expect yourself to. Hey, maybe even just feel happy about the idea that you are not riding your young horse into the ground and he will have many sound years to come:-) Or maybe take up something new with your horse like long-lining for a while. Heck, if you're having a real bad day, just feed him a bag of carrots and nothing else. Then you can walk away knowing at least one of you had an awesome day! Good luck and I hope things get better for you.

yventer
Sep. 27, 2009, 12:12 AM
[QUOTE=slc2;4401538]Agree, except as one trainer told me, '15 minutes is too long to let those fears boss you around', LOL. I think at first it's good to take all the time it needs, and then start to pare down over time how much 'maintenace' those fears require.

'Yes, SLC, but WHY'.

Why are you asking WHY?

Fear is an emotion. It doesn't HAVE to make sense. It is an emotion. Fear can have a million reasons, or none at all, or just what reason people LIKE according to their own social theories. << snip >>

________________________________

Thank you SLC for stating what I *know*, but have trouble expressing!

slc2
Sep. 27, 2009, 03:27 AM
There's been some really brilliant comments from instructors.

I think the WORST thing an instructor can do is shout, 'But there is nothing to fear!' or 'Well just stop being afraid right now'.

I'm not sure the humiliation routine works either. I've seen instructors call a student over, in front of spectators, and demand, 'So tell me, what are you afraid of?' The student has to sit there and analyze his fear in front of others, and it always sounds rather silly and humiliating to someone else, and it always seems to embarass the heck out of students.

The trouble comes, I think, not so much with the person who can give it five years and take little baby steps along the way, but with the person who can't do that. If something needs to be accomplished immediately for the horse's sake, or the rider wants to get over it right now and just doesn't want to work it out over a long period of time, then it becomes really difficult. I think the getting the brain busy really is the most effective tool there is. Humans may be the highest creation, but they still can only focus completely on one thing at a time.

Saw a really brilliant trainer in Europe handle each fearful student completely differently. He seemed to see the many differences between various kinds of fear, he seemed to be able to sort it out even better than the students, who often seemed just as puzzled as the OP as to why they were afraid or what to do.

And he seemed to be able to work right through it right at the time. The overmounted students went on a different horse, that was very clear, but that was a lesson barn, with 45 horses and 20 ponies to choose from. I think here in the USA, riders very often wind up on an inappropriate horse - quite a few can be made appropriate with additional supervision and training...but that supervision and training is expensive.

sidepasser
Sep. 27, 2009, 07:40 AM
Very good replies and some new tricks that I will use in the upcoming weeks.

For me, I play in my head "the good tape". I visualize a good ride from beginning to end. It helps to do it every ride, during the ride and after the ride. I don't mean did I get the "movements" right, but the general ride such as I visualize the process from leading over to the mounting block, mounting, standing quietly for a minute or two, then moving off at the walk, and on to the next step, until I end up dismounting and cooling my horse off.

For many years I had a "bad tape" of my fall, the horse falling and me going under it. It has taken years to erase that bad tape and replace it with the good tape. For a long time I only rode in a round pen on a very steady mule with an instructor at the WALK. I also got some therapy from a sports psychologist that helped, read many books on overcoming fear and practiced making a "good tape" of each ride.

Now I discuss my lesson in advance with my instructor, he outlines what he hopes to teach me that day, and I quietly run that "good tape" over a couple of times in my mind before I got to the arena. When I get to the arena, I play it again in my mind, visualize each major "task" and then mount. Sometimes I forget to breathe and my instructor will note and ask for a halt and ask me to loosen my shoulders and take ten deep breaths and then we will resume. That happens less and less as I gain more confidence on my new mare.

I have had my green horse two years almost and decided to hire an instructor/trainer to ride her and teach me. I watch him ride her before each lesson and see that she is "ok" which does allay my fears a great deal. If I see HIM riding and she is well behaved (she has never bolted, bucked or done anything like that and will spook in place) then I have visual reinforcement that I have nothing to worry about. That helps tremendously on the windy, rainy, leaves are falling days when I would really worry.

