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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr. 2, 2010
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    on COTH right now, duh!
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    512

    Unhappy Need some suggestions for riding anxiety

    I'm hoping that some of you will be able to help me. I'm new to the forum and I really need some advice. I'm not the best writer so please bear with me.
    I'm nearing 40 and I started riding again a few years ago. I grew up riding Hunter/Jumpers and I stopped riding due to having kids. Now that they are older, I've started riding again. Nothing serious because I still can't get past the stupid anxiety that I have now. I know that a lot of people go through this and I really need to hear some way to get through this. I want to start showing again and possibly start doing some small eventing competitions once I feel more confident, and my finances are a bit better,
    Right now I have a great TB who is helping me to get my confidence back. He tolerates my clumsiness and fears without any grumbling or resentment.I am trying to get over my fears and he is helping me through them but I want to just get on with riding and be done with the anxiety part.
    I don't know why I feel so fearful- there is no significant reason to explain it. I didn't have a bad fall or anything. I just stopped riding. I can't really afford weekly lessons but I do have a good instructor who is also helping me by having me do simple gymnastics to help me feel secure in myself again.
    We do a lot of breathing at the walk, rationalizing and encouragement. I just found her and it is helping me a lot but I can't always afford to have her there. I just moved here so I don't have any horsey friends yet.
    Right now I am trotting and doing fine, but I need to progress to feeling comfortable at the canter again.
    Years ago I was jumping over 4' and now I can't even get over 18".
    What have other people done to get out of their heads and back to riding again? I enjoy riding and I enjoyed competing (even if I didn't place) and so I want to get better mentally so I can get better in the saddle.
    Thanks for your help



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan. 31, 2003
    Posts
    18,472

    Default

    Please be kind to yourself and go to a sports psychologist. You might also be helped by anti-anxiety meds. I see people struggle w/this for years, not getting professional help, and I feel so bad for them. IMO it's best to get down to the bottom of it right away.
    "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
    ---
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb. 21, 2007
    Location
    VA
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    1,861

    Default You'll get there

    First, congratulations for pursuing something you love!

    Second, be patient. It's hard to accept that we're not the rider at 40 that we were at 20 or 25. And it's OKAY. I think when we come to grips with that, we lose some of the anxiety we feel from picturing ourselves trying to do now what we used to do in the past.

    For what it's worth, my advice to you would be to work on those things that you feel completely comfortable with until you are bored. Don't put yourself on a timetable. It's going to take as long as it takes. Once you are so comfortable you can't stand it anymore, move along to something a bit more challenging and do that until you're completely comfortable and bored stiff.

    In the meantime, since you like competing, find a low-key venue to visit. Don't even worry about showing. Go walk your horse around. There are some really low-key local circuits that are perfect for just going and riding in the warm-up rings if you're too anxious to show (although I'm sure they'd appreciate a small donation). Perhaps you could find a local circuit that has a beginner adult or other "easy" division with some walk/trot classes so that you could enjoy the thrill of the show but remain within your comfort level.

    Remember, there's no rush. Enjoy yourself. I suspect that if you erase the timetable you might have put yourself on, some of your anxiety will subside.

    Enjoy!
    "We need a pinned ears icon." -MysticOakRanch



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan. 25, 2009
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    1,374

    Default

    I would say take lessons whenever you can, a riding buddy might help as well. Other than that, though, I think it just takes time.



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr. 2, 2010
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    on COTH right now, duh!
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by seabreeze View Post
    First, congratulations for pursuing something you love!

    Second, be patient. It's hard to accept that we're not the rider at 40 that we were at 20 or 25. And it's OKAY. I think when we come to grips with that, we lose some of the anxiety we feel from picturing ourselves trying to do now what we used to do in the past.

    For what it's worth, my advice to you would be to work on those things that you feel completely comfortable with until you are bored. Don't put yourself on a timetable. It's going to take as long as it takes. Once you are so comfortable you can't stand it anymore, move along to something a bit more challenging and do that until you're completely comfortable and bored stiff.

    In the meantime, since you like competing, find a low-key venue to visit. Don't even worry about showing. Go walk your horse around. There are some really low-key local circuits that are perfect for just going and riding in the warm-up rings if you're too anxious to show (although I'm sure they'd appreciate a small donation). Perhaps you could find a local circuit that has a beginner adult or other "easy" division with some walk/trot classes so that you could enjoy the thrill of the show but remain within your comfort level.

    Remember, there's no rush. Enjoy yourself. I suspect that if you erase the timetable you might have put yourself on, some of your anxiety will subside.

