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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct. 3, 2002
    it's not the edge of the earth, but you can see it from here

    Lightbulb Unconscious Fear; from illness or injury

    I thought it might be helpful to talk a little bit about identifying fear and the sources of it...

    It wasn't until I got on the SillyFilly late this fall, and giggled when she scooted a little, and smiled with triumph when she walked off, that I realized how much unconscious fear I'd built up over the last couple of years.

    I'd had a couple serious accidents--non-horse related--before the horse one... and since the horse-related one had some chronic pain etc. Last year I tried to get on too soon... my knee gave on the way up, which scared her, which scared me... off we went. From then on she was terrified when I'd get 'above' her level...

    Fast forward, I truly had no idea how much fear I was carrying around.

    I don't think it's misplaced either--when our body hurts to begin with, it probably works pretty hard to keep us from hurting it MORE... When you're partially broken to begin with, you feel like you sure don't want to break anything else!

    But how do you identify it? I really didn't know I was afraid, until I got on and *wasn't* afraid, and saw the difference...

    How do you work with it? How do you move beyond it?
    InnisFailte Pinto Sporthorses & Coloured Cobs

    Bits are like cats, what's one more? (Petstorejunkie)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep. 12, 2004


    Good questions...

    I think a lot of my nervousness over the years has been because my hip didn't work right, and I wasn't balanced.

    But I'm not going to know that till I get back on.....

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May. 25, 2003
    Orlean, Virginia

    Thumbs up just my 2 sense!

    I think first you have to acknowledge it as you suggested. Call it what it is, give it a name, get to know it, what it's symptoms are for you (because I think it's quite individualized), what it feels like, what makes it start, what releases it. Then allow yourself to have it. Don't be ashamed. Don't care what others say or think. This is YOUR deal, YOUR fear. Then break it down into increments or steps to deal with it and develop strategies to abate it or ride with it present but under control. The control gives you power, strength and ultimately confidence. This is a natural processs - part of being human. Like breathing; we can all get afraid. Its a naturally occuring human emotion.

    I think breaking down a fearful act into smaller steps helps us deal. As you accomplish the small steps; you are still working toward your goal. Revel in that! Be happy! Congratulate yourself!


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr. 29, 2006
    Brooklyn, Wisconsin


    Interestingly these days I'm pretty calm and secure (emotionally ) on the flat, but I'm a complete nervous wreck over fences. For this reason, I haven't really jumped my mare. She'd never done it before me, and I started teaching her a couple years ago. She was actually very good, my instructor and I were impressed with her, but I was a mess. And she's very sensitive, so I'm sure if I'd kept up with it, she'd have picked up on that, and it would have become a problem.

    Instructor was too tactful to say it directly (though she kept instructing me to breathe, relax, and so on), but when I talked to her afterwards, she agreed with my assessment that I needed some time on a packer, or else I was going to create problems for my mare.

    For me, I wasn't so much aware of being afraid, as being very defensive, trying to overcorrect for problems that weren't really there. I couldn't just sit back, relax, and let her go - I had to "prevent the run-out" if she wasn't completely straight, be ready to grab her in case she bolts after the fence, and so on. And I mean, some level of preparedness for those sorts of things is good, but this was too much reaction out of me for a whole lot of nothing.

    But it was definitely fear, and if I ever want to get back into jumping (which I do miss, I'd actually like to return to eventing someday, hah) I'm going to need a lot of time over tiny fences on something really really steady.

    And although it's something I worked through, I used to own a horse that I went through a phase where I would feel extreme anxiety when I got on him. He'd reared straight up and gone over with me at once point. We were both mostly unharmed, but I was quite shaken by it. Wasn't ready to give up on him completely, he was pretty green when it happened, but it was frightening.

    For the longest time, I took it really slow for both of us. I'd mount him and then dismount again, with a huge sigh of relief. Eventually I found I wanted to try a little more. And a little more. And next thing you know, we were out on the trail. It took a long time before I really felt comfortable on him.

    He was alwas one of those horses who was a little mentally unhinged, but eventually we reached an understanding where I felt safe and comfortable on him, and I knew what sorts of things I could trust him to do and how much I could safely push him.

    So anyhow, I've had the best luck not pushing myself too hard so that I have good experiences, and then eventually, I get bored enough that I really want to try doing more.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug. 17, 2006


    Ive always been terrified to jump..even before I had a couple of confidence tearing incidents. There was one horse I truely loved to jump but he decided to hurt himself and is now pretty much completely retired.

    The fear is probably related to the fact my balance is really off, so that coupled with some bad experiences and currently I dont want to jump period.(as opposed to the occasional x rail course I would do). And ive been known to flat out refuse to do things when instructors push me too far.