Fear is very complicated and takes a great deal of time to overcome and everyone has a different type of fear. I can not tell people "your fear is irrational because it isn't like my fear" - heck I know people who are afraid of being stepped on by their horse but will mount up and ride like the wind..but leading a horse around scares them. Maybe they got stepped on or run over once - whatever - their fear is justified.

Try visualizing a good ride every time, play the tape over and over. It may help you too.

Thomas_1
Sep. 27, 2009, 09:21 AM
Think of this not so much as irrational fear but rather that you're not able to stay in the here and now.

You're thinking about what might be and "what if's" rather than focusing on what you're doing.

Now you've "stuff" going on that perhaps has made this more difficult right now. You've suffered a bereavement. So understandable that you're thinking of mortality and feeling vulnerable. You've also had some poor experience with your young horse and it's a young horse and this is a new venture for you. So again you're dwelling on that too and putting stuff in your head and imagining what could be or might be.

I'd suggest you need to tackle this on two fronts. First physically: Can you get a trainer to get you on a lunge line for schooling whilst you've got this "stuff" going on and just to help you build your confidence back up. Stay within your comfort zone as far as your competence is concerned and most definitely until your confidence returns. Then under long rein do what you fear. Doing what you fear but whilst under good supervision is a great way to get rid of fear. Along with this improve your skill. If you increase or add to your competence then quite simply you push the boundaries of your comfort zone and things you were concerned about become easier.

Second: The emotional.

Loads of things to try.

I'm a huge believer in "attitude is contagious" Surround yourself with positive people. Don't let yourself get infected with negative.

Try some/one of the many techniques available. I have pupils who are working on regaining confidence doing the likes of BEFORE they mount standing tall and saying out loud "I rock" "I'm going to be great" "My horse is going to be great" "We rock". "We're going to be great together". Imagine you being great as well. See it and you'll experience it.

I also do a technique whereby they park all the emotional garbage at the mounting block as they leave and then they sit up straight and SMILE and exit to the arena. I allow them to pick up their worries and concerns when they get back if they want to but not till they get back from the arena and dismount and untack the horse.

Other thing I do which probably seems silly but I get them using a skipping rope or doing a little run - anything just to move it and get the energy pumping and feeling lively and alive before they get on.

Between lessons I encourage people to think about something difficult they faced before and it doesn't have to be horsey and to think about how they got through it and what they did. Then to think how they can apply those strategies or techniques to what they now face.

Or else to get a perspective and sense of reality and to get in the here and now by say thinking of how someone else might have faced something horrendous and yet overcome it and gone on to good and great things. So you might want to say think of a rider that had huge disability and yet succeeded and went on. And to put it in perspective, it's just a young horse you're riding - it's not vitally important and it's not Russian Roulette either.

DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho"
Sep. 27, 2009, 01:00 PM
Thomas - I loved what you wrote. In the same vein, I often sing (when no one is around, I don't want to annoy them!). Not only does it help you breathe, but it makes it *look* like you don't have a care in the world.

wildswan
Sep. 27, 2009, 02:08 PM
I guess it doesn't matter why..it's there and I have to take the steps to deal with it. I know I will...I'm determined to not let this "thing" get the better of me :)

You've taken a very big step already by recognizing that what you are dealing with is fear based on your imagination, and by deciding that you are not going to let this type of fear stop you from doing something you want to do. One thing I'd like to add is that fear itself is not a bad thing. Fear is a survival instinct and when it is in response to an actual threat (coming face to face with a bear, or mountain lion for example) it is a powerful motivator. It is the fear based on the "what ifs" that can be unhealthy and/or debilitating.


So today I did a little goundwork until I felt that I had his focus. I took some deep breaths (DGRH - I did say Namaste..love that!), and got on. I did just take it one step at a time with no pressure. I set a line of cones up all down the arena, and made it a point that at each cone we made a specific change (stop at this cone, transition to trot at the next, walk and direction change at the next, leg yield at the next, etc. etc...) I think having the VERY specific focus helped because I didn't feel nervous, and I also told myself before I got on "So what if..xyz..I can handle it!" That really did change something. I was hard to get on, but after we got moving, I felt good! So baby steps..here we go!

