It would actually be 8 years ago now, Gloria...this thread is about 2 years old! I'm not sure why it got bumped up all of a sudden, but it was certainly an interesting read!
I've noticed myself that I've been a little more nervous about riding since I just started back after breaking my collarbone (not in a riding-related accident, I fell down at home!). Like I really had to think, "your horse is a good boy, he won't do anything, he's just going to mosey, it's no big deal" before I swung my leg over the other day. I expect it's still going to be a while before I feel really secure again.
Oh, and I hope you've managed to improve even more now, OP!
It sounds like you are making great progress but I wanted to mention a system I learned about on Off Course three years ago when my husband died and I was grieving so hard for him. This is called Emotional Freedom Technique and it enables you to relieve any kind of emotional pain with a combination of affirmative sayings and acupressure techniques. It is completely free and not annoying. On the left hand side of the home page is a section called Getting Started. Just click on this. Fears of riding are just the sort of problem it is good for. It helped lots of frightened riders on the thread I mentioned earlier. Here's the website:
What a surprise to see this post re-awakened! Yes, I am doing much better now. Every once in a while I'll have a little twinge of fear before getting on, mostly when I haven't ridden for a couple of weeks or there's some other factor going on like wind, lots of people in the arena, etc. I'm able to get past it pretty quickly and get on. I still have the doubtful thoughts, which I hate, but I make myself get on anyway without stopping to worry about them. If Solo is feeling fresh, I do lots of leg yields and shoulder-in and changes of directions and transitions during our warm up, and within a couple minutes his mind is on work and any worries I might have had are completely gone. We get along really well, he is a good boy mot of the time even on the ground--he is a stallion and has his moments, like when he hasn't been worked enough, but he never does anything that really worries me, is aggressive, etc. I actually have a 16-year-old girl riding him three days a week and he's even better behaved for her than he is for me. I wouldn't do that if I didn't feel confident that he wouldn't hurt her.
To address a question someone asked about my general strength and balance...to be perfectly honest, I'm very strong (I can throw a 50 pound bag of grain over my shoulder and carry it from the parking lot into the grain room) and very balanced and grounded (I'm a dancer). I would say I'm a pretty good rider. Not so good that I score amazingly well at shows, although I do fine in the few I get to do, and my lessons are few and far between and there's always tons to work on. Good enough that when my horse does something bad (which this one almost never does), I can ride through it. I've sat some pretty good bucks and rears (none on Solo), but the thought of them scares me anyway. I can tell if Solo is thinking about misbehaving, and I can distract him or otherwise head it off so it doesn't happen.
I'm not saying all this to brag. I'm just trying to give some context...I have the skills, so there's no reason to have any fear. Yet, these annoying little negative thoughts sneak in anyway. Thankfully, they don't stop me from riding, and I HAVE progressed, even since I wrote this post.
I believe this woman is bipolar. I don't know if she's been diagnosed, but she definitely exhibits the symptoms. So, I tried not to let it bother me that much. I just wanted to make it clear (in a post later on that page) that she was stretching the truth a LOT. Yes, I could probably use a sports psychologist. Given that I'm poor, it's not going to happen. Yes, I fell off. None of the rest of it was true.
There are two things that have helped me a ton with 'adult rider' fears:
First, it was super freeing to me to be able to dismiss the 'what ifs'. I realized that my horse (an OTTB that could be more than a handful) was going to let me know if he was full of beans. While a horse is a horse, and riding ANY horse is a risk just like getting in your car is, and a noseful of wasps can make the most steady and reliable kids horse rear over backwards or bolt, I realized that my horse would let me know if he was 'feeling shenanigans' or not.
Now, I am quite capable of riding the shies, spooks, bucks, etc but that didn't mean I was not afraid the horse was going to 'cork off'.
I was able to release my fears when I let the 'what if he corks off' go, recognizing that this horse would tell me unequivocally when he was full of cork.
