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  1. #1
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    Default Is it possible that I actually choose to fall off? (long winded)

    I am trying to wrap my head around the fact that maybe I choose to fall off instead of just trying to stay on. I am starting to wonder if I am subconsciously fearful and think it will hurt less to fall? Or if I am just giving up? I am a 'mature' rider about seven months into lessons and I took my 3rd fall this past week. I rode as a teenager and while I was fairly untalented, I think I fell off twice in five years.

    My first fall as an adult was during one of my first few lessons. The horse spooked a bit and the next thing I knew I was on the ground. I got back on and was fine. The second time was about 3 months in and not during a lesson. I remember the horse crow-hopping a bit and getting a little fast before the fall, but I just took him back to a walk and everything seemed fine. Next thing I know I am in the barn putting his blanket on. I suffered a pretty severe concussion - I have no memory of the fall or about 30 minutes after - apparently I got back on and rode but I don't remember any of it. Then this past week I was doing trot-canter-trot transitions without stirrups and I lost my balance and fell off again. I got the wind knocked out of me but was otherwise OK and got back on - albeit with stirrups.

    So why do I think I choose to fall? I rode the horse from the second fall about a month after the fall and he did the same thing but I was fine, no problems staying on. It was during a lesson so maybe I felt safer? This last time I feel like I remember thinking "oh, it would be easier just to fall off" and so I did. My instructor was really surprised and said "why did you just give up, you looked like you could landed on your feet it was such a little fall". Also, I had been having these mental images of falling off for the last month or so, not while riding, but when I am thinking or day-dreaming about riding. They are not gory or scary, just an image of falling off the horse but not hitting the ground.

    I think I was probably not experienced enough to ride the first two horses and I've since changed farms. The guy I ride now is as steady as they come and the fall was 100% my fault. I can't figure it out. Given the pain associated with the falls I've taken (nothing crazy but I am no spring chicken), it seems completely illogical that I would choose to fall off versus trying to stick it out and stay off the ground. I don't *think* I am afraid but I sort of wonder because I've also really struggled with the canter transition. I lean too far forward and really have to force myself to sit back. In my mind it feels like because I am trying so hard to make the horse canter, but my instructor has commented that I look afraid of sitting the first big stride because once that is over, I am fine and relaxed. I take 2 lessons a week, practice ride 2-3 times a week, and devour riding books.

    It doesn't seem like straight-forward fear. I am not nervous when I go out to ride or when I am riding and I love every minute of it. But is it possible that I make a split-second decision in the moment to bail versus trying to stick it out? Has anyone ever experienced this? And what can I do to try and prevent it from happening again?



  2. #2
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    No, I decided once that it would be easier to bail than to try and recover myself. Ground is hard. Horse will now have to scrape me off with a chisel.

    But I think you are onto something. If you are visualizing yourself falling off, I think you are in a sense making it happen. I know that if I visualize the way I want to do something before a lesson, it's much easier to ride that way IRL. I'm sure the same is true of visualizing what you don't want to do.

    Maybe next time, do what Jane Savoie calls a "pattern interrupt" - do something outrageous to stop your train of thought when you begin to visualize falling, like jumping up and down, or just saying "Stop." Then replace that with a mental video of doing the movement the correct way, and staying on.

    BTW, if you don't have It's Not Just About the Ribbons, by Jane Savoie, I highly recommend adding it to your reading list.
    Analytical thinking is the first casualty when opposing sides polarize, and that shows lack of common sense on both sides.
    Denny Emerson



  3. #3
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    That is DEFINITELY my issue. I keep telling myself that as long as I'm up, I'm not on the ground ... but I forget to say that when I'm in the midst of lost balance. Last month I was able to recover by saying (out loud) ... sit UP, hands DOWN (over and over). Last weekend, I forgot.

    Thinking back on it (as I was a few days ago), I actually decide that it's inevitable that I'll fall, so I want it to be on my timing so I can fall clear of hooves rather than under the horse.