Congratulations! I wouldn't call those baby steps, I would call those giant strides. Keep these tools with you in your imaginary fanny pack every time you ride, and whenever you start hearing the "what ifs", pull them out and use them IMMEDIATELY. I'm with whoever said 15 minutes in the worry mode is WAY TOO LONG. I'd be in a full out crisis if I let myself imagine all the things that COULD happen for that long!

Foxtrot's
Sep. 27, 2009, 02:24 PM
I really hear you.

"Be kind to yourself" was the advice I was given, too.

I've never done it, not sure if it would help, but would a half cc of Ace help - your horse, not you, silly.... hmm, on the other hand..

Kind and sensible advice offered here. Happy riding!

goeslikestink
Sep. 27, 2009, 02:46 PM
Think of this not so much as irrational fear but rather that you're not able to stay in the hear and now.

You're thinking about what might be and "what if's" rather than focusing on what you're doing.

Now you've "stuff" going on that perhaps has made this more difficult right now. You've suffered a bereavement. So understandable that you're thinking of mortality and feeling vulnerable. You've also had some poor experience with your young horse and it's a young horse and this is a new venture for you. So again you're dwelling on that too and putting stuff in your head and imagining what could be or might be.

I'd suggest you need to tackle this on two fronts. First physically: Can you get a trainer to get you on a lunge line for schooling whilst you've got this "stuff" going on and just to help you build your confidence back up. Stay within your comfort zone as far as your competence is concerned and most definitely until your confidence returns. Then under long rein do what you fear. Doing what you fear but whilst under good supervision is a great way to get rid of fear. Along with this improve your skill. If you increase or add to your competence then quite simply you push the boundaries of your comfort zone and things you were concerned about become easier.

Second: The emotional.

Loads of things to try.

I'm a huge believer in "attitude is contagious" Surround yourself with positive people. Don't let yourself get infected with negative.

Try some/one of the many techniques available. I have pupils who are working on regaining confidence doing the likes of BEFORE they mount standing tall and saying out loud "I rock" "I'm going to be great" "My horse is going to be great" "We rock". "We're going to be great together". Imagine you being great as well. See it and you'll experience it.

I also do a technique whereby they park all the emotional garbage at the mounting block as they leave and then they sit up straight and SMILE and exit to the arena. I allow them to pick up their worries and concerns when they get back if they want to but not till they get back from the arena and dismount and untack the horse.

Other thing I do which probably seems silly but I get them using a skipping rope or doing a little run - anything just to move it and get the energy pumping and feeling lively and alive before they get on.

Between lessons I encourage people to think about something difficult they faced before and it doesn't have to be horsey and to think about how they got through it and what they did. Then to think how they can apply those strategies or techniques to what they now face.

Or else to get a perspective and sense of reality and to get in the here and now by say thinking of how someone else might have faced something horrendous and yet overcome it and gone on to good and great things. So you might want to say think of a rider that had huge disability and yet succeeded and went on. And to put it in perspective, it's just a young horse you're riding - it's not vitally important and it's not Russian Roullette either.

execellent post

Thomas_1
Sep. 27, 2009, 02:50 PM
Thomas - I loved what you wrote. Hey trust me..... I don't just post on BB's.... I really am a Riding Instructor. :winkgrin::yes::lol:


In the same vein, I often sing (when no one is around, I don't want to annoy them!). Not only does it help you breathe, but it makes it *look* like you don't have a care in the world. That's something else I also do myself and encourage those who don't mind singing out loud to do as well. In addition to what you mention I'm convinced that it helps a nervous or anxious horse. I'm sure it thinks "well if there's singing there can't be anything to worry about"

nhwr
Sep. 27, 2009, 04:46 PM
I think singing is an excellent way to deal with a tense rider. I do it whenever I am worried. Horses pay attention many things we don't consciously register. Our breathing patterns are big with them. If you are scared, you breathe differently. Then your horse gets worried too. Singing regulates your breathing so your won't know you are scared.

Jane Savoie
Sep. 27, 2009, 06:04 PM
I agree with everyone about the singing (whistling, humming too). You have to breathe!

