Fear Is Disabling
It may not qualify as a disability, but it certainly can be disabling!
My problem is, I don't know if I get scared because of the symptoms of my own disabilities, or if fear exacerbates the symptoms. What I do know is that on the infrequent occasions I get up on a horse, I start to hyperventilate (not badly, and not out of control), and feel like the whole makeup of my body changes. I feel like it's changing from a warm, flexible, breathing, moving organism to a frozen, shaky, one, like all the molecules are locking together to hold everything in shape--and very tense!
I hate it, but the more I try to get over it, the worse it gets.
Plus all the aches and pains make it even harder to relax. :sigh:
Have you tried visualization? Sit and practice in your head, sitting at a chair, imagine yourself getting on the horse, and pinpoint where you start to feel anxious. Try to move through the anxiety by breathing and concentrate on pushing through. If that doesn't help then open your eyes, get up and do something else and come back.
The more you try to get over you said the worse it gets, that means you're pushing yourself when maybe you shouldn't. Try spending time with horses, doing things that are fun but not pressure filled, grooming, or just hanging out. Take time to relax around horses, visualize at home and work on teaching yourself to be calm once you know what triggers that anxious feeling.
Here is something that may help.
Plus lots of visualization and positive thinking too.
I have MS and I am quite disabled from it.
There are times when I am afraid to get up on the horse because I feel so weak and unsteady.
But I recently got the RS-tor Rider Security Aid and it is helping my confidence levels A LOT. Like this morning, getting over a head cold, weak, shaky, unsteady on my feet and getting exhausted from any movement, I went on a trail ride because I had my RS-tor. It is my "security blanket", my body knows that as long as I hold it in my hand I have a chance at staying on.
I do not know if it would help you, but it makes me feel a lot more secure in the saddle.
crud, i just deleted what i wrote. grr.
my medical opinion (legal disclaimer: you aren't my patient, i haven't seen you, i don't know your meds, etc) is that it's 2 fold: 1) is a real physical impediment that scares the crap out of you and causes 2) a panic reaction.
in general, if your MS is exacerbated by stress, i worry that riding will make your symptoms worse if your panic is that significant. if not, i would try gradually getting "closer" to riding, to allow yourself to experience the safety of being on the ground and meanwhile, allow the panic experience to dissipate as you do a gradual, phased exposure to your triggering situation.
i like to have patients write down where they are on a scale of 1-10, and at which levels, what you feel (like sitting on a horse is a 9, but what's a 4, what's this etc) and start off going to what's comfortable and being ok there. then slowly, moving up on the scale.
another thing you could look into is EFT, which while there is no significant medical evidence it works, i do find some people benefit from it.
hope that helps.... =)
I had to deal with my paralizing fear. The causes are not the same as yours but fear is fear. And when it stops you from doing what you want to do, it's a PROBLEM!
I bought the Jane Savoie books which deal with rider anxiety. Those helped a lot.
When I first got my horse I would literally shake AT HOME at the thought of going to the barn. I had to give myself permission to do as little as I was comfortable with and build on that. It started with just brushing and being around him. I moved up to tacking up but not getting on. Then I got on and got right back off. You get the idea. Baby steps as I felt comfortable with them and bored with what I was doing.
Find your comfort zone and stay in it until you're ready to move on. And BREATE!
I don't get it. I just googled this, but I don't get how this makes you more secure in the saddle. Can you explain?
Originally Posted by Jackie Cochran
Thank you all for the kind feedback. :) It sounds very helpful (I need to find out what EFT is.)
I started the thread a couple of days after getting up on a new horse for the first time and being led around the small arena at a walk. At first I just got up on the mounting block and looked at the horse; then I got down, then actually made it all the way onto the horse. Mild hyperventilating and feeling very tense. Did not really enjoy it even though I really really wanted to do it.
Today I got back up on the horse again and walked around the small arena on my own. Actually rode a little bit, asking him to do a couple of things like move off my leg, tried a walk half-pass but got my "bends" (or rather his) reversed. :D I hate riding away from the rail but the half-pass took us from the center of this very small arena back to the rail, so that was good. Then we turned and went the other way of the arena, the side I used to be stiffer and more awkward on even on good days of real riding, and my only problem was that I could not reverse my inside-outside leg and rein to the new direction. I was absolutely thrilled that I was having problems with inside-outside aids rather than with breathing/balance/shakiness! And that I could feel the difference when we got the half-pass right!
Can't believe I was actually riding a bit and realizing that the horse was actually doing what I was asking (and making me realize that I wasn't always asking for what I *thought* I was asking for!).