    Good news, not been stepped on. Bad news, I'm pretty sure that I create my own falls.
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  4. #4
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    Yes, I've chosen to fall versus stay on and be run away with. This gets a little complex so bear with me, my biggest fear is losing control, so falling off when I choose the option is much less terrifying to me.

    Years ago I got run off with and I never did fall off, but I was so terrorized by the event that just falling off and not having to deal with that is much easier on my psyche. My mare jumped a tiny ditch and either got rapped in the mouth by a Western curb that was placed too low, or stung, or something. I was bareback, and she chose to turn down a pretty steep hill and take off, three strides and I was losing my seat and getting banged pretty hard on her high withers, I had a big chunk of mane wrapped up in my hand and was hanging on for dear life, screaming bloody murder, I finally ended up wrapped around her neck and she couldn't keep running like that so I fell right at the time she stopped, with this enormous chunk of her mane in my fist. I did get hurt. For days I couldn't sit, or pee, without tremendous pain, and forget riding. Never told anyone, never went to the doctor. I had buried this memory for a long time, I knew that often I would choose to just fall off and get it over with rather than fight to keep my balance and I rode a lot off my knees - my instructor never figured that out or gave me exercises to reduce that apart from heels down - well forcing your heels down is counterproductive.

    When I started riding again and jumping especially, I made a concerted effort not to force the heels, to let it be organic and a natural consequence of an open knee and relaxed knee and ankle. I also began to reap the benefits of the wonderful kind school horses and my jumping instructor's no nonsense teaching style, keeping my eye up, and as well during my non riding period I had taken martial arts and learned to fall, I also learned a great deal about balance and how to use it for my own uses.

    I fell about once a year jumping and once I chose to do it, and I knew I chose it, and I wasn't happy about it. I'd had a wonderful summer and been riding very well for me, then work reared it's ugly head and I had to not ride for maybe six or eight weeks. My balance went away and I knew it and allowed myself to get in a bad place in my head, one day got into a really bad spot, big back cracking jump and rather than try to haul myself back up I just gave up.

    I really let that bother me, but I had to move and the way things were going I couldn't repeat the event and change my response, which is what needs to be done. I had to quit lessons there and move to another discipline, SS. I almost fell off once in riding SS for three four years. Posting the trot and on the up phase, with a bit of a forward seat because I haven't ever really gotten the SS thing down, and one of the kids slammed the viewing room door so my horse did a 180. We ride on a lot of contact, the horses are smaller and my leg more than takes them up, so I went partially off and made the conscious decision that I wasn't slipping my reins like a nice person, I just used them and some mane and pulled myself straight and off we went. The thought in my head was Nnnooo, too bad for Horse, but I am not falling off, I don't have to if I don't want to, and I don't want to.

    At any rate. You are not likely to be able to re-create the incident, but you can change how you think of it. Jane Savoie has got some good stuff out there, I've got "That Winning Feeling", it's great. Your problem is going to be that a lot of times you have a split second to make the decision that I'm NOT going to slip the reins, I haven't completely lost my balance, I can use my muscles and grab mane and get back where I belong, but you can make the decision (which is what most of what Jane talks about, positive imagery). You do have to give yourself a platform to work off of, you need to be in good physical shape so you don't hurt yourself by say pulling a muscle when you recover your position, and you need to work on keeping your base and the rest of your position strong, with automatic "stay on" reactions in your balance.
    I ride what many people would think of as a "hot" large pony and I do it intentionally because of that 12 year old screaming on the way down the hill. I try very hard to enjoy the exuberance that Pony has (although I sure wish he'd slow down to keep it easier for my trotting horse trail riding friend) as we rack along with the wind in my hair (well, what sticks out around the helmet).
    Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
    Incredible Invisible


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  5. #5
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    I think it's a distinct possibility. Whenever a horse makes a move other than forwards, I'm pretty sure I'm coming off. As soon as it starts I think: here we go. I don't even remember TRYING to stay on.