If you're interested, here's a short video I did on Youtube about singing (and speaking) called S.O.S. Hope it's OK to post this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7sOz-xUTNg

goeslikestink
Sep. 27, 2009, 06:07 PM
I agree with everyone about the singing (whistling, humming too). You have to breathe!

If you're interested, here's a short video I did on Youtube about singing (and speaking) called S.O.S. Hope it's OK to post this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7sOz-xUTNg

off course it is if going to help the op- i sing to funny horse seem to like it i alway leave a radio on when i am in the yard horses like that too

magnolia73
Sep. 27, 2009, 06:30 PM
I have been through bouts of fear with my horse, particularly jumping. I have little rules. And I finally said to hell with 'em. I re-read one of Jane Savoies books and got pretty mad at myself. My horse had been being a putz recently (her being a putz involves getting high headed and staring) so I was making our world smaller and rides more limited. Until what? My fear was that she would rear which she did ONCE a year and a half ago with my old trainer under pretty extreme circumstances.

So I got mad and said, I will ride and her issues are her issues and I ignored the gawking and did the ride I planned on. I did my WTC, worked in the scary corner over poles and RODE. Alone. The next day I did it again and even jumped.

Then I moved her to a new barn and did anything I could not to have to ride her the first time, but no one else could help me, so I got on and she was splendid. Of course, I attributed that to the Smart Calm I gave her. We had a week of great rides including jumping, my biggest fear area. Low and behold, come Sunday I went to put more baggies of supps in her container- she had never been fed her sups that week, including the Smart Calm.

I also now sing when I get scared. First ride at new barn was pretty tuneful, but I find moving my face relaxes my whole body. My other area of fear is cantering a jump. I actually make a few big chewing motions in front of the jump. You don't have to do this stuff forever- just to get over the hump. Yesterday was a giant day of awesome- it was cold and rainy and I rode and even jumped. Truly- 6 months ago, I'd have trotted a small circle on a day with high silly potential.

My other tool is to keep a riding journal. Mine cracks me up- it starts with 2 months of "crazy on the longe" "tense" "crazy". Then you get into "better" "lazy" "no longing" "cantered"... then you get into boring months of "good today- work transitions" and "quiet, canter could be rounder" and you start to see how far you really have come and can compare you to you.
Know you are not alone, and one day it will work. When I feel like my horse was bad, I just look back.... and know she'll have a better day. Plus you can track patterns of issues of need be.

ASBnTX
Sep. 28, 2009, 10:33 AM
Thanks again for all of the input here..your advice is all so great! I feel like I have a lot of tools in the toolbelt now, and something to really direct my focus, instead of letting the fear rule.
I took everyone's posts and sort of made short bulletpoints (because this is how my brain works :) ) and have made a short reference page for myself. This maybe something that I "review" each time I head to the barn for awhile. I'm not in a rush..I do realize this will take some time, and that's ok! I think I did pressure myself because some people will tell you that a young horse will forget his training if you don't get on and really ride 5 days a week, but honestly, I've never had to retrain anything that my horse has learned. He doesn't "forget." I was off of riding for almost a month after my dad passed, and pulled him out of the pasture and picked up where we left off. He may have lazy or A.D.D. days when he needs a little more motivation or something, but so do I!
I didn't get to ride on Sunday. A friend actually had tickets to the Parelli event here in Fort Worth, and we decided to go and see Walter Zettl and Lauren Barwick (who is a US Para-Olympian gold medal winner, she's paralyzed from the waist down). They were both wonderful and inspiring! Seeing Lauren ride her gold medal test on her amazing horse (Westpoint) was incredible, and a great thing for me to see at this time! Someone who really has had to overcome something to get to where she is..it was awesome! Walter gave Linda P a lesson, and he was so kind, but still made her work quite hard. I don't think she ever got her horse moving forward very well, but apparently she's just coming back from a nasty wreck on him and she seemed tense. So those were the highlights. The rest was regular Parelli stuff ;) Although it was interesting that Pat did tell people to quit doing endless groundwork if their horse doesn't need it, and move on! So all-in-all, it wasn't a waste of time.
Here are my (your!) bulletpoints so far, for anyone who's interested:


• Baby steps are okay

• Stay in the moment

• Visualize a good ride from beginning to end.