He is a big (but short) rock-solid guy who didn't move more than a couple of muscles while I took forever to mount and dismount (except to twitch flies.:) )
Next time we need to work on halt.
I don't think that you are giving yourself good feedback here. Go back and read this post and then read today's post. That doesn't sound like its getting worse!!! Today sounds waaaay better. Worse would be if you didn't even make it to the barn today.
Originally Posted by Wellspotted
What you are doing to the very best treatment for fear / anxiety. Little steps, but each one a little more than the last. And look at the bigger picture, not at this moment in time.
I love the smiles I hear in your post. Each day, when you go to the barn, expect to do ONLY what you are comfortable with. One thing I had to learn after my heart surgery and stroke was that I wasn't going to make progress the way I had before. Some days would be better than others.
So don't be surprised if, on some days, that it seems harder than on others. We don't have good days EVERY day!
If you can get on and just warm him up, well....that is huge. After the warm up, see where you can take it!
Good for you Wellspotted! It sounds to me like your horse may have bought in to helping you over your fear. Sometimes I am lucky and get to ride a horse like that. Just be ready, when a horse like this thinks you are ready they often sneak in the next step, at least my first horse did!
Cindyg--The RS-tor aids my security in the saddle so far by reducing the fear and tension of my brain and body. Before, out of the ring, I would be gripping with my legs, anxiously looking around for spooks, and keeping contact (and the horses went quietly, no problems.) Now I can concentrate on sinking my weight down my heel, and since I am more relaxed and not gripping as hard my leg muscles are more supple, therefore my frictional grip is more effective. I can also ride off contact which gives me a rest.
The RS-tor itself comes into play if your horse spooks/bolts/bucks/rears in that it gives your hands something to pull yourself back into the saddle. I am so weak and unsteady that it would take nothing for the horse to disappear from under me, with the RS-tor I would have a chance to pull myself back to the center of the saddle. Since the RS-tor is in my hand all the time when I am out of the ring it would work automatically.
Today the wind was up, and when the Arab mare I rode started acting up I felt the beginning of fear (those pesky what if she--- thoughts) but I made sure the RS-tor was firmly in my fist, loosened the reins, put my heels down and got her past that absolutely terrifying black steer that suddenly loomed out of the woods. As I tell my riding teacher, the RS-tor is my safety blanket, and with it in my hand I am bold enough to do things I have not done in decades.
I'm dealing with these very same issues (stemming from a horrific riding accident), and what you've written here is absolutely correct. I am thankful to have a very good and sympathetic trainer. First, she put me on the oldest, quietest horse she had. For the first lesson, I just sat there and didn't move. When I was comfortable with that, she led me in small circles until I could breathe. This progressed to her walking beside me while I rode at a walk, etc. Baby, baby steps. Good luck to you.
Originally Posted by ezduzit
Yay! Congrats on your accomplishments!!! Big kudos for u and carrots for your pony. EFT is a little weird for some people but I've seen results with it. Google Gary Craig- he has free videos and u can do them when sick, well or in between. I've personally done them in the midst of horrific migraines (something that I'm still dealing with- u can read another post in migraines &'see the drama).
Originally Posted by Wellspotted
As a medical practitioner, I've been taught how to "fix" people with medicine. Only my firsthand experience that medicine doesn't always work is now leading me down a different path, one where science isnt supportive of yet. Not sure where I'm going to end up, but I've got my heels down, fingers thru the breast strap, and eyes up.
Keep us posted!
Are you working with an instructor with specialized training in fear recovery? You're at a point that you don't necessarily need an instructor stellar at equitation, or green horses, or green riders.... you need a therapist that's familiar with horses.
I've worked with lots of people with paralyzing fear, and I suffered from anxiety for over a year, so I know what irrational fear feels like. I use that experience to help shape the experience for riders with fear issues.
This is not something to tackle alone. Find someone you trust.
What is EFT? Two people have mentioned it to me in this thread but I don't know what it is.
I'm not working with a trainer or a trained therapist, just a very nice young horse person who lets me ride her very nice solid bombproof horse. She is very patient and wants to become a therapeutic horsemanship instructor. She would be an excellent one, IMO. Never in a hurry, has all the time in the world (or so she convinces me :)), and horse is rock-solid.
On Sunday we trotted! Maybe 3-4 strides. It felt lovely but I couldn't handle more.
Thank you all for your feedback!
I know what you are talking about. The fear cycle is terrible and up till recently I could not have understood it if I tried.
