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  1. #1
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    Default Totally irrational fear

    Has anybody else ever developed a rather irrational fear of something, specifically something horse related? How did you get over it?

    For some reason I have developed this crazy fear of mounting. I can stand on the mounting block all day long, but as soon as I put my foot in the stirrup I freeze up, start feeling faint, hyperventilating, you name it. My horse is generally patient the first two or three times I put my foot in the stirrup, prepare to mount, then chicken out. By the eighth or ninth time she isn't so patient and that only seems to make me worse.

    The stupid thing is that I know this is totally ridiculous. Three years ago I fell off the mounting block and tore my ACL, IT band, and meniscus. That is the only time that I have ever had an accident related to the mounting block. In the past three years I have been mounting up and riding just fine. It wasn't until I got my mare back a month ago that I started having this fear. Nothing has ever happened with her either. Normally I just go through the motions a few times, tell myself that I have to get on, and eventually do. Once I am in the saddle I am happy as a clam. Today I chickened out completely and ended up just untacking my mare and going home.

    When I am with other people, either riding with the BO or in my weekly lesson, I feel the same fear, but because there are other people around I know that I absolutely must get on, and I always do.

    Anybody have any tips?
    Maggie Bright, lovingly known as Skye and deeply missed (1994 - 2013)
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  2. #2
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    Tricky!

    I used to be terrified to canter. The first time I ever asked for it, my cinch broke and I had quite the traumatic nose dive. It took me almost a year to get over it, and I did it by getting attached to the lunge line on a wonderful old mare who had the smoothest canter you could imagine. We must have loped around for an hour. I hyperventilated, cried, threw up, etc... we just kept cantering. I miss that mare .

    My advice would be to come clean to your trainer about it, and spend a lesson on a saintly, patient old doll who will be happy to stand and eat carrots while you get on, get off, get on, get off, get on, get off, etc. It might take a few rounds, but I have faith that you'll work through it.

    There are also various breathing techniques that you can you, but for me, repetition with a positive outcome is the only thing that does it. I'm sure that somebody will chime in with the breathing. I will also ask the hubby what they do with the kids that don't want to jump out of the C-17's, although I think the Army has a less sympathetic approach.

    ETA: I asked him, and he said they just kick them out. But made a point in saying that on his first few jumps, they simply didn't give them time to think about it. They kept them busy checking their gear while they flew, then when it was go time, they just went one after another. Maybe not giving yourself the time to think about it, just step, step, swing your leg over, will help.
    Last edited by Superminion; Dec. 12, 2012 at 10:44 AM.
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  3. #3
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    I have a fear of galloping. I'm not sure I would call it irrational though. 18 years ago I was on a straight dirt farm road, perfect for a good gallop and encouraged my horse to gallop. About half way down the road he tripped and did a forward flip. I was a lawn dart and even though I wasn't hurt too bad I've never been able to go faster than a nice canter without some anxiety.
    "My biggest fear is that when I die my husband is going to try to sell all my horses and tack for what I told him they cost."



  4. #4
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    I don't think it's irrational when you've had a bad experience.

    That said, hanging out on the mounting block and doing the half on/half off thing multiple times is actually INCREASING your risk of another incident.

    So I think if it were me...I'd visualize/go through the process in my head complete with counts..."one, step up, two, step up, three grab mane, four, left foot in, five swing over, six, right foot in stirrup. Keeping a nice rhythm. Then, I'd get some xanax or have a nice glass of wine, and go do it. Have a lovely ride, then get off. Repeat.
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...


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  5. #5
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    I don't think any fear related to horses and riding is totally irrational. Horses are big and can hurt us. But some are less reasonable than others based on us, the horse, and the situation.

    Whenever I'm afraid to do something I think is it just because I'm afraid or is there really a reason that what I'm thinking of doing is a bad idea? For example, I didn't want to trot on a trail ride. I knew my horse wouldn't do anything stupid and if he did it would be little and I could handle it. I knew the trail. The only reason I didn't want to trot was fear. I made myself do it and nothing went wrong. However, another situation involved a cross rail. I am very afraid of jumping (poor instruction and many falls) but this was a small cross rail, so I thought maybe. But, I knew my horse hated to jump and would most likely refuse, which I didn't have the education to fix. The situation would not only bust my confidence, but teach him a bad habit, so I decided against taking the chance.

    I was afraid for the same reasons (fear of getting hurt and teaching horse something bad - my two biggest motivators) in both situations, but for the first instance the risk of something going wrong was small but in the second scenario the risk was big.