The second thing that helped me was a riding fear technique that I can't remember the source of- perhaps Mary Wanless or Sally Swift. Anyway, first you recognize that being fearful is a NECESSARY part of your being. Recognition of an unsafe situation, whether by feel ('that guy just weirds me out...', or simply 'this doesn't feel right') or by something more obvious (that saddle has no girth, I'm not going to stick my foot in the stirrup to mount) is vital to our self-preservation.
So, with this technique, what you do is you recognize that you are fearful. Then, you ask yourself what specifically you are afraid of, and HOW afraid, on a scale of 1 to 10. Then, you analyze whether you have the skills/situation to proceed anyway. (A great instructor, who can give you a push but never overfaces you is great in a situation like this, because you can give a lot of trust to the instructor's assessment of the situation.)
If you DO have the skills to proceed, (I can longe the horse before I get on, etc) you can ask your 'afraid self' to go sit over by the arena fence...while there, your 'afraid self' can jump in if things get out of hand, but isn't to bother you while you proceed. Saying, "Thank you, Afraid Self, for calling my attention to this. I have given an honest analysis to this, and I'm going to do it. But I need all my attention, so please go sit over there..." really can help. This doesn't really help, if you are not accurately analyzing your own abilities, or the depth of a really troubled horse's problems. But it's GREAT if you can look honestly at what is going on. I myself finally told my husband (who was tired of my OTTB being bonkers) that if, with good help, I could not help work the cattle because I couldn't un-bonkers my horse, that I would get a more appropriate horse.
No small thanks here due to Mr Buck Brannaman, whose assessment was (paraphrased) 'You're going to get yourself killed if you don't learn how to take care of this...' That was followed by showing me how to deal with it, and get the horse OK within himself. I had to have a LOT more help before I learned to do it myself, but I saw that it could be done. And I also got the local, once a month (rather than the once every two years that Buck Brannaman came to town!) one-on-one help that I needed.
This is a way of recognizing your own self, that you don't need to be hard on yourself because you are afraid. And it is a great way of seeing that fear can be legitimate, and there are some things you might want to take care of before you jump in and 'just do it'. You can quit belittling yourself for being afraid.
With my OTTB, I realized that I had some fear problems going on because I was lacking the skills to get the horse focused on me, being a leader myself and being able to give the horse what HE needed to be comfortable with me, away from his buddies.
My instructor helped me a bunch, he had me doing some things that were almost...but not quite overwhelming. I was asked PLENTY of times if I was OK, if I wanted to continue, if I was OK with what we were doing. I replied that I was at about 95% of what I could do, I wanted to keep going, I was OK with it and not too scared to process what was going on. That gave me new skills, new focus and new abilities, that I was able to develop.
You are certainly not alone, judging by the feedback I get on the column I write for The Chronicle about returning riding after an injury and the associated fear. In my case its out trail where I got hurt when Mr. Anxiety is loudest.
I refuse to be stuck in a ring the rest of my riding life, so I make myself go out on trails., Ive learned a few tricks that help quiet my mind. Sing. It forces you to breathe and takes your mind off of all the lions and tigers waiting to pounce. It also gets your horse's attention, especially if you sing as badly as I do.
Mix it up for both you and your horse. Do a shoulder in, a small circle, the one rein stop where your horse's inside hind leg crosses over his outside hand leg (if you ride in a Ray Hunt deovtee's clinic, that's the first thing you will learn).
Make your horse walk out, not mince around. I try to use the trail as a learning and teaching opportunity for both myself and my horse. It not only takes my mind off the fear, but accomplishes something.
Ps... To your former trainer, What's the point of being cruel like that? I sure hope you treat your horses better than you treat humans.
wow, jennifer, you did not just "fall off' your first horse 3 times...
OP, obviously it's helpful to have a trainer. Especially one that is more helpful and supportive than THIS. Just wow.
I mean, I've made so many mistakes and I have even bailed head first and given myself a concussion. I'm not proud of it and I don't intend to do it again.
You need a supportive trainer who will coach you in baby steps, not make you feel like s***. And if the fear gets bad enough that you panic and are unable to react rationally in the moment (no judgement here), then you should also see a psychologist or sports psychologist.