Does anyone have some thoughts on nerves (or even my original thought which is Post-Traumatic Stress) and riding accidents? Although we are all tough and strong horsewomen, and we dust off our breeches and get back on, what do you all do to relieve that "pit of your stomach" feeling? Please share your tips and tricks!
My biggest challenge is getting on horses I don't know. It takes me a while to trust new horses (and horse-people!) So I make sure to ask all the right questions and watch the horse be ridden. The result is that now, I can tell within 5 minutes of watching a horse go whether I want to ride or not. I used to be young and stupid and think I had to get on, just to seem competent. Now I'm quick to say "no thanks" after that 5 minute mark!
Edit: See my second post on the thread for clarification.
I am an LCPC in MD and I do a lot of work with people who have suffered from PTSD. One thing to consider is that you must give yourself time - give yourself permission to take time to deal with the primary incident and then be willing to move through the process of healing, no matter how painful or frustrating it is.
I'm in the process of setting up part of my practice to work with situations like yours with clients in MD. One thing I would suggest for you is, find a licensed therapist that maybe knows something about riding and have them work with you patly in the office setting, and then move the sessions to the barn or "in vivo" to actually have her work on exposure techniques and finally to help to complete whatever task you fear most. This is VERY effective therapy, but I think for equestrians dealing with a sport issue, you will want to find someone who is not asking "what does oxer mean" every five minute of your session.
Another thing to consider is, some fear is actually good - it serves to protect us.
One thing to consider, PTSD sometimes has co-occurring disorders as well, and also may have "sprung" from pre-existing conditions as well. Medication CAN help some people, so speaking with a psychiatrist can help.
If you would like any help in finding local resources, please feel free to PM me, and I'll see what I can do you help you in that regards.
Thanks SWatson for your advice. I think "post traumatic stress" was the wrong term, as that is a diagnosable condition and the symptoms are much more acute than I experience personally. I have actually been OK to get back on horses after accidents have occurred. There is some lingering fear that serves to keep me safe, but it does affect my performance with new horses until I feel comfortable that I can handle them.
So I thought other people who've had big crashes, falls or other types of horse-related accidents could share the strategies they use to keep themselves safe but also take chances required to be competitive or just enjoy their horses in the back yard again.
Windward Farm, Washougal, WA- our work in progress, our money pit, our home!
For me, coming back from a riding accident that has resulted in 3 surgeries and 7 months of PT (so far!) means that I must "control" the situation as much as possible. I know my horse, I know what is safe(r) to do with him, I know that I must take time to rebuild muscle to be safe and effective. I will probably not jump again, even though I am not afraid to do so. It just seems prudent to not engage in a higher risk type of riding.
I like to make a plan, and follow it. I do NOT allow people to goad me into more than I feel I can do or should do.
Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!
Whether or not you consider your fears mild or severe, if they interfere with your life, and you want to do something about them, there is definitely help!
One of the most successful tretment modalities for anxiety is a combination of SSRI's and CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy). It has been proven to have the highest rate of success as compared to medication therapy alone, CBT alone, or placebo (i.e. nothing).
If you prefer to try things on your own, there is an excellent workbook that I use with my clients called the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Bourne. Try using it to begin working through the thoughts that are hindering you from feeling safe and thus acting (riding) in a more pleasant and less restricted manner.
Not every fear or anxiety issue has to be dealt with - for instance, if you have a fear of climbing a mountain, but you do not like the mountains, there is no reason you would need to work on this issue unless is was affecting you in other ways. Essentially, our "issues" are not really issues until they begin to influence how we live in maladaptive, unsafe or unhappy ways. If your behaviors are causing an issue for someone or something else, examine what your relationship is to that person or thing and decide what, if anything, you can or should do about it.
If whatever is happening to you emotionally prevents you from enjoying your riding time, and you are not ready to let that part of your life go, just know that there are ways to work through it, just as you would a frustrating combination, dressage test or any other training problem. I love working with the anxiety disorders because there is so much hope.
"...I used to be young and stupid and think I had to get on, just to seem competent. Now I'm quick to say "no thanks" after that 5 minute mark."
Sounds like you had a come to Jesus realization you're mortal and can be hurt. Young or new riders have personal "fables" that they'll never get hurt etc. (kinda' like girls who know they, "can't get pregnant the first time they have sex").
As people have noted, it's a survival instinct. I had a lovely horse and we had a lovely crash (no broken anything, just a concussion and dent here and there). I'd be riding him afterwards and I'd catch myself thinking, "What if I fell off now, how badly would I be hurt.". This was ridiculous! I didn't worry on my big jumpers going x-country, just this nice pleasure horse. I sold him. For whatever reason, I lost my nerve on him and not other horses. He found a good home.