    It seems like it happens so fast, I lose my bearings as to where the 'handle' might be and I am gone. Pretty sad in a western saddle with a horn to grab. I have made a conscious effort to keep a hand near the pommel if I think 'something' is about to happen. It keeps me relaxed better and maybe I'll stay on better. Or at least not land as far from the horse!
    Ride like you mean it.


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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by ReSomething View Post
    Yes, I've chosen to fall versus stay on and be run away with. This gets a little complex so bear with me, my biggest fear is losing control, so falling off when I choose the option is much less terrifying to me.
    ^^This. I hadn't thought about the control aspect but it seems pretty clear. If I fall, then it is over. Theoretically, a bad situation is not going to get worse. I am also neurotic about hanging on the reins to the point where half the time I am just throwing them away. Now that I think about this last time, I did a transition and felt like I was losing the control to slow him down which gave me a ping of fear that I ignored. But I certainly thought about falling off and sure enough I eventually did. If I am honest with myself, I think I am far more fearful of being on top of a runaway horse than I am of hitting the dirt. I have no idea why.



  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by ReSomething View Post
    Yes, I've chosen to fall versus stay on and be run away with. This gets a little complex so bear with me, my biggest fear is losing control, so falling off when I choose the option is much less terrifying to me.

    Years ago I got run off with and I never did fall off, but I was so terrorized by the event that just falling off and not having to deal with that is much easier on my psyche.
    This has kind of always been an issue for me as well. Being run away with as a kid scared me, and after that there were several times that I kind of emergency dismounted when I probably didn't have to. It has still been tempting at time, but there have been times I have thought about bailing and things worked out. I think that as you build your confidence, it will get better. Horse choice is important, too. Ride horses that you trust and feel confident on.



  8. #8
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    I went through a period of time in my 20s where I was choosing to bail instead of fighting it out to stay on. For me, it became a confidence issue. It was actually when I got into riding cutters and realized that if I can ride through a cutting run without coming off, I could ride through every day spooks, bolts, etc.
    Like you, I had a concusion with memory loss that scared the crap out of me.

    I give the cutting trainer I rode with total credit. She knew I was having confidence issues mainly due to the horse I owned at the time and she pushed me through it, and I do mean PUSHED! She had me lope cutters for her at shows 8-10 hours a day and every time I acted scared she just ignored it and told me to trust her. That was 14 years ago and I've never looked back.

    I have a horse who has had some spooking/ bolting issues this year and I have never even thought about bailing, but have said a prayer of thankfulness that my trainer gave me the tools to get through it and know that I can ride it out.

    Make sure you are with the right trainer or instructor who can push you through it. It makes all the difference in the world!



  9. #9
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    This thread is so interesting. Thanks for posting, OP! I have just realized that I do the same thing. I have had 2 falls off my crazy little Arab that were so strange. At the time I must have made a conscious decision to fall, but I never see it that way looking back. Someone will ask me what happened, and I explain that I somehow lost my seat, but I don't think that's it. In both cases the horse has bolted and I think I'm deciding that it's easier/safer to bail than ride it out.

    I am going to make a conscious effort to NOT do this any more! lol It's probably much easier said than done. I'm working with a trainer now, and while this issue has not come up, I think I'll bring it up so that we can work on possible solutions.

    Best of luck to you



  10. #10
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    I have intentionally bailed and I can tell you I learned it is NOT smart. I remember deciding to bail because I just felt I could NOT stop her and I thought she might jump the arena fence. And the next thing I remember was repeatedly asking who the horse belonged to. Just before the ambulance arrived. If I had stuck it out, I could have stopped her. And I now know she was just at a hand-gallop and I was giving mixed signals.

    Bailing intentionally is just not good in virtually every real-life situation you can imagine.

    For me, I had to learn to ride a big-girl canter and hand-gallop. I know now my mare is not the runaway my hony gelding is. She's just powerful. I had to learn to ride that power to avoid the panic. I learned how to ask for it, how to sit it, and how to bring her back.

