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pre-emptive strike on fear - long sorry

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  • pre-emptive strike on fear - long sorry

    Just looking for a little advice/emotional support. Just got a new 6 yr OTTB (never raced, too slow). He is VERY calm for a TB, and a young one at that. Got him because I have confidence issues and really want a "safe and sane" horse over extremely talented horse (can't afford both in one package). Fast forward to my fourth ride on him, we are taking it easy just walk/trot while we get aquainted and wait for the chiro to come because I know he is out. Had a great ride, and my son (20,so he should know better), walks up while I am sitting on him with a barn cat and holds it up to Teddy's nose. Teddy sniffs cat, cat claws Teddy's nose. He rears, hits me in nose then takes off bucking/bolting. And since I was "on the buckle" I have no reins. Came off on other side of the arena, I think I just gave up and took the dive as he was building up a good head of steam at that point and I still had no reins.

    So since I have confidence issues, I REALLY didn't need this to happen this early in my relationship with him. I did get back on and walk trot again until my back gave out (it was really sore). But... how do I head off the fear so I won't be riding hesistantly and jumping at every noise expecting him to take off on me? To make it worse I can't ride him again until Friday as he is going to be chiropracted Tues. and she always wants two days off work after for hte horse.

    I really like this horse and do not want to let this color how I feel when I go to get on him. My older mare I loved to ride some days, dreaded others, but always felt some anxiety getting on. Our new mare was supposed to be my and my sons show horse, but she prefers him and just wont go for me. I am not afraid of her per say but she has quite a buck and isn't afraid to use it to say "NO". So I got my own horse. And now this. Logically I know that it wasn't hte horses fault, the cat scratched him, but he really didn't need to take off after the rear! And his bucks are more like porpoise jumps, the middle of his back comes straight up so there is nothing to sit on!

    Please any advice on how to just put this behind and emotionally forget that it happened?
    arabs rock (and OTTB's too)

  • #2
    Horses buck sometimes.
    Sometimes for no reason.
    Yours had a reason.

    Don't over think it.
    See those flying monkeys? They work for me.


    • #3
      arabiansrock - I'm sorry that happened to you, but I'm glad you came out of it (relatively) unscathed...

      I had a bad fall off of a horse a few years ago and I felt (at the time) that I had gotten over it - despite not being as good as you because I didn't get back on, but that was for my own safety. Fast-forward a few years and I start riding a mare that has a similar build to the horse that I had the bad fall off of and all of a sudden I have an irrational fear of falling off of the new mare! Our lessons were not going so well because I couldn't relax and trust her - I was always waiting for her to take off on me! I am a complete over-thinker (which I think makes it worse because I can't just forget about it or shrug it off) so I had to find another solution.

      The things I can suggest (that at least worked for me) - watch some of Jane Savoie's videos on overcoming fear (there's a couple available on youtube). She has some good suggestions and insights to things I didn't even realize I was doing.

      The other would be to take some lessons with a trainer (if you don't currently do that) if there's one available at your barn or near by. Sometimes you just need the person there to say things are alright and sometimes you need