    I also have a fear of mounting because of my vision problems/lack of depth perception which I know is a rational worry but still I gotta learn new horsie is being really good now and will not walk off till I ask(or accidentally kick) but it makes me happy if someone stands there.
    Beyond the Ring-para dressage, training, coaching

    Proud Team Four Star Minion! Renegade for Life!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May. 11, 2007


    Thank you for this thread and all the good advice. It helps to hear how other people are coping. I'm just sick that I let a little fall shake my confidence so much. I ride alone so have had to deal with this by myself and it's taking that much longer to get over my issues.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May. 22, 2005


    Hey Jnel, don't beat yourself up. I am also real skittish-a year ago, broke my leg, started riding a bit in April, but my horse was sooo high and my leg sooo iffy that I only went out with others-I usually ride alone, too. Now, not ridden for 3 months due to a car accident. With my own horse I'm ok, unless it is super windy and he is super spooky, but heck, someone asked me to hold their huge horse recently and I was suprised that I was askeered just to stand there. All the what-ifs. And once I round that endless corner from awful constant pain to less pain, I am even more, uh, shall I say now, protective.
    Soo, it is a process. As a result I of this last car accident I had major PTSD-there was a therapy called bodytalk which really helped me. It helped to bring those skeerdy nervous panicky feelings outside my body. Big help. Google is your friend, bodytalk. Also what is helping on a moment by moment basis is to send my breath down to the ground. Being scared usually causes us to have really shallow breathing. All the way down, big belly breaths, often dissipates the uncomfortable feelings. That, plus a kiss on my horse's nose

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan. 1, 2010


    Jane Savoie's books
    That Winning Feeling
    More than Just the RIbbons (or something like that)

    helped me immensely.

    Well worth the read!

    Good luck. You will definitely benefit from the psychological exercises in these books.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun. 28, 2003


    Slow and steady wins the course!

    A few years ago our boarding barn burned down and we lost a horse and had an injured horse that we rehabbed for at least a year and a half. It took the longest time to realize that we were exhibiting PTSD and couldnt make a decision for anything. Just realizing it helped start to recover but then our father died and then I was diagnosed with cancer and everything crashed again.

    Now add to that that we now had younger horses than we'd ever had before (the replacements) and you had a real mix of scared to do anything. My sister, who had to deal with all the fallout of my medical decisions, without the control of being the one making them, really lost control and just became a tense mess with the horses.

    One of the young horses hit a growth spurt and it messed with HIS balance making HIM more skittery. We've been working with a great trainer to get him through learning his body and moving along to being a dependable horse

    It took just plugging through it AND admitting when it was just too much and backing off - for us to start getting back into a sense of calm and productive learning

    Its sounds silly to admit it but also Cesar Milan and his way of dog rehab - calm assertive energy - has also been a big help. When you try to focus on just one aspect of "getting over it" you can make steps, then you start to realize its not such a big deal

    But make no doubt about it - it IS a big deal while its happening and admitting it and finding a new path is the biggest step to make

    Best of luck in your endeavors

    ANd its great to be able to chuckle when your horse does a stupid shy - instead of panicking and wanting to stop

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov. 2, 2009
    Southern California


    I haven't been able to move beyond my fear now for over 1 1/2 years. I still haven't got back on a horse. I work with mine on the ground (I have 5), but I only have 2 that can be ridden so far. And, a friend offered to let me ride her mare and I broke out in a panic attack! Oye vei! I need to move beyond this. I've fallen off a horse three times in my life. The last time was a year and a half ago, but I was so much older (56) and now I'm thinking, "Gee, if I fall again, I could REALLY injure myself!"
    Mom to 5 rescue horses: Sunni, Gigondas, Scout, Cali, and now Quad!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov. 10, 2005


    A number of years ago, I had a bad fall resulting in a severely lacerated arm, and broken hip. I required several surgeries and several months of being on crutches. My doctor didn't want me to ride for at least 6 months(after getting off crutches-a total of 9 months from fall). I knew if I didn't get back on and ride, my fears were going to grow. The day I was released from using crutches, I headed to the barn and got on my horse. Needless to say, I was so weak after grooming and tacking, I could only manage to ride about 10 min at the walk. I ended up selling that horse, as I had so much fear of him. He was too large for my short legs and sporadically very reactive. I rode my trainers old app lesson horse for awhile until we found a replacement horse. With the injury, I developed a blood clotting issue and have to be on blood thinners for the rest of my life. I still have some residual fears, but have learned to work thru these by being proactive in working with my current horse(TB mare). I have owned her since she was a baby and had her professionally trained under saddle, but I did all the ground work and "bombproofing". If I'm feeling iffy when I go to ride, I may just walk around the ring or down the driveway. I have several saddles, so on an iffy day, I may ride in the western style(high pommel and cantle) saddle for the added security. I try new things as often as possible in an effort to keep my mare as unreactive as possible. I definitely am a work in progress...hehe.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr. 4, 2006
    An American Living In Ireland


    PP Great Post!

