View Full Version : Getting Back In the Saddle

Mar. 1, 2012, 11:47 AM
I had a very bad crash last summer at age 58.....shattered collar bone requiring surgery to install a plate and 5 screws in an attempt to bring all the bone pieces into some sort of alignment....long recovery. I discovered that the collar bone is pretty much all that holds one's arm onto their body and supports the upper frame of the body along with the ligiments and muscles. In addition to this I sustained a very very bad concussion....a second and probably even a third big concussion for me.

The concussion has left me with many deficits in memory, concentration as well as some emotional impariments....even small upsets or challenges lead to many nights of lost sleep and deminished function. I have found I have needed to weed people who upset me out of my life in order to avoid nights of lost sleep. I can not expect others to accomadate how I need to be treated so it is better to remove people from my circle.
I have a very stressful job that makes me responsible for other people's mental health treatment and I owe it to them to make every attempt to be in top form so I have to manage my personal life to accomadate this. Unfortunately one can not control everything but I have made huge strides.

Now I have heard the words I have been wanting to hear..."You can start riding". I was thrilled and excited and then shocked that it has produced a major anxiety and yes I think there is an element of fear in there too. I expect I will not know the full extent of this until I settle my seat in the saddle. I am disgusted with myself that I am feeling anxious and scared (there I said it) It is an emotional fear and also a what if I crash again at my age and change my life as I know it? What about my family having to deal with a brainless ninny? It was a freak accident...yes I know that but I have had several freak accidents in my life so the reality is I can have another and then what? I am way more vulnerable with my advancing years.

I have ridden well in the past and am a confident rider ....what if I can't get back to that? Are there ways people who have had bad accidents go about getting back in the game and getting back to where they were? Did you have to accept stepping back in levels and abilities? How did you do that? I tend see the terrible situation of Don Little and that scares me because that easily could have been me.

I am looking for any suggestions for managing my riding life which has to start with getting in the saddle for the first time in 7.5 months. My family wants me to stop jumping and take up dressage but the reality is anything can happen at any time and the discipline I choose does not really impact my safety does it?

Knees Are Knocking

Mar. 1, 2012, 11:53 AM
Lot's of re-riders experience fear about riding even though they were once confident and capable riders. At least you have a reason for that fear. I hadn't ridden anything except the occasional race horse in 15 years and had total heart palpitation over the thought of cantering a ground pole! No idea why, just age and wisdom I guess.

I would set a goal of sitting on the horse with someone holding it and getting back off and going from there as your comfort level increases. It will come back for the most part, just don't try to rush it.

Mar. 1, 2012, 12:21 PM
Baby steps. My guess is that it won't take too long to get back to where you were, but do only as much as you are comfortable with. I started back, walking with someone leading my horse. I was terrified, but things got better much more quickly than I had imagined they would

I have read that the chance of injuries is greater with jumping. That being said, I am aiming to jump. A couple of weeks ago I took a bad fall riding in a field. I'm looking at a few months out of the saddle. I suppose the height of the jumps would factor in to the chance of injury. Probably best not to dwell on statistics - too many variables - and just be as safe as possible.

I think it's fantastic that you are going back to riding.

Mar. 1, 2012, 12:26 PM
Make sure that your first time out is on a QUIET, trustworthy horse, and that you set out with absolutely no expectations other than than enjoying the horsy smell and feeling the movement in the saddle.

Don't hesitate to talk to your doctor about some mild anti-anxiety meds, like Xanax. But try out a dose before you ride, to see how much to take in order to feel relaxed, but not impaired.

Don't make any decisions about what sort of riding you will do upon your return (jumping, dressage, etc.) until you've been back in the saddle for a bit. You don't need to know that today.

Visit the adult re-riders thread here. There are a lot of us who have returned to riding after time off or an injury. Injuries as an adult are completely different from injuries as a child. Not only do you take longer to heal, you are all too aware of the other costs involved...medical, time off from work, shifting your responsibilities to others. That doesn't mean you don't still ride and take risks, but you may consider the risks a bit longer before making your decision.

Finally, every rider is different, but if you choose to change your riding activities or style, it will not mean that you will enjoy it any less.

Good luck on your return to the saddle!

Mar. 1, 2012, 01:58 PM
Have fun, stack the deck in your favour for success and to minimize the chances of accidents.

As others above me have said, start out small and on a quiet horse and progress at your own pace. That may mean 2 steps forward and one step back from time to time.

Once back riding, then you determine whether jumping is still your desire and at what level, or if dressage is something that may now interest you.

On any given day there are different challenges, if you get to the barn to ride and the wind is up, or there is work going on around the barn that may spook your horse, then maybe you don't ride that day. You will figure out your new normal and what it entails.