• FEEL IT. Then tell it to go sod off.

• Have an instructor who teaches you how to teach your horse.

• Establish a routine.

• "Namaste." All I want to do in our session is what that word means - leave us better than we were before, with respect.

• Do what you fear but whilst under good supervision is a great way to get rid of fear.

• Improve your skill.

• Increase or add to your competence then quite simply you push the boundaries of your comfort zone and things you were concerned about become easier.

• Surround yourself with positive people.

• BEFORE mounting stand tall and say out loud "I rock" "I'm going to be great" "My horse is going to be great" "We rock". "We're going to be great together". Imagine you being great as well. See it and you'll experience it.

• Park all the emotional garbage at the mounting block.

• Use a skipping rope or doing a little run - anything just to move it and get the energy pumping and feeling lively and alive before getting on.

• Think about something difficult you’ve faced before and how you got through it.

• Think of how someone else might have faced something horrendous and yet overcome it and gone on to good and great things.

• Sing!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7sOz-xUTNg

• Keep a riding journal.

• Tell yourself you trust your horse. Tell your horse you trust him.

• Books: All Jane Savoie’s; Linda Kohanov's 2, 'Tao of Equus' & 'Riding Between the Worlds'.

• Get to know people who appear to be very bold, confident, assertive, etc.

• Pretending to be brave is about the same as actually being brave.

• Remove the "f..r" word from your vocabulary.

• Include worry time in pre-ride preparations. Then, run through plan(s) for dealing with said disasters. Then tell self: "OK, that was a good worry session. Good job, you; all done now!"

• Set up some easy but specific riding goals or patterns for a ride.

• From from Susan Jeffers who wrote Feel the Fear...And Do it Anyways. Preface your "What if" questions with the word "So". Then answer yourself with "I can handle it".
What if my horse bolts becomes...So what if my horse bolts...I can handle it.
What if I'm tense becomes...So what if I'm tense...I can handle it.
What if I fall off becomes...So what if I fall off...I can handle it.

Thomas_1
Sep. 28, 2009, 10:36 AM
There you go............ SORTED :winkgrin:

skykingismybaby1
Sep. 28, 2009, 10:55 AM
I am totally afraid of trail riding and hacking........it is all in my head and translated to my horse. I KNOW this but it makes no difference. So after every arena ride I ride out. It may only be around the ring or along a field line, but I do it. I talk to my horse (my favorite line is "I am the leader you are the horse". Treelines are very scary so we shoulder in past the scary bits. We return to the barn when my nerves get jangly, but we are riding further and further away from the barn. Progress is slow and it my take me years to get to the end of the property but I am trying. Baby steps, girl, just take baby steps.

Janet
Sep. 28, 2009, 11:10 AM
You might also want to consider hypnosis, which will allow you to more firmly establish your positive thoughts./ check list.

mp
Sep. 28, 2009, 03:31 PM
Several things, OP.

About your fear of riding: I used to be the queen of scared to death in the saddle. I got over it by learning how to ride, and then concentrating on learning how to ride better (an ongoing journey). I'm completely over the fear now and riding keeps me sane and happy when things aren't going well.

But while I was still working on getting out of fetal position mode, I made myself go to the barn and tack my horse up. Then I'd do ground work with her until I had her full attention. I told myself I didn't have to ride her if I didn't want to, but I had to do something with her. So just take it as it comes. Don't push yourself. Relax. Enjoy your horse however you feel safe doing so. The riding part will come.

About your dad's death: I wasn't "normal" for a year after my dad died. He had been in failing health for several years, too, so it wasn't a shock. But it's still a terrific blow that takes a while to get over. My grief/adjustment didn't take the form of fear or anxiety -- I just couldn't muster my usual energy or concentrate for very long. But this phase passed and yours will, too. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and doing what you can. You'll get through this. Good luck.