    I'm guessing you might need some work on your seat. If you have a good, strong seat, there really isn't the need to panic because you can just sit until you can get your horse back. Learning to really sit up and keep the butt cheeks to my calves engaged, really helped me. It's a work in progress but I do feel much more secure in my seat.

    And when my seat improved, everything got better and my mare relaxed!
    Born under a rock and owned by beasts!


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  11. #11
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    I suppose it is entirely possible that you choose to fall off; or, rather, you do not decide to refuse to come off. Sometimes, if it is a difficult situation, you may not have much of a choice. But in these seemingly easier scenarios that you mention it sounds like you're not fighting to stay on.

    I got bucked off really badly last year and I'm pretty sure I decided to bail because it was such a bucking fit that I didn't think I could stay on. The repercussions of landing flat on my back and being in such pain pretty much convinced me that I DON'T want to do that again. Since then my horse has bucked hard like that a few times and I do distinctly remember choosing to stay on and fight for my body to stay on the top side of the horse instead of landing on the ground.
    My Mustang Adventures - my blog!
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    "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran



  12. #12

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    I agree with those who say visualizing falling is probably not helping and it would help you to break that cycle.

    I also understand about the canter transition thing. Particularly since for a while it was actually really hard to get my horse to do a good transition (he was pretty green). I got into a habit of holding on to his mane when I asked for the transition because I was afraid of either grabbing his mouth or getting bounced around.

    This worked well enough except he learned that when he felt me grab his mane that I was about to ask him to transition up and he started anticipating, LOL.

    Anyway, what really helped me feel more comfortable was several longe lessons where I knew that:

    A) The horse wasn't going anywhere (true even off the longe with my guy, but still comforting)
    B) The instructor could back up my asking for the transition so I didn't have to force it.
    C) I could just focus on using my seat and leg instead my hands and really sinking into the transition and feeling it.

    It helped immensely...it might be something could consider doing as well?

    Also I have to think "sit up sit up sit UP" a lot when I ride.

    And finally, I did that "split-second decision how did I end up on the ground" thing once back when I was still a kind of beginner re-rider and taking group lessons. Trotting along, lost a stirrup as I was going up...and suddenly I was standing on the ground beside the horse. Best as I can figure is instead of properly posting, I was throwing myself forward anyway so when I lost my foot-support on one side, I basically over-compensated with the foot I still had in the stirrup, fell forward and then just sort of pushed myself off the horse and basically did an emergency dismount. Nobody could figure out how I managed it, and the instructor was like, "what are you doing on the ground????" and all I could say is, "I have no idea!"

    So there's my silly story for the day.
    The Trials and Jubilations of a Twenty-Something Re-rider
    Happy owner of Kieran the mostly-white-very-large-not-pony.



  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pocket Pony View Post
    I got bucked off really badly last year and I'm pretty sure I decided to bail because it was such a bucking fit that I didn't think I could stay on. The repercussions of landing flat on my back and being in such pain pretty much convinced me that I DON'T want to do that again. Since then my horse has bucked hard like that a few times and I do distinctly remember choosing to stay on and fight for my body to stay on the top side of the horse instead of landing on the ground.
    This. The times I fell off hurt so much (my right hip is canted up and a bit forward, and the PT who noticed it said that it's a high-impact injury and the only other patient he'd had with it was a professional rider) I do NOT want to do it again, so I will go to probably stupid extremes to stay on. It helps that I now have a horse where, not only is he relatively non-reactive, I've galloped him and I'm confident in my ability to stop him.



  14. #14
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    I wouldn't assume that you're choosing to fall off. Instead, I think you may have balance issues, and maybe these are coupled with strength issues.

    What kind of exercise do you do outside of riding? Pilates or yoga are both great for giving you a better sense of your own balance and just creating better body awareness overall.

    Good luck.
    "The formula 'Two and two make five' is not without its attractions." --Dostoevsky


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  15. #15
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    I agree it is more likely to be a balance and strength issue. Strength will help with balance.


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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Posting Trot View Post
    I wouldn't assume that you're choosing to fall off. Instead, I think you may have balance issues, and maybe these are coupled with strength issues.

