Havent posted here in a while, but thought I would come to COTH with my issue as its snowballing.
I am a mature adult rider who rode a little as a kid, but basically didnt get into horses until I was 40. I started riding at one of the local stables which happens to be an A level hunter/jumper barn. Immediately trainer found me Mr. Perfect, an older retired A/O horse who needed to step down. He got me jumping 2'6 and taught me everything. In preparation for him to retire, last year trainer bought a younger (but still teenager) horse who also is a step down horse, but this one is still plenty happy enough to go around 3'.
Older perfect horse for the past 2 months hasnt been sound, and I plan to let him retire. I just started riding the other horse about 6 months ago in lessons, and recently a few flat rides on my own.
The issue is, this guy scares me. He's nice, sweet and does 100% know his job but I find myself just simply nervous. I get tense, pull on his face and make him go too slow. This frusterates him and I can feel him tense up. Im just waiting for him to spook or buck or do something naughty. I cant stop holding his reins, and I hold him back from the jumps. At this point I can barely canter him, or do much more than trot a x.
He has bucked with me once. He has spooked with me once. We both survived it, and the rest of the time he has been great. Trainer says I need to relax and let him ride forward, but I just cant do that.
How do I get over this? He was not a cheap purchase and we were supposed to do the 3' divisions with him this year.
Sometimes there are horses that we just can't relax with. It happens to every rider at some point. Start slow. Maybe focus on ground work and bonding with your horse. If you don't have the right relationship, things will never mesh. The other issue is if you can't work together on the ground, you will never be able to have a great relationship while you are on his back. Take it slow, don't give up. I'm in a rut with my guy as well. We were doing well and we had an issue (nothing bad) but I got spooked and lost my confidence. We are working from scratch on the ground now and it is making a world of difference. It turned out not only did I lose my confidence with him, he lost his with me and there ended up being no trust between the two of us. Your gut doesn't usually lie. Slow down, take several deep breath and go back to ground work basics learning to trust each other and bond with each other.
"As you get older, the hardest thing about riding is the ground"- anonymous
He sounds like a nice horse, but not the right horse for you. From what you describe, he should not be too terribly tough to sell. I'd sell him and look for something you are 100% comfortable on. No reason for you to lose confidence and dread your rides!
For those of us who tend to pick, or need an "oh shit" strap, in the eventing world you'll see lots of people ride with neck straps. The simple ones are old stirrup leathers bucked around the horse's neck with the loose end often vet wrapped or duct taped down. When you get into a tense situation, it gives you something to grab that doesn't affect the horse's mouth, etc. Even some of the best eventers in the world put them on their horses for cross country and stadium, so it doesn't have to be a mark of a weenie or lower level rider--just one who doesn't want to catch their horse in the mouth or pick down to a crappy spot. Just a thought, but if you have a good mount and a supportive trainer, that would be my next step.
Flip a coin. It's not what side lands that matters, but what side you were hoping for when the coin was still in the air.
Riding is a partnership--and you have to be comfortable with your partner. Sounds like it took quite some time for you to ease into the comfortable relationship you enjoyed with the first horse.
If you aren't that comfortable with the second horse, you have two choices:
1) either go back to square one with horse #2 and take it really slowly until you eventually find a comfort zone on him, or
2) take measures to ensure he finds a place with another rider for whom he is better suited while you keep looking for another perfect match
Both courses of action will require that you work closely with your trainer, who should be placing your best interests at the top of his / her list of priorities; if you feel this is not the case, then you have other problems in addition to your horse situation.
Thank you all for the replies so quickly. I think I consider my other one "my" horse and this younger one more of my trainers. He was purchassed for me because I do WANT to do the adult hunter ring and my older guy was 2'6 limit.
Trainers plan was for me to do both horses in the 2'6 again this year and move up to 3' with the younger one when I felt ready. BOTH horses are packers, but the younger guy is a fancier type and does require a little bit of a ride. However with the older one out of the picture now, I have really lost all confidence.
I am still jumping him and taking lessons, but Im fearful that something (that likely wont) will happen and I will come off. Im nervous of him, and I think he is going to start regretting me riding him. Trainer schools him 2x per week so he is adequately schooled....I dont know what the issue is with me!
He wont be sold, thats certainly no option. He's a pet. I need to get over this, he's wonderful and I dont think there are many horses out there who are more perfect for an old fart like me.
I could try to find another horse to help me get over the fear, but my concern is that I will have the same issue with any other horse too.
1) Go back to whatever level you are comfortable with, even if it is just trotting cross rails
2) If after a couple of months of returning to a no stress zone you're still not comfortable with the horse, maybe it isn't the horse for you.
Give yourself and your new horse an opportunity to become comfortable with each other. If it still isn't working, move on.
Perfect advice. Six months is a while to have regressed from hoping to move up to 3' to barely being able to trot an X.
Sometime in secret by yourself, imagine how you would feel if a wonderful kid's parents made you an offer to buy this horse for the same price you paid. If you'd feel relieved, happy, like a burden has been lifted, much more confident to go back to the barn and lesson on a different horse, butterflies out of your stomach...then you have your answer.