    Enjoy!
    Yes one of the biggest things that I struggle with is comparing myself to who I was before and I do think that holds me back. I do tend to be impatient with myself and that is another issue as I am very hard on me.

    I do like the idea of going to do a walk trot class as I hadn't thought of that. My guy is a good boy and he loves to compete too and is equally happy just walking around as I bend and stretch to help me strengthen my core and find a more centered seat.

    I used to be an instructor for beginners and intermediate riders and as I ride, I try to remember the exercises I gave them to encourage their riding esteem. I know I will get there I KNOW I will but I am at the point where I am getting bored trotting around and around and around. But I want to get over the fear of the next hurdle, which is cantering but if I'm afraid, I'm not ready but I don't know how not to be afraid.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug. 23, 2003
    Location
    Mississippi, U.S.A.
    Posts
    831

    Default Need some suggestions for riding anxiety

    Good advice here. Learn to enjoy the moment instead of beating yourself up. You are lucky to have such a tolerant, school master horse. It also sounds like you've done a lot of the preliminary work of walking until you're comfortable and trotting etc. If your hangup is you are afraid of cantering, I would practice it this way. Depending on which gait (walk or trot) you and your horse are most comfortable taking a canter, approach the end of your ring at that gait. Go around the first corner. Before or during the next curve take a canter. Your horse will then have the straight side to canter down. If you are still scared after a stride or two, resume walking. Pat yourself on the back. You've made a big step. Next time you feel like it, canter a few more strides. I'm thinking pretty soon you'll forget all about being scared. Meanwhile, do lots of trotting, hopefully out of the ring. Trotting up and down hills is great for conditioning yourself and your horse. The stronger your core and your legs are, the better your reflexes will be. IBeing strong will build your confidence.

    Another thing that may help is trotting over cavalettis with a small jump at the end. A horse will naturally canter a few strides after a jump and that will help you get used to the three beat, faster gait.

    Imagine yourself picking up the canter as you round the corner of your ring. Give your aids to the horse, relax your back to go with the gait, and throw your heart into it. It's smooth. It's easy. It's wonderful. Every time you concentrate on your fear, replace that thought with that wonderful smooth feeling of cantering. You can do it. You WILL do it. You ARE doing it.

    Practice, practice, practice. Wet saddle blankets can cure almost fear.
    Please keep us posted.



  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb. 21, 2007
    Location
    VA
    Posts
    1,861

    Default

    So what is it about cantering that makes you afraid? Do you fear becoming unbalanced if your horse gets strung out trotting at the departure? Are you worried that he hasn't cantered much and will "feel his oats" when he gets going and unseat you? Are you concerned that you'll lose control and he'll bolt or run away with you?

    My suggestion would be not to think about cantering in terms of getting into the canter and maintaining it. Tell yourself that you're going to pick up the canter for x number of strides (3? 4?) and then come back to the walk or trot or whatever you're comfortable with. And do it over and over. That way cantering isn't this BIG thing to conquer in your mind. It's two or three strides that will be over in a matter of seconds. And the transitions will be great for your horse, too! As you grow your confidence, you can add strides or what have you.

    Have fun!
    "We need a pinned ears icon." -MysticOakRanch



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar. 11, 2004
    Location
    Pennsylvania
    Posts
    3,296

    Default

    This is my area of expertise but you're getting great advice here.

    I would just add one thing. Are you riding alone? If you are, that may be adding to your anxiety. Where in PA are you? There may be COTH folks nearby who can babysit and talk you down.

    But I agree with trying a few strides at the canter. Just enough so that when you do your downward transition, your horse doesn't think s/he made a mistake.



  9. #9
    Join Date
    May. 16, 2003
    Location
    Arizona....the desert part.
    Posts
    417

    Default

    Really, don't beat yourself up! I think this is VERY common among riders starting back in middle age after some time off. I know it happened to me....I did all the pony club stuff, eventing as a kid/teenager.....then life took over, had a LOT of time off due to school/life circumstances, then, at about age 36, started taking lessons again. SURPRISE!!! I was suddenly TERRIFIED that I would get hurt! Was afraid to even canter in the open! I think some of this fear comes from the fact that as we get older, we have more responsibilities...job, kids, bills to pay. PLUS we have gained the wisdom and life experiences that allow us to realize the yes, we CAN get hurt!! Accidents are NOT just something that happen to OTHER people! AND...... it really does seem to hurt more when you fall at age 40 than it did when you were 20. No more bouncing, just crunching.