    Funny thing is I have always been afraid of some terrible illness that would get me and yet the horses never scared me. I galloped racehorses for many years and even got on horses with casts due to broken things because that's what I wanted to do never thinking of my saftey or any what if's. How and ever, if I got a paper cut I'd be running for the neosporin just in case some flesh eating disease was lurking around.

    My last year galloping as a job was in 2001. That year was really tough on me mentally as 4 of my friends from the track died yet unrelated to horses. For whatever reason that really played on my mind. Then I had a fall which was nothing really but I remember thinking "geez I'm getting old because I don't bounce right anymore." I felt funny but yet not hurt. At this stage I walked back to my barn and went to my truck for my secret stash of cigarettes as I had quit, but had emergency ones. When I pullled the seat back I went dizzy and all of my limbs went numb.

    Needless to say I freaked out and went running into the barn like a loon. By now I was having problems breathing and I sat down in a chair. Sat there for an hour waiting for my husband and refused the ambulance - I was just freaked out. Took him another 30mins to get me into the car and hospital. Welcome to the world of panic attacks and anxiety. To make a long story short, hospital was confident I wasn't dying and put me on anti depressants and sent me to a shrink. AD's were quickly trashed as I had a real bad episode on them but told doctor I was taking them. I didn't want drugs, I wanted help finding out what was wrong with me. And during all this time I still had to go to work and earn a living riding horses which was terrifying me for the first time in my life. After months I was finally diagnosed with a severe sprained neck which pressed on a nerve and reason for the limb numbness.

    Anyway, now at 40, I am still breaking babies and have learned exercises to help me cope with my fear. It sure isn't perfect but I haven't had any panic attacks, well crippling ones anyway. I can calm myself down before things escalate. I am usually in some sort of pain or another but I get accupuncture. Proper riding really hurts and my jumping is non-existent at the moment. I really miss it and need to get my body agile again. But I can do all that as long as I keep my mind right!

    COTH, keeping popcorn growers in business for years.

    "I need your grace to remind me to find my own." Snow Patrol-Chasing Cars. This line reminds me why I have horses.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul. 18, 2007
    Seabeck, WA


    This time last year, I was regularly jumping 2'6" courses, and had no qualms about galloping out on trails or riding green horses. However, I broke 5 vertebrae in a bucking incident with my youngster in May. I was out of the saddle from May to November, and then started lessons again. And about had a nervous breakdown about trotting a well-behaved school horse over a 9" crossrail. 3 weeks later, I'm still doing that single crossrail, because that's what I can handle physically and mentally right now.

    I found a fantastic instructor who is helping me veeeery slowly move back up, and I handed the horse over to a trainer - I'll take him back when I feel I can handle him, but not before. Try going very, very slowly. I spent several weeks just w/t, then added a tiny bit of canter. Next I went over a single pole half a million times, and now I'm doing a single xrail half a million times. A few weeks ago I finally got back on my older horse - he's good, but quick and a little spooky, and I didn't want to scare myself off.

    The key is that I'm not doing anything new until I'm utterly bored with the last step, and I don't have a goal or a deadline. Hopefully the pace will pick up at some point, but if it takes me a year to get back to 2'6", that's ok.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Aug. 21, 2005


    I had a bad fall in 2004 and as a result had debilitating fear. I could ride in the ring but was nervous jumping and still went foxhunting but was probably white as a sheet half the time, even trail rides could be tough. Looking back, I thought I was fine in the ring but I could not progress with jumping, the fear made me choke up on the reins and have a defensive position. I had a second fall in 2007, mostly because I was so scared, I froze up instead of riding thru a pretty minor incident. Determined to do something, I saw a riding sport psychologist, who was TERRIFIC. She did EMDR with me, look it up, very interesting technique to treat PTSD, and it totally and completely worked. such a relief! my riding has progressed so much in the past year - its been amazing to realize how much the fear was a limitation. And just to enjoy my horse, to trust her and have fun out hacking again, has been a gift.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Aug. 16, 2003


    Ray, would you mind sharing the name and location of the riding sports therapist you saw?

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Aug. 21, 2005


    Doris Worcester, Auburn MA (Central MA). I really recommend her !

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