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  6. #6
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    I have a totally irrational fear of lead changes. Not because I think I will get hurt, but I am terrified I will mess up my horse. I know so many horses that rush through their changes because they were not taught a balanced, straight back to front change and I'm nervous I will turn my horse into a rusher. I sent my WB off for training and now he has a really easy change, but you still have to ask for it and it freaks me out every time, even though he does it perfectly 95% of the time.
    Southern Cross Guest Ranch
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  7. #7
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    I don't think I am afraid of risk, and the crazy thing is that it's not like my horse is huge either, she's only 15.1 hands. If the mounting block was a few inches taller I could just swing my leg over. Maybe that's my problem, where I boarded before I use to be able to just swing my leg over. I wouldn't put a foot in either stirrup until my butt was on the saddle.

    Nothing else has changed, same horse, same tack. I really want to ride too, because of the weather I couldn't ride all last week. Today was a beautiful sunny day, no wind, would have been perfect.
    Maggie Bright, lovingly known as Skye and deeply missed (1994 - 2013)
    The Blog



  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by BuddyRoo View Post
    I don't think it's irrational when you've had a bad experience.

    That said, hanging out on the mounting block and doing the half on/half off thing multiple times is actually INCREASING your risk of another incident.

    So I think if it were me...I'd visualize/go through the process in my head complete with counts..."one, step up, two, step up, three grab mane, four, left foot in, five swing over, six, right foot in stirrup. Keeping a nice rhythm. Then, I'd get some xanax or have a nice glass of wine, and go do it. Have a lovely ride, then get off. Repeat.
    Think that's what I need? Wine does sound good right about now!

    My mare doesn't have any mane to grab, though I have considered getting a breast collar just so I would have something to grab. I thought things would be easier in a dressage saddle, but they are still the same when it comes to mounting.
    Maggie Bright, lovingly known as Skye and deeply missed (1994 - 2013)
    The Blog



  9. #9
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    Have you tried visualizing your success? Step into the stirrup, press down, swing leg, settle, breathe, pat neck, and walk off. Make it real in your head, very real, see/smell/feel every tiny second until success feels like second nature and perhaps you'll find it translates into unconsciously just doing it w/o thinking about the what ifs...



  10. #10
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    Default

    If you normally roach her mane, you might leave a little patch near her withers next time so you have an oh sh!t handle. No shame in that. Else put on a neck strap thingamabob. I really wouldn't feel that comfortable mounting without mane to grab and I've never had a mounting wreck. (knocks wood so you won't be reading about my own wreck next week!)
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...



  11. #11
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    I'd suggest consulting a professional- this sounds like a serious, but luckily very specific, kind of panic attack you are having. Panic attacks are self-reinforcing- fear of the fear, and then actually feeling the fear, feeds into a positive-feedback loop making it worse and worse each time you try to overcome the problem. Generally you need medication plus coping skills/therapy to help you break the cycle of anxiety- once you've broken down the feedback loop you can go off the medication, but you probably will need it to help you stop the cycle of fear.


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  12. #12
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    Wow, you could be me! Right down to the ACL tear leading to a fear of mounting! (I fell off the wheel well of the trailer!) Once I was getting on a pretty "up" horse and didn't ask anybody around to hold her - she took off just as I shifted my weight into the stirrup! The pavement hurt, the broken finger hurt, and the fear got worse!!

    Just do it. Get someone to hold the horse if she's "up." But really you just have to do it. The alternative is ground mounting. The good news is at 15.1 she can walk off and you can just hop down/off and be fine. (Try my 17.1 hand mare and you'll no longer be fearful of 15.1!)

    You do have to keep up on her training at the mounting block. We had to back up my mare when she walked off until she started standing like a statue until told otherwise.

    I'm convinced mounting is one of the most dangerous moments! (Oh, also broke my leg on stairs years ago, so stairs and mounting are extra scary!!)

    I would NOT start and stop. This will only make things worse. Do it relatively quickly before you have time to panic. Get a small rubber block or ground mount if needed, that will take the stairs/fall factor out.

    Good luck!!
    Born under a rock and owned by beasts!



  13. #13
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    Years and years ago I pulled a groin muscle in siding down a steep bank (not on a horse) in attempt to keep from falling in 2 or 3 inches of water. Yes I know....pretty stupid.

    Then a few days later I stumbled over a rock. It just kept rolling under my big feet and wham....I hit the ground.