Jane Savoie
Sep. 28, 2009, 04:08 PM
sbg,
GREAT list!!! I'd add one thing to your first item. Not only are baby steps OK, but make them "impossibly tiny, no-fail baby steps".

So if you think you're doing something in baby steps, think of how you could break each step down into 5 even smaller steps!:)

goeslikestink
Sep. 28, 2009, 09:59 PM
sbg,
GREAT list!!! I'd add one thing to your first item. Not only are baby steps OK, but make them "impossibly tiny, no-fail baby steps".

So if you think you're doing something in baby steps, think of how you could break each step down into 5 even smaller steps!:)

i go along with that as i always say its a staircase one step further up the ladder to reach your goals

aims and goals - the the 1st step is to decide what your aiming at in short term
the next step is to be honest with yourself and truely ask what your goals are

once you have a plan - then the 1st step is the 1st step on the ladder of your short term aims to reach your goals

as you accomplish one aim then the next aim is the second step and so on
as you climb the ladder - you will be nearer to goals but will learn along the way and it may vary with diferent spin offs ie different steps on the ladder upwards you want to try with your horse so that you both are educated to what you truely want to do
and be sucessful at its a never ending ladder

and i will add this sometimes everyone gets scared or losses confidence for whatever reason if they all said they didnt they would be lieing it becuase we going into the unknown we might be wary and a tad of confidence is lost - just like a driving test or a dressgae test or going into a jump off - no one can fore tell what will happen next --

its a senerio of luck of the draw you win you lose but you tried an thats the biggest winner of all getting a cup or a roseette or sash or being placed its a bonus

never ever get upset about losing or not getting anywhere it doesnt do any thing for you and not for the horse as some people will take it out on the horse when in truth they havent looked at
the education of losing brings you as each time you go and do things your learning how to become better and improving all the time

but the most important thing is you tried - and the horse and you have learnt something by doing it which if its a youngster or novice rider for exsample has given him the greatest of education of ring expreience and the hussle and bussle of the atmostphere at any event or show or clinic etc
thats a huge winning triumph for you and your horse and will lead on to having a confirm wonderful partnership which with out the horse wouldnt have been possible

positiviety------ always be positive as postive will out weight any negatives you may have
and with a positive rider or thinker then that transmits to the horse as confident
as they are guided by you the rider so look for confidence from you the more positive you are the better you and your horse will be

smile to as that helps as smiling is contagious when you smile you feel good
bit like eating chocolate its yummy and nice - smiling makes you feel good its simple thing to do
and yet it can bring so much confidence

DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho"
Sep. 29, 2009, 02:04 AM
Thomas, Jane Savoie, gls and others - thanks for your comments. We all hit a plateau at times - whether through fear, or because we're just pulled in so many directions - what terrific food for thought to help you through those humps. I'm keeping all these in mind!

ASBnTX
Sep. 29, 2009, 09:44 AM
Thomas, Jane Savoie, gls and others - thanks for your comments. We all hit a plateau at times - whether through fear, or because we're just pulled in so many directions - what terrific food for thought to help you through those humps. I'm keeping all these in mind!

Well said! Yes, this thread has given me a great perspective on how I want to proceed. I love that no one's advice contradicted anyone else's (that's a rarity)! Which shows that we've all been there at one point or another. It takes a lot of pressure off just knowing that it's a normal thing. We'll come through it, and be better than we were before for having the experience.

slpeders
Sep. 29, 2009, 12:05 PM
sddlbrdgrl -- thanks for bullet-pointing the list (don't you love the 'verbing' of the language!?!?). I am going print it and put it in my tack locker as an even MORE tangible reminder. :) You're right, many of us have been there and/or are there now (I think I'm in both groups -- been there with the 1st mare, there again now with the 2nd one!). There have been some truly awesome threads on coping w/fear and Jane has put so much of that good advice into her new program too. I bought it for myself for my birthday and am loving it. I don't expect my fears to disappear, but I've been chipping away at improving my comfort factor with the new girl and it's improved dramatically the past several months.
All these ideas WILL help you, and mp is also right -- there is a period of time after losing a loved one where life just is not 'normal'. Don't panic. My best friend was mad at the whole world for a solid year after losing her mom, but I don't think she even realized it. I was just....flakey....often sad and unfocused. If it gets to the point that your friends have to drag you places and tell you maybe you should see a counselor....listen to them, but I don't get the sense you're in that bad of a place right now, thank goodness. It's a big transition, and it takes time to cope with it.
Looking forward to hearing of your many future successes!!