    There is hope. I too ended up with a great, brave, honest guy. Took it SLOWWWW.....if I was only comfortable with xrails, so be it. If I feeling to weenie for even that....dressage it was! I found a great, understanding trainer, and made friends with several other "around middle-aged" ladies who were going through the same thing. Nothing like knowing you are not the only one with these fears! Stopped looking at the teenagers, and their nerves of steel and their rapid advancement, and realized that I was NOT 18 anymore, and that was OK! This is my hobby, not my career. It's FUN! If it's NOT fun, it's not worth it. Instead of looking at far off, what seemed like unatainable goals, I made little ones....canter in the open closer to the barn, when that was boring, go a little farther away. Then pick up the speed. Jump X rails. When bored with that, do 2' verticals. If that gets scary, back to x rails. Try to do a local schooling show at Beginner Novice....etc etc. EVENTUALLY, by doing this, I made it to a Training Level 1/2*, but there were a lot of 1 step forward, 2 steps back kind of things along the way. And that was OK!

    Sorry about how long this post is, but I guess, in a nut shell, what I am saying is....realize you are in NO WAY the only one who feels like this. Take it SLOW. Have FUN. Don't tell your self "I need to be doing X, and I am only really comfortable doing Y, so this is a failure." There is no failure, it is a hobby. Do what is FUN. You may find that eventually you are back doing more than you ever thought you would. But even if you aren't, that is perfectly ok too....

    Wow, I am long winded tonight! Sorry. Good luck!
    I'm not tense, just terribly, terribly alert!
    If you can't be a good example, you'll just have to be a horrible warning!



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb. 26, 2010
    Location
    Charlotte, North Carolina
    Posts
    126

    Default

    Two books really helped me;
    "Build Complete Confidence With Horses" By Kelly Marks.
    This book was written as though Kelly was your life coach and equestrian mentor. There are a few written exercises to bring you to your own rationales. There are also riding psychology exercises.
    "That Winning Feeling" by Jane Savoie. This is a classic must read for any rider in any seat. Also dog trainers who complete found the competition prep very helpful. I liked the mental training exercises and the are a few riding practical. exercises
    You know, everybody thinks we found
    this broken-down horse and fixed him,
    but we didn't. He fixed us. Every one of us.



  11. #11
    Join Date
    May. 16, 2003
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    Arizona....the desert part.
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    417

    Default

    Ah yes, "That Winning Feeling." GREAT book! Helped me a LOT! Second that suggestion!
    I'm not tense, just terribly, terribly alert!
    If you can't be a good example, you'll just have to be a horrible warning!



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb. 4, 2006
    Posts
    2,954

    Default

    I don't think you should feel like you HAVE to ride. There are lots of ways to enjoy horses without riding (Or jumping, if that's the problem here, wasn't entirely clear from your post).



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan. 16, 2003
    Posts
    2,255

    Default

    I am having the same anxiety. You know what? This week, I took lunge lessons on a 15 hand paint, in a barrel saddle or roping saddle (western) and had a very experienced trainer on the other end of the lunge line. I had no reins and could just breathe and feel, even close my eyes and do those arm and leg exercises. It felt really good. The trainer just left me alone to work it out, and kept the horse going for me. Try it



  14. #14
    Join Date
    Nov. 25, 2009
    Posts
    203

    Default Stay away from caffine...

    If you drink a lot of coffee or colas stop doing it before you ride.



  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jan. 28, 2010
    Posts
    91

    Default

    You're SO lucky to have a kind horse you feel confident on -- I think that's one of the most important factors! Second most important -- you have a great teacher that you trust and feel confident in. Also, like people are saying -- baby steps and don't pressure yourself or compare yourself to how you used to be, etc. That has always worked for me (although you have to learn how to develop saint-like patience ) when I'm getting through a tough situation that's not helped by my being afraid.

    I haven't read Jane Savoie's book, but she has a good article out in Practical Horseman this month titled "5 Easy Ways to Build Confidence" -- it's short but I think it makes some very good points. Might be worth a read to get you started?

    Good luck and have fun!



  16. #16
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    Feb. 23, 2005
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    Spotsylvania, VA
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    Quote Originally Posted by azeventer View Post
    Ah yes, "That Winning Feeling." GREAT book! Helped me a LOT! Second that suggestion!
    Yup, and "It's not just about the Ribbons" also by Jane Savoie.
    Check out her posts on the dressage forum here. We don't bite, even if you do ride hunt seat
    And her website, both the free area and the membership area. She's also on facebook.
    If that's not enough, she has a DVD"Freedom from Fear"

    She is bar none the most generous equine professional I know.

    I had serious confidence issues and after speaking to Jane at the Equine Extravaganza a few years ago I bought her books.
    They changed my life.
    It didn't happen overnight, but I enjoy riding again
    Last edited by carolprudm; Apr. 3, 2010 at 11:45 AM.
    I wasn't always a Smurf
    Penmerryl's Sophie RIDSH
    "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
    The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.