    Boy was I in bad shape. Ripped a groin muscle and could not ride much at all that summer. When I started riding again. Well I was not riding great. I was trying to guard that injury from getting re-inuried. The seasoned mounts were cool about it.

    Then back to starting young horses undersaddle. That was not going to well. My normal patience nature with the young and dumb was replaced with fear of re-injury. Guarding my "seat" was counter productive to say the least. Colts got edgy....I got edgy...it just was not working. Then I started grinding my teeth.

    When I am to that point I know I am totally wasting my time training.

    So 2 things helped. Ground work. Yes I spent a bit more time on the ground building rapport....more for me than the horse. It was my confidence that needed work not theirs. Not to mention walking help stave off stiffness.

    Also my checklist. Normally the deep reaches of my mind would have these details in check. But seriously...

    1) saddle - check
    2) briddle -check
    3) ground work -check
    4) standing calm and paying attention to me - check
    5) clean mount- check
    6) reins/hands ready - check
    7)seat balanced/legs relaxed but in correct position -check
    8)asked for small circle at a walk and horse responded correctly- check

    Then I was good to go. Relaxed.... not working up into something it should not be (not worried about re-injury) but working the horse.



  14. #14
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    I know what you mean about irrational fears. I've struggled off and on with cantering since I started riding. I know what the panic feeling is all about--you freeze and feel like you can't breathe. Mine is related to some bolting incidents and subsequent falls I experienced with my first horse and some others. I learned to associate speed with danger and pain, hence the automatic "panic" reaction now. I'm better when on my own and NOT in a lesson (less pressure.) I'm training myself to use 'Mindfulness' to cope with the reactions when they come up. So instead of jumping to "OMIGOD I'M GONNA DIE", leaning forward and asking the horse to stop, it's simply noticing the feelings and letting them go by like clouds in the sky. It's interesting how I can alternate between panic and elation a few seconds later. The mind is truly a powerful thing. I'm now cantering ground poles, and if I can get my darned left heel down, I'll be jumping small jumps soon.
    I saw the angel in the marble and I set him free. - Michaelangelo



  15. #15
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    Fear is no fun. It boxes you in, and starts to rob you of your joys a little at a time. I went through this. Intially afraid to jump after a concussion. OK, I'll just do flat work. Then canter got scary. Uh oh, what am, just a walk-trot rider now? Taking it back is hard! Many of us have been there. You can get through this. There may not be a magic pill though. Although a xanax AND a glass of wine...*JUST KIDDING! Don't do that!

    1. Buy a taller mounting block. If swinging over from a higher angle makes the difference for you, great!. Easier on mare's back too.

    2. Visualize. As a prior poster mentioned, make it vivid. Visualize in color, smell the dirt footing, the leather saddle. Picture the weather. Is it cold? Feel the frigid air on your exposed skin, and picture your breath hanging in the air. It has to be real...because then your mind thinks it actually happened. Picture the perfect, graceful mount, over and over and over. And over and over and over. On your way to work, when you're using the bathroom, every spare minute. Detailed, perfect every time.

    3. But, also picture the worst case scenario. So what if maresie takes off bucking as soon as you swing over? You sit deep like you know you can, make yourself tall, halt her and you're fine. Or, she moves away suddenly as you're about to swing over. No big deal, you just abort mission and re-align her and start over. Picture all the bad things that could happen and picture yourself handling them beautifully.

    4. At the end of the ride, when you're both relaxed and she is tired, make yourself get on and off as much as you can stand. Reward her with a peppermint or other favorite treat each time. Don't start with this, again wait until you're both relaxed and tired. Set yourself up for success. Don't panic if she moves. Just keep going.

    And finally,
    5. Sometimes fears are actually rational, and we should heed them. If the horse is snorting and blowing like a jurassic park raptor and circling the mounting block at an animated tapdance, that's not an irrational fear, it's self-preservation! Heed that one!

    You can do this. If you're not up to doing it on your own (and it may be best not to!) enlist a barn buddy to be your ground support/cheerleader. That's why there's 7+ billion of us on the planet, so you can usually find one to help you!
    Last edited by meaty ogre; Dec. 12, 2012 at 12:43 PM. Reason: too many typos...I need an editor!


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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by ako View Post
    Wow, you could be me! Right down to the ACL tear leading to a fear of mounting! (I fell off the wheel well of the trailer!) Once I was getting on a pretty "up" horse and didn't ask anybody around to hold her - she took off just as I shifted my weight into the stirrup! The pavement hurt, the broken finger hurt, and the fear got worse!!