FancyFree
Sep. 29, 2009, 12:22 PM
Keeping a riding journal is a great idea. I keep one for diet/exercise but never thought of it for riding. Writing things down has kept me focused as well as acooutable with fitness. I think it will really help with my riding and my horse's progress.

Good idea!

goeslikestink
Sep. 29, 2009, 12:57 PM
chin up and look up and forwards and never look back - as it pass tense been done dusted type thing - so on yeh get and go go go

DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho"
Sep. 29, 2009, 01:06 PM
Geek that I am, after a lesson (assuming can articulate what we've done) I add my notes to a word document and mail that day's lesson notes to my trainer for comments. The sad thing is how many times she's had to repeat something!!! But the cool thing is the refinement of some movements as I have achieved a greater understanding and finesse.

Foxtrot's
Sep. 29, 2009, 04:12 PM
My goodness - you are an organized analytical person. Take a star.

Our family has known Lauren Barwick and her family for ever. She was in our Pony Club and our girls did everything together - hunt, PC, event, etc. She has had several trials by fire and is certainly an example and does a lot of public and motivational speaking. I see she has changed her horse from Maille who was at the Olympics with her to a new horse Westpoint.

Every sporting endeavour is improved once the mental side is stronger. (self talk, self talk, self talk!)

ASBnTX
Oct. 24, 2009, 01:50 PM
Just wanted to update with a small success story :) I just posted this on an ASB thread over on Off-Course, and thought it would be good to put here too...
This past weekend we participated in our first clinic. This was a big deal for me because I've never ridden him with 10+ other riders in the arena and so much activity with spectators coming and going.. We also had our first cold snap of the season that weekend.:eek: Due to the aforementioned nerves..you can imagine..I was a basketcase! Within the first 30 minutes of day one of the clinic, we had two pretty major spooks (which were caused by other horses spooking right up our butts, so not his fault at all) and it took me no time at all to get him right back with me. It was good to get those under our belt and gave me a lot of confidence knowing that I would stick with him for those scoots, and that he would check in with me very quickly. He was an absolute star the rest of the weekend, so responsive!! Even with all kinds of stuff going on (tons of horses going around us, some of then very wired! people flapping blankets and unfolding lawn chairs, etc....) he was "with me" the whole time and we had an absolute blast!!! I rode for about 7 hours total in three days which is by far the most we've done, and he was the youngest horse in the clinic. I got many many compliments on what a sweet and responsive boy he is :) The third day is was VERY chilly and he was a lot more "looky" and definitely had some "go"! We sounded like a locomotive snorting around the arena, but in two and a half hours, he didn't even so much as swerve at anything.
Really after I got over the mounting each day, a few times a day, my nerves went away. It's like it's the anticipation is what is getting me. But I worked on a lot of visualization *seeing myself get on and going around beautifully, in great detail* and also a lot of self-talk. Like Jane Savoie said.."So what if XYZ happens, I can handle it!" I also hummed and distracted myself by chit-chatting with someone else while I got on and laughing at silly stuff.

slc2
Oct. 24, 2009, 03:40 PM
Absolutely and totally fantastic! So proud of you!

wildswan
Oct. 24, 2009, 04:02 PM
BRAVO.

Jane Savoie
Oct. 24, 2009, 06:14 PM
Woohoo!! You go, Girl!

RodeoQueen
Oct. 25, 2009, 08:33 AM
So GLAD to hear your success story! Doesn't it feel great? You did it - YOU DID IT! Way to GO!

Next spring I will be starting my Dutch baby u/s and i will use ALL of the points on your list! For me, my riding accident made me a different person. It took me a long time to understand and accept that I was no longer exactly the same rider i was pre-Crash. There were times i felt very angry and I tried to funnel this anger into Good - to use it in a positive way.