    What kind of exercise do you do outside of riding? Pilates or yoga are both great for giving you a better sense of your own balance and just creating better body awareness overall.

    Good luck.
    This. x 1,000



  17. #17
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    Thank you very much for all of the thoughtful responses. I feel somewhat better just knowing I am not alone In reading them, I think it is probably a combination of fear of a runaway situation, not being as fit as I could be, and needing to improve my seat. The fitness and seat are certainly related.

    For fitness, I've tried the Success in the Saddle dvds by Debbie Rodriguez and the Rider's Fitness book. Sadly, I am not consistent with them, and I know I need to be. I also help around the farm with general work and mucking 1-2 times a week and I walk 3-4 miles a day, but that probably doesn't do much for core strength and balance.

    Outside of non-riding related exercise, how do I go about improving my seat? Is it just hours in the saddle? I read a chapter of Centered Riding some nights before riding and then try to practice just one principle (like paddle legs or filling up my weak leg). Should I just be more disciplined about doing that? I've only had a couple of lunge lessons and I was amazed at how solid and centered I felt when not having to worry about steering, circles, hands, etc. How frequently is reasonable to ask for lunge lessons? I sort of get the feeling it is not something you can ask for very often? I also really like no stirrup work, I just don't think I was ready to canter without stirrups.

    For those of you who started or returned as adults, how has your instructor worked with you? Was there a plan - i.e. I want to learn to jump 2'6" so therefore the next six months will involve mastering A, B, and C so that I can do that (not my plan, just an example). I feel like I am slowly improving but I am not entirely sure where I am headed and it seems like my problem areas sort of rotate in my lessons, they don't really go away . Maybe when you are a beginner, the list of stuff to fix/learn is so vast it doesn't matter what you focus on?

    I would really like to buy a horse in the next 6-9 months, and I painstakingly save all of my disposable income toward that (with the exception of the significant $$ I already spend on lessons and leasing). I am unsure of my progress toward that goal and I think taking another fall makes me question it even more. I really like and respect my instructor, how do I talk to her about this?

    Sorry for the digression, I know the original question was just asking why in the world would I choose to hit the dirt.



  18. #18
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    I started back riding after 20+ years at aged 47 and remember being COMPLETELY overwhelmed by trying to use multiple aids and begging for lunge lessons. When you want them nobody wants to give them it seems.

    I really feel that trail riding over terrain was helpful in learning to keep my seat balanced while we were ascending, descending, horse stumbling, horse having to lift feet or bend body. It helps you to get used to it and makes funny movements not so funny anymore.

    I started out riding Western, with little or no supervision, I've always had goals, take lessons, learn to ride English, show rail classes, move down the eventing track of dressage +jumping (horse didn't want to, sadly enough). What I really like is riding across country - fox hunting is on my bucket list. I tried the SS world and showing off a horse in an arena, well it's too subjective. It's fun but I'd rather get dirty.

    As far as a plan . . . it's hard. Job, family, the commitments that adults have to make can make it hard to move forward in other than fits and starts. Recognize that and learn that you will get better, it's just not an even steady process always.
    Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
    Incredible Invisible



  19. #19
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    Definitely ditto on the fitness. When I got off lesson horses and onto my own it made me realize that I could no longer view riding as a fitness tool (was a fairly casual once to twice a week rider up until a few years ago) and instead needed to be much fitter in order to ride my horse well. So you will need to work on core strength but also just general fitness. So swimming, walking, running, etc would be good if you don't want to join a gym.

    As for an adult rider, I am definitely feeling you on that one! I didn't pick up the sport until I was 25 so trying to learn it has been a challenge. Lunge lessons have been great, although I haven't had many of those. I think they can be a bit hard on the horses, trotting in a smallish circle for 20-30 minutes. Maybe just ask your trainer if at one section during the ride(like after you've walked trotted around) to put you on the lunge so you can focus on canter departs and just do that for 10 minutes. Also if you're not already, pony up the extra cash for private lessons at least once a week. Being in a group as a beginner is too hard since its very beneficial to have trainers eyes on you at all times.