Edited to add: Get a copy of Jane Savoie's "That Winning Feeling." I'm not really too much into visualization and stuff, but this book is awesome.
I will say the horse you have under you makes all the difference when it comes to jumping as an adult! I've ridden some where it scares the crap outta me at 2'6" and others where after just a couple rides was perfectly comfortable and confident at 3'3"-3'6".
Honestly I'm not sure how you break through this. If you haven't purchased this new horse yet, perhaps tell trainer your fear and see if maybe you can find something else. If you have already purchased I think definitely go back to basics and low jumps to really get to know the new one to see if you guys can click.
The thing is, nothing about him makes me feel comfortable He has bucked ONCE, in the year + that I have had him. I think though, that has put me off. It all started a few months ago, itwas very windy and we were hacking outside. We cantered up a hill and when he got to the top he bucked and I fell off. It wasnt a bad fall, like I said...we survived it.
In the ring, he has been a saint. I can (and do) more than trot an X, but mother of Earl, Im so anxious now! We still jump around, but I pull at him and I hold him back and we both now get tense. He's pretty much an automated packer, but Im still nervous, and I know he senses that.
Its very frusterating because he's done nothing wrong to make me nervous of our ride other than that one buck.
The pony kids at my barn say I need to drop by balls. Makes me laugh, because I know they have NO idea what that means.
Why are you "supposed" to do 3' this year? You do what you are comfortable with. I agree that keeping it simple with poles for now would be the right path. Even just walk trot..but often, like every day if you could...will help you relax with him. If it's to be. Give it the summer, take it at your own speed and make your own decisions.
He sounds nice and you sound competent...take it slow and let your relationship develop.
I will look into her books, thank you all for the suggestions. I think I will have one of the other adults show him over fences and I can hack him. I really do want to get my confidence back on him and be able to show. Baby steps I guess. I love him, I dont want to let him down. We will get there when its the right time for both of us Thanks for all the support.
I understand how difficult this is. I had a horse that I adored. He was sweet, beautiful, a gorgeous mover...but he was spooky as all heck. It took me two years (including a trip to the hospital) to realize that he was not the horse for me...he was the horse for someone else. I tried SO HARD to be happy riding him. But the truth was I didn't trust him.
I sold him five years ago and bought the horse I have now - who is a much better partner for me.
Trust is a very tricky thing. It's so easy to lose and so difficult to regain.
And don't worry about letting the horse down. They don't really care about things like that as much as we think they do. :-). You worry about YOU!
And don't think of this as a failure. That's something I had to get over when deciding to sell my old horse. I felt like a failure for not making it work. It's not failure....it's knowing what's right for you at this particular time in your life.
~ Citizens for a Kinder, Gentler COTH...our mantra: Be nice. ~
Your comment of "we were supposed to do the 3' this year" really struck me.
Perhaps in your heart you're not ready to move to 3'. How would you feel about this horse without the added pressure of moving up to a new height? How do you feel with him at 2'6"?
I had the same thought as this. Perhaps even though you want to move up to 3', it scares you subconsciously. Some people act like it makes no difference, but to some riders it makes a ton of difference even if a good portion of that is mental. Do what you're comfortable with. Although I am concerned that you aren't comfortable on this horse at all and this sport is too expensive to be scared & miserable.
As an adult I struggle with fear issues. I used to be a strong and confident rider (not so much, anymore). I have noticed that some horses I can throw a leg over and feel totally comfortable, and others I cannot. I overreact to tension in my horse, and that causes a negative reaction in my body.
I finally bought a horse that I feel totally comfortable on. He has zero tension in him and truly I think he'd rather become a WP horse than do the hunters. I may switch disciplines. As an old fart, when I fall off now it hurts, a lot, so I don't want to fall off anymore.
I say that in order to tell you - it's ok. You don't have to do the 3', and if you really really want to, there is likely a horse out there that you *will* feel confident on.
If you really want to try with this guy, try not stretching yourselves for awhile. Just flat in the ring or do poles or whatever it takes for you to feel ok letting go of his face and letting him just go forward. Either you'll develop a really good relationship *or* you will decide that he isn't the horse for you. No shame in either option. But know that continuing to struggle and push will continue to erode your confidence. Ask me how I know :-(
Couple of things, one is your older guy is no longer your regular riding horse and that is likely still an issue. I know because my retired 21 year old is the best riding horse ever, however, he is retired due to soundness issues. He will do trails ONLY.
I have a 6 year old OTTB that is great but he is 6 and spooks at the loose dogs, loose children and sometimes at things that are not there. Yes he bucks but for now only in turn out. The reality is that I have 2 horses, and I would always rather be riding the retired one. I need to bond with the young guy and get over my sadness over retiring my heart horse with the perfect ride.
One of my girlfriends came to watch my trainer ride and jump the young guy and reminded me that I use to do all of that. I feel old and sad and I need to change that and ride and love the young guy. He is a good horse and I need to give him a chance to be the best riding horse ever. I hope you can allow your new guy to be that best ever horse too. Your trainer liked him for a reason.