    Just do it. Get someone to hold the horse if she's "up." But really you just have to do it. The alternative is ground mounting. The good news is at 15.1 she can walk off and you can just hop down/off and be fine. (Try my 17.1 hand mare and you'll no longer be fearful of 15.1!)

    You do have to keep up on her training at the mounting block. We had to back up my mare when she walked off until she started standing like a statue until told otherwise.

    I'm convinced mounting is one of the most dangerous moments! (Oh, also broke my leg on stairs years ago, so stairs and mounting are extra scary!!)

    I would NOT start and stop. This will only make things worse. Do it relatively quickly before you have time to panic. Get a small rubber block or ground mount if needed, that will take the stairs/fall factor out.

    Good luck!!
    I don't want to freak out the OP or anyone any more than necessary, but the worst riding accident I have ever had was when someone held a horse for me. If you are going to trust someone with that responsibility, you better make sure they will not let go if the horse nuts up. Basically, I let someone hold the horse's reins under the horse's chin and I had the buckle at the end. The horse was not mine and the owner said the horse "might walk off" so she would hold him just in case. As soon as my butt touched the saddle, he started spinning very quickly around his owner. She got scared and let go and I was left with no stirrups and holding the reins by the buckle as the horse took off galloping and bucking. I was dumped and broke and dislocated my shoulder.

    Now if someone is going to hold a horse for me, they attach a lead rope to the bit and I still have my reins.
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  17. #17
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    I'm sure this is public knowledge, but it wasn't something I learned til later in life as I'd not used mounting blocks before I was nearly 30!

    When you're going to mount, shorten your outside rein so that as you mount, if the horse moves out, he/she is going to have to move into you while turning away rather than away from you if you shorten the inside rein or forward if reins are even.

    It's a bit counterintuitive at first, but it really does help give you the extra second or two of contact with the horse to either bail off or get on. (I advise the latter. )
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...


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  18. #18
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    Weirdly enough, you could be me. Except for the fact that I've never had an accident while mounting. I was in a bad wreck (jumping related, horse jumped and ducked.. right into the arena wall.. I was broken in quite a few places and didn't get back on a horse for about 3 years.) When I decided I still loved horses and was missing riding and owning, I started back on an old as dirt, sweet sweet appy mare, who had a tendency to lay down if you tightened the girth too quickly, and tried to sit down on me a few times while mounting (believe it was something to do with that nerve.. the proper name is escaping me right now..).. anyways, I was always nervous while mounting, we usually mount from the ground around here it's not usual to see a mounting block. I always used one with her because unless I could jump on quickly and make her move forward she would lay down.. ANyways a few months into riding her, my nerves just went crazy.. one day, blistery cold winter day, took alot just to GO to the barn (LOL) but I tacked old girl up and out we went to the ring, could NOT get on her... I stood there on the block for 45 mins, putting my foot in the stirrup and pulling it out, cried, swore at myself, appologized to the (saintly) mare a million times, then I climbed down and put her away. It was at least 3 weeks before I could get back on her and it was when my friend (who owned the mare) just said, there is nothing wrong with you, you are fine, get on that freaking horse, now. And she came over and held the stirrup and I just knew she wasn't going to let me get off this time.. so I got on.. and guess what? I was fine, never had another problem.. guess I needed a kick in the butt. I STILL am nervous mounting though, I'm that strange rider who always faces her horse to the rail so she doesn't take me off before I'm ready (and she NEVER has)... weird..



  19. #19
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    Strangely, I would recommend a shorter block, not a taller one. As in the shorter the better. Especially with a 15.1 horse. If the horse walks off, it's easy to put a foot down. I find mounting is scariest when you either can't reach the saddle (with a tall beast) or the block is so tall that you would fall off. With a foot on or near the ground, there's no fear of heights adding to it.

    I had a tall block and a 15.1 gelding at my first re-rider barn. And that little guy used to take off at a gallop when my butt touched down and before I could get my stirrups! turd! Never fell off when he did, though, and he's still mine.
    Born under a rock and owned by beasts!



  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Skyedragon View Post
    Think that's what I need? Wine does sound good right about now!

    My mare doesn't have any mane to grab, though I have considered getting a breast collar just so I would have something to grab. I thought things would be easier in a dressage saddle, but they are still the same when it comes to mounting.
    Buckle an old stirrup leather around her neck!
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