As long as you don't let your fear/drama spiral up and over, you'll be OK. Watching horses be ridden before deciding to get on is a good thing. You realize you don't have the luxury of being 13 again, with no responsibilities and rubber bones that heal in a week.
I now know why people pay more for made horses - and why I refuse to risk my life and the quality of life for my family - for me to ever ride the more difficult rides ever again. When I was younger and without a family, that was ok, but marriage and motherhood changed my priorities. It is not that I don't enjoy a "hotter" ride, it's just that I like the predictable fellows more now than I used too.
Fear and anxiety are in our lived for a reason - if the fear and anxiety kept you from riding ALL horses, you would need to deal with that on a more therapeutic level, but being cautious is more of a positive than a negative. Caution is also what has preserved our horses as a whole for generations - we call it spooking, they say "it FELT scary, so I ran!"
I do only dressage, will never jump. Will never ride green horses or QH's (never had good luck with them)
Well, ya' gotta' go with what makes you happy.
My wife almost died from falling off her horse at the walk. I've had 2 friends die in freak accidents with horses going slowly and don't forget some of our recent top dressage riders having horrible accidents.
A friend's daughter was killed as she was picking out her pony's front foot...he kicked a fly and hit her on the side of her head...Bang! Gone.
Horses are big and sure can be opinionated. If dressage makes someone feel safer...go for it. Riding's supposed to be fun...if it's not, try another style of riding.
My wife almost died from falling off her horse at the walk.
Yup...When I got thrown a few weeks ago, three days later, I was out galloping in the cornfield and I got that pit of your stomach thing. The first thing that popped into my head was "dummy, you got thrown hard at the WALK. It isn't the speed that's yer problem."
Why is it that a woman will forgive homicidal behavior in a horse, yet be highly critical of a man for leaving the toilet seat up?
~ Dave Barry
The only area that I feel my emotions inhibit my performance is in the canter transition. I am totally fine before and after, that transition gets me every time, and is the source of my anxiety. So, I will work on that and pick up some of the suggested reading folks have mentioned.
Originally Posted by SWatson
I now know why people pay more for made horses - and why I refuse to risk my life and the quality of life for my family - for me to ever ride the more difficult rides ever again.
You have summed up the way I feel perfectly! I used to like the challenge of the hot, sensitive horse, and as a pretty tuned-in rider I had a lot of success with these types. They were "my thing".
What has changed since my last crash is the awareness that my family needs me more than I need to ride horses. I should mention that I was riding for free or actually paying to ride problem horses! No more of that. My focus now is going to be on riding well schooled horses and possibly picking up a lease that I can work on my bronze with next year.
Using an alter because I don't like to share personal medical information.
This thread was an enormous light bulb for me. I have had numerous painful and serious accidents riding or on the ground related to a horse (always seems to be when I start to improve and have time, something stupid happens). Two of these accidents have reqired surgery, one required a trip to the trauma center in a helicopter and one required 15 weeks of bed rest to heal. But, true to my stubborn nature, I always get back on and start riding again.
In the past, getting back on usually required that the first few tries, someone led the horse like I was on a child's pony ride. I would gradually progress to walking towards someone who caught the horse, then on up to trotting (only). The level of anxiety was off the charts -- heart palpitations, sweating, inability to breathe, sobbing. Even after many months of slow, easy riding on slow, easy horses, I would still be quite anxious while on the horse.
This last time, none of those things have happened. I've gotten back into riding, after almost a year off with. I'm still a little tense, but have been able to use the tools that I've gotten (thank you Jane Savioie) to overcome the anxiety and have a productive ride. One hair raising event (and I was only a witness -- my horse was a prince) got my adrenalin rushing (so much I almost vomited), but I was able to get on the horse right away and complete a successful ride. Slowly getting back into it, but I am way more successful.
I have been wondering what is different this time, and when I read SWatson's post regarding SSRI's as a potential treatment -- that MUST be it! I'm about 2 months into a LexaPro prescription. LexaPro is an SSRI used for depression (why I was using it), but also for anxiety disorders. After reading through all this, I firmly believe that is making a huge difference for me.
So, SWatson -- you're a successful therapist even long distance! Thank you so much for posting on this thread. Others, talk to someone about your fears and possible solutions -- I dislike taking medications, but I have to tell you, this unexpected benefit will keep me on the LexaPro for a long time.
I realise when we have an accident, a bad fall, a bad experience..it goes right into our body as an imprint and get block there. It is much more than just a bad souvenir, much more than something we can manage with our brain.