What I've discovered today - looking back at where we've come, my horse and I, is that yes, we had an accident, and it's ok that I'm not the same rider I was. I am better. I am stronger, I have learned LOTS and LOTS and I am grateful for my trainer who has talked me though every single ride and built me up one baby step at a time. And I am proud of my horse who was also terrified post wreck. He's extremely sensitive and felt my fear like a blanket and still, did what i asked him to do to move forward.

Our confidence has grown and today, we are a pair to be beat. He is focused and has learned that he can trust me and that I will keep him safe and I, in turn, have discovered that he is trustworthy as well.

My horse has given up his spooks and focuses on me. Part of it is maturity and miles under saddle - the other part is Power of Mind over Matter. I visualize the warm up, the lunging, every single gait and lateral bend and halt at X. .

At the end of the day I am proud of how far we have come together and I realize, that the lessons I have learned from my crash forward, are lessons in Life, not just in riding. The question is, who is the teacher now?

In my life, the trainer led the way, Elliot is the teacher and I have been given the gift of being along for the ride. Isn't life sweet?

Best of luck to you and keep on ridin' Foward!:)

slpeders
Oct. 25, 2009, 10:23 PM
SO totallyAWESOME to hear about your progress!! and the coolest part for me is that I'm right there with you - in a manner of speaking. :)
Past couple weeks have had some awesome rides and a good clinic with a little silliness that was handled without a panic attack.
It's a GREAT feeling isn't it?!?!?
This afternoon a trainer was watching my canter while she sitting next to my friend and said to her "They look really good!" Even though she didn't say it to me, I was pleased because it represents such a big step forward for us.
I'm just so so so glad to read that other people are getting there too.
And if you think you can't overcome your personal fear....you just need to pick a few things off the list on page 2 and try them for a week. I'd bet you'll make a few baby steps too.
:) Keep up the great work OP!!

ASBnTX
Oct. 27, 2009, 08:27 PM
Thank you! Yes, it is a great feeling!!! The best part has been that since the clinic, while there are still some butterflies, my nerves have been 100 times better. It's like now that I know we can handle all that, "normal" riding conditions seems like a piece of cake :) It's amazing how nervous I was leading up to the clinic, but I had already resolved that I was going to do it, and didn't even give myself a chance to talk myself out of it. Holy cow, I forgot to mention that one person even brought their 3yr old daughter, toting a big yellow Sponge Bob umbrella, and sat her ring-side for a couple of hours :eek: That did warrant an "up periscope" and a 6 or 7 second snort from my boy, but he was fine with it after he got that out of his system. I don't think that I put "Shock Therapy" on my list, but maybe I should! It worked pretty well :lol: I've had several great rides since then, and am starting to really feel relaxed and comfortable..knock-on-wood!

Foxtrot's
Oct. 27, 2009, 09:31 PM
I thinkyou hit the nail on the head. In all the times I have been nervous it has been the anticipation that made me nervous. Once up in the saddle and actually doing it, it went away.

Trevelyan96
Oct. 28, 2009, 03:50 PM
OP... you are going through what many adults do when faced with a loved one's death. Its the realization of 2 things.

1. We can't control everything
2. We are not immortal.

You are not alone. I was a 'no fear' adult re-rider until 10 years ago. In a 3 week period I was hit smack in the face with the above 2 realities. My green horse launched me into a hospital visit and a week in bed with a bruised spleen, then 3 weeks later my son was killed in an auto accident. From that point on, fear took over my life.

The best advice I can give is to keep working with your trainer and don't let anyone tell you that you MUST move out of your comfort zone too quickly. Your comfort zone will expand as your good experiences pile up and your horse's education level increases. That is not to say that you shouldn't challenge yourself, only that there is no shame in going slowly in the beginning to make sure both you and your horse have solid basics and enough confidence in each other to get you through those moments when events outside your control may occur.

ETA: I didn't really read through the entire thread, so just wanted to add kudos to the OP, looks like you're already more than halfway there!