Originally Posted by Wellspotted
Those who know me would have described me as a confident, strong rider. One capable of handling difficult and young horses with ease.
Not the case now. Last year I was in a riding accident and fractured 4 thoracic vertebrae and sustained a spinal cord contusion & spinal concussion. Real lucky to be walking much less riding. It's been a painful journey.
I thought I was ready to ride a few months ago and was pretty excited. After getting in the saddle I was a bit nervous (not a problem). When the wind picked up and the horse showed a sign of life, I almost had a nervous break down.
And that's how it went each time I tried to ride. Sometimes I'd stay in the saddle for 1/2 hour or a few minutes. I was trying so hard to do what once made me happy, except every ride was preempted by me having an internal conversation about "how it was going to be ok, you can do this, you just need to ride more often, don't be afraid". Then, I'd get on and all of a sudden the world was very dangerous on top of a horse. Leaves rusting, sounds, the wind, horses at a distance...you name it, I labeled it a life hazard.
One day, I had a family member video me (so I could see my mistakes). While walking, the horse looked sideways at something and I literally burst into tears. I was terrified.
For me, forcing myself into the saddle was not accomplishing anything. Part of the problem was/is pain management. The other part was letting go of the feeling that I could not control the outcome of a given situation.
I sought help from trainers but am unable to find one willing to assist because of the nature of my injuries (ie, they see me too risky, lol..don't want me hitting the ground on their property).
Fortunately I have friends who've been helpful. One particular, who has been kind enough to bring her golden oldie of almost 30 years out of retirement. When I want to ride, I ride him. My friend fusses at me about equitation and reminds me that I don't have to test everything I know. Staying within my comfort (pain) zone is the goal, along with getting my body & mind congruent while in the saddle.
There are some that I have felt look down on me because I have lost that "go get 'em" attitude....more than once been told "you just need to ride more to get over it". What they fail to realize is that my body simply does not work as strongly as it did before. On many levels, my pain does contribute to the fear. Is some of it irrational..absolutely, but it does not make it any less real to me.
LOL..forgive the long essay because I don't think I've contributed much except to empathize. As it is, I'm still a work in progress. Certainly will be re-reading this thread and following it because I too, will gain from others responses.
I was treated using EMDR by a psychologist that specializes in treating riders.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eye_mov...d_reprocessing. It is a therapy developed to treat PTSD. I had a couple of falls (off my horse) that resulted in injuries and I developed essentially paralyzing fear about riding. It helped me so much! I am so grateful to get my love of riding back.
a simple thing that you can try is to sing while you are riding. first of all, you have to breath to sing. and second, its gives your brain something else to do.
good luck! you are brave, to just be keeping at it ;)
Thank you, Ray and Heather. :) I will look up the EMDR. I have never heard of it before.
Heather, you have contributed a lot, as far as I'm concerned. I was really interested in your post. And very sorry for your injuries and the trauma resulting. I was almost in tears when I read "trying so hard to do what once made me happy," and the part about almost having a nervous breakdown.
That is me. I am trying so hard to enjoy something that once made me so happy. What I have always wanted most of all on earth, I no longer enjoy. It hurts, and it scares me, and I get off-kilter and feel off-balance, and that scares me, and that hurts too, in a different way than the simply physical.
I was thinking that I wished I were near you, I would try to find a steady-eddie (maybe my rock-solid friend) and see if you wanted to get up on him, and I could just sort of be there for you as some of my friends have just been there for me. And I was glad to read on about your friend and her once-retired horse that you are riding.
EFT is emotional freedom technique- basically, it's a combo of tapping on specific acupuncture/acupressure meridian lines and points while saying a combo of words. Heres an example of what you say: even though _____ (for OP, I'm afraid of riding my new horse, OR the issue u are dealing with), I deeply and fully accept myself.
And you say this while tapping first on the fleshy part of your hand just below your pinky fingers, then part of the phrase (like a reminder "afraid of riding new horse"), while tapping a few times on the top of your head, then your eyebrow, then side of eye, then below nose, chin, near rib #1, then in the midaxillary line (under your armpit, in line with your nipple or thereabouts depending on where yours are ;) lol.
Hope that helps.
Well good for you Wellspotted. Trotting sounds like a small step in the right direction!
I think you need to tell yourself that fear is what really keeps us safe. I had a hard time once getting back on green horses. A nonhorse related injury that was quite painful struck the fear of what could happen if anything went wrong. But with time and a lot of ground work for my benefit more than the horse I was back up there and training the greenies again.
Small steps in the right direction and always keep it fun!