Let your family know what this means too. ie I am still going to jump, but instead of 4ft, I am only going to jump 3ft. If there are situations that may result in an accident I will avoid riding or scale back that day. I am riding a safe horse for my skillset.

Mar. 1, 2012, 02:21 PM
Congratulations on healing and getting back in the saddle!

As others have said, start out slow on a quiet trustworthy horse without any expectations beyond getting on, re-learning your balance and re-training your muscles. Take each new phase one step at a a time and don't move on until you feel balanced and strong at what you are doing and confident that its what you 'want' to do. Don't compare yourself today with who you were before your injuries - that will only lead to frustration and loss of confidence.

You almost have to approach it with the mindset that you're a beginner again, but you can take comfort in knowing that because of your previous level of experience you'll be the 'gifted & talented' beginner.

And again, welcome back to the saddle!

Mar. 1, 2012, 05:38 PM
Ah, a kindred spirit! Broke my collarbone into nine pieces and all my ribs on the right side. Four surgeries later almost as good as new.

I can only tell you what worked for me - Take it at YOUR pace. Have a good support staff to help you with tack and the mounting and REGULAR dismount (not the break the collarbone dismount).

Personally, I rode on the flat for two weeks with company in the ring. When I wanted to jump, I asked if I could have twenty minutes in the indoor by myself. I set the fences at a comfortable height, may have pulled up from nerves a couple of times, then jumped around without an audience.

Good Luck and don't forget about PT.

Mar. 1, 2012, 05:59 PM
I am another kindred spirit - although my injuries were different - broke my back in three places and suffered a concussion (yes was wearing my helmet) - my accident was 5 months ago.

I still have not yet been cleared to ride - having another MRI tomorrow to determine healing etc..

However there are several things that I have already discussed with my trainer and we are approaching much the same way as folks have already stated:

1. Quiet, steady horse - walk only at first
2. Core training - I got very weak in my core while recovering and need to restrengthen it
3. PT
4. Go slow and at my own tolerance - whether that be mental or physical or both.
5. DO NOT get on my hot OTTB until I can manage a course and riding on the quiet steady horse.

I know how you feel - been riding for 36 years and was always a strong and confident rider but this fall has defintely left me doubting some of my abilities.

Then you add in my family who does not want me to ride at all, ever again and it gives you pause.

I will ride again and so will you... just be smart about it and take it slow..

MUCH LUCK to you!

Mar. 1, 2012, 06:09 PM
Is it feasible for you to talk with a therapist, a counselor, or a sports psychologist? I imagine finding one with a specialty in traumatic accidents could be helpful. Think of the same way as someone who had a bad car accident. Nerves and trepidation are completely normal. Like everybody has said, take it slow and have a good support system. Riding is supposed to be fun and if its not then it's not worth it. If you don't feel comfortable actually getting back on just go hang out and spend time with the horses. Remember why you love to ride and what it means to you.

Mar. 1, 2012, 07:17 PM
I had a bad accident, too, 2 years ago now. No concussion, thank goodness, but major surgery, and lots of fear of riding.

I stacked the deck in my favor by also buying a safety vest. Yeah, yeah I have heard all the "it won't save you" talk. But, it makes me more confident, and that is all that matters. You might consider getting one. I have one with shoulder guards to protect a bit more of my collarbone/humerus area (my break).

Talk to a sports psychologist.

Mar. 1, 2012, 07:21 PM
I had a bad accident, too, 2 years ago now. No concussion, thank goodness, but major surgery, and lots of fear of riding.

I stacked the deck in my favor by also buying a safety vest. Yeah, yeah I have heard all the "it won't save you" talk. But, it makes me more confident, and that is all that matters. You might consider getting one. I have one with shoulder guards to protect a bit more of my collarbone/humerus area (my break).

Talk to a sports psychologist.

very good idea - I am also going to buy a vest as for me it was my back - it will at least make me feel more protected.

Crown Royal
Mar. 1, 2012, 07:33 PM
I don't have any advice on coming back to riding as far as how fast to progress or anything like that, but I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to start back on a QUIET easy forgiving horse. Confidence is crucial, especially since you are feeling some anxiety and had such a bad accident. Don't be ashamed to take things as slow as you want to. And welcome back to riding! :)

Zu Zu
Mar. 1, 2012, 08:49 PM
YES ``` ride again ! :D

Plan your work and work your plan .... :yes:

This will be easier than you think !

Just start ...'saddle up' and get on when 'ready ...
may take two or three of those 'saddle ups' but you'll climb back on and wonder 'why' it took so long !

Keep us updated !!! ENJOY !!!