  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb. 6, 2003
    Location
    Deep South
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    14,555

    Default

    Join a group of other riders, it will stop you obsessing about yourself !
    ... _. ._ .._. .._



  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jul. 14, 2006
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    OP, I feel for you. I have lingering anxiety that comes and goes, and is the result of a few falls, one serious and fracture causing, the others more scary but not injuring causing. I think I'm over it and then something new or unexpected causes that old "i'm gonnna die!" feeling. Of course, I never used to be like this as a teen/college student. I think now I'm aware of the costs of being hurt, the potential hit my career and finances would take (my job requires working arms/hands and delaying finishing grad school would delay the start of making a real salary).

    I second the other posters' recommendations of Jane Savoie's books and other materials. I bought her "Freedom From Fear" CDs when they were first released and deeply discounted (not sure I'd pay the current $500 price). Her kind of mental imagery doesn't work for everyone, but it really, really helped me.

    I also took up yoga. Aside from being stress relieving and helping with flexibility, I've found the most important benefit is learning how to calm myself down. After a while, the deep breathing = relax connection becomes like a conditioned response, and the ability to focus on breathing and the "here&now" crowds out the "what if" thoughts.

    Finally, this may not be true for the OP, but I found that my riding-related fears were worse when I had OTHER stuff going on in my non-horse life. Without getting into details, I went through a very rough time professionally, in which I felt like I was constantly being kicked around and just couldn't do anything right no matter what I tried. After a day like that at work, of course I didn't arrive at the barn ready to be my horse's leader or feel confident in the saddle. My confidence really took a nose-dive, and horses really are mirrors. It can become a real viscious cycle--you don't trust the horse, the horse doesn't trust you and is more likely to spook or otherwise act up, making you more nervous, which makes the horse more uneasy.... I ended up seeking counseling to deal with the work situation (couldn't just leave for various professional and financial reasons), and the riding improved without me ever even talking to the counselor specifically about riding. I'm not saying everyone has deep, dark, Freudian reasons for their fears, but sometimes our fears/anxieties are misdirected.

    I think the important thing is to recognize that while we can't make ourselves fearless, we can learn to deal with our fears.
    Good luck,
    BES
    Proudly owned by 2 chestnut mares
    Crayola Posse: sea green
    Mighty Rehabbers Clique



  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jun. 25, 2007
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    2,206

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    Quote Originally Posted by Equibrit View Post
    Join a group of other riders, it will stop you obsessing about yourself !
    This is a great point. Can you hack out with a friend or ride with someone else for practice? I used to be terribly anxious on the trail. I rode with a good friend and just observed her while we chatted and rode along and realized I was being kind of OCD, overprotective, etc. It also helped me RELAX. At one point I got nervous in tall grass (my horse's one and only real spook was when sleeping deer leaped out of tall grass about 10 feet away...he spooked/bolted about 10 yards and then stopped but I went flying off his back end.)...and she made me go through it and told me to just breathe, relax and that I 'needed more of this'.

    I would also recommend learning and practicing a one-rein stop. Practice at the canter - W/T but especially canter. At canter, go few strides, then ORS....then further, ORS. Soon your horse will start rating back to you and anticipate the ORS. It is my peace of mind at the canter and on the trail but you must practice it frequently, keep it fresh for your horse and you.

    Finally, sometimes you just have to "do it". Ride more. More saddle time. Set goals for each ride. Build on small successes, a.e. "Today I cantered for 3 minutes...then 5...etc." It will get easier!



  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jan. 11, 2007
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    Central VA
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    Default

    I totally get it. I'm late 30's also and showed hunters as a teen, took a while off, came back and sort of just putzed around for a few years. Had a BAD fall and broke my back 2.5 years ago. Nine months later, started taking lessons and I was worried that I wouldn't even get off the mounting block at the first one! I did, though, and I was back to cantering within a month or so. I did a few strides at a time at first. Now, I'm fine, but dealing with fear issues while jumping. Some days I'm braver than others, some days I don't jump at all in my lesson. I actually was very proud of myself today, I cantered a jump in my lesson and nailed it. Sometimes it's the little things!

    I don't put any pressure on myself, I progress as I feel like it. If I don't feel comfortable doing something, I don't do it. I do let my trainer occasionally push me a little outside of my comfort zone and am usually glad I did.

    The more saddle time you can get, the better off you'll be. I feel more confident in my weekly lesson if I've managed to get on my old horse at home and even just w/t during the week.

    There are many of us "weenies" out here, so don't be so hard on yourself!



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