    I would also suggest asking your trainer to just focus on breaking down one challenge at a time. It's too much for our brains to try and fix everything at once. Like right now I'm working on my upper body and release because my horse didn't need much but I'm now riding something that has a much rounder jump. And it's not to day there aren't other issues (there always are!) but it's my biggest one right now.

    And as for reaching goals-I keep them small and fluid . I do have an ultimate goal in mind but make sure to keep mini goals and adjust them as needed.


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  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by KateKat View Post
    Definitely ditto on the fitness. When I got off lesson horses and onto my own it made me realize that I could no longer view riding as a fitness tool (was a fairly casual once to twice a week rider up until a few years ago) and instead needed to be much fitter in order to ride my horse well. So you will need to work on core strength but also just general fitness. So swimming, walking, running, etc would be good if you don't want to join a gym.
    This is so true. It's always been in the back of my mind but even in the last week or so I realized that my horse is much fitter than me and for me to really improve both of us, I'm going to have to up my game to be able to truly ride him effectively.

    As for an adult rider, I am definitely feeling you on that one! I didn't pick up the sport until I was 25 so trying to learn it has been a challenge. Lunge lessons have been great, although I haven't had many of those. I think they can be a bit hard on the horses, trotting in a smallish circle for 20-30 minutes. Maybe just ask your trainer if at one section during the ride(like after you've walked trotted around) to put you on the lunge so you can focus on canter departs and just do that for 10 minutes. Also if you're not already, pony up the extra cash for private lessons at least once a week. Being in a group as a beginner is too hard since its very beneficial to have trainers eyes on you at all times.
    This is all true too. When I came back to riding as an adult (at around 25 too), I started in group lessons at a local lesson barn. Not bad, but particularly on days when everybody actually showed up or somebody was making up a lesson by squeezing into ours, we might have 6 people at least riding. That means in an hour lesson (assuming you actually start right on time and end right on time) even if the instructor is giving everyone equal attention, you're really only working on you for 10 minutes and the rest of the time is trotting around watching everybody else...more or less. Now, there's something to be said for just getting saddle time and watching other people get taught but there comes a point when you really just simply get more out of semi-private or private lessons. I ended up moving to another barn where I could have a lesson on my own (and was only doing half-hour lessons but I got SO much more out of them than I was doing in group one-hour lessons) as well as ride on my own time with one of their horses a couple times a week.

    Generally, just getting in the saddle as much as possible is beneficial because there are some things we do when riding that are very difficult to replicate with exercises out of the saddle.

    I would also suggest asking your trainer to just focus on breaking down one challenge at a time. It's too much for our brains to try and fix everything at once. Like right now I'm working on my upper body and release because my horse didn't need much but I'm now riding something that has a much rounder jump. And it's not to day there aren't other issues (there always are!) but it's my biggest one right now.

    And as for reaching goals-I keep them small and fluid . I do have an ultimate goal in mind but make sure to keep mini goals and adjust them as needed.
    And again...all of this is super-true. Until something that you want to improve becomes muscle memory (like I've finally managed to start really opening up my hips and get my leg under me and my weight in my heels so I can start working on a better release or really sitting deep for half-halts), trying to do seven things at once just makes us frazzled and frustrated. (that's also how longe lessons help since there's less you have to focus on in order to learn what you're trying to get at that moment. One of the other things my instructor had me do during my bout with them was ride at a walk and trot (and a little a canter if I felt comfortable) with no hands on the reins and my eyes closed. This allowed me to feel the horse's movement and also lesson my dependency on the reins. They don't actually keep you on the horse, after all, but I was using way more hand than the rest of my body to do...everything.)
    The Trials and Jubilations of a Twenty-Something Re-rider
    Happy owner of Kieran the mostly-white-very-large-not-pony.



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    Last Post: Dec. 29, 2009, 09:58 PM
  4. Which you would you choose?
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randomness