Even if your brain, your mind has came over..When you get close to any situation that would refer to the accident, suddenly you start to shake, swet, get tensed..That is the body response and memory. It is hard to get this out and move it to a new reality because it comes from the body, so seems uncontrolable by our mind..
The same reasons will aplly for the naughty horse, where he disconnect strongly as we put him near he had a bad experience.
I found breathing is very important, allowing the tension, the fears, the memory to live again through lot of breathing is good. But,..this process is frightening, I know. Suddenly, for some micro seconds you may live the moment where you got injured at the first place..
Some medication can help too.
I completely agree with your reluctance to ride a new horse, a horse that you don't know. This is a very good reaction since you don't know where this horse comes from, if he is that made, if he respond to the legs that well..
Personnaly, when I ride a horse I don't know, I'll check the leg response immediately simply because, a horse that is not forward can be unpredictable, much more than if he is forward and just spook. I have a long list of people I know injured in such situations.
Awareness of potential dangerous situations comes with equestrian maturity where you alloud yourself to say no where you are not confortable.
I won't ride a horse that rears. Never have. That for me is a 100% dealbreaker.
A bucking horse...if it's a fun "woohoo" buck...it'd better be while he's going straight ahead and not too much.
Spooky & goosey horses I've found to be the ones who dump you...I'll be SO glad when a bunch of deer are turned into venison, I'm tired of these retarded whitetails crashing/jumping etc. right when I go by. I'm afraid to trot or canter on the trails now, too much stupidity going on.
I ride defensively. Always heels down, knees in the rolls and sitting back a bit. If something dramatic is going to occur, I want to be ready.
MedicatedAlter, thanks for sharing. I am so happy that you have been able to move on from those terrible experiences and enjoy riding again.
Leena, I'm so happy you posted on this thread. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I read a few of your recent threads today and words can't describe how much of an inspiration you are to me. We are blessed to have you as a participant on these forums.
Trakehner, I hear you. This is the time of year that accidents tend to happen. Better safe than sorry.
The thing is "accidents" are going to happen. I have had my fair share of buck offs, bail offs, and injuries.
I myself am dealing the PTSD from an accident almost three years ago
beaking my back in three places. I was alone when it happened.
Have ridden tons of times alone.
With in 7 months I got back on my horse and rode him. I haven't ridden him very much till recently as I was riding a friends mule. A few weeks ago
I found the need to start riding my own horse.
So, instead of walking my horse to meet up with the people I ride with I decided to just get on and ride him out the drive and down the road.
Had one of the best rides I have ever had on him. Saddled him up
and rode him the next day alone. That night I started having the flashbacks again. I can see my accident happen always in slow motion and it never
changes. I wake up in cold sweat and can not get back to sleep.
I have learned through this whole experience that taking baby steps to accomplish goals is what works best for me. I am unable to do alot
of the things I could do before due to the severity of my injury but I at least try and I do as much as I can to keep my mind occupied.
My suggestion besides therapy is setting small goals for yourself after accomplishing a small goal list set the goals a bit larger and just keep working to strive to reach them and do what ever you can to keep your mind occupied. Big deep breaths also seem to help too.
In my 40 + years of riding I have had some bad accidents. Now that I am 50 I am much more careful and not so daring. I wear a helmet and a safety vest when riding my mare that wants to buck a few licks the start of every ride. I have sent her to 3 trainers with 2 awful out comes for the horse. So I have found a yound boy that can ride anything and not come off. I pay him 20 dollars to come to my horse and ride the buck out of her then I get on and ride her. After watching someone ride her I am not as afraid because I know what she does while bucking, such as she does not buck and run off, if I can get her head pulled around she stops, etc. I am determined to ride and show her, but I am just more carefull and the helmet builds my confindance.
I agree with whomever said take small steps. Every step has the opportunity to build confidence. If you do not succeed in that step, go back to the previous one in which you had success and repeat it until you feel successful and then attempt the step you are struggling with.
Of course, some steps ought not be repeated - please do not continuously approach a fence and then stop your horse! I know people who have actually done this, thereby creating self-fulfilling prophecy! They were afraid their horse would be a stopper, and they trained their horse to become one!
And just as you reward your horse for accomplishing a goal, reward yourself. While food is the most powerful motivator for most people, try to not use it - find something like taking a warm bubble bath after the barn to reward yourself for reaching the goal you had feared, or if food really is how you like to reward yourself, look at low-calorie offerings. I tried thinking of something tasty that's low in calories as a suggestion, but all I could come up with is something *I* enjoy, but others may not or may not approve of - I love getting a latte with skim milk and sugar-free (splenda) vanilla syrup. I do not know what the caloric value is, but when I did Weight Watchers, I recall that it was low in points and very tasty - I also get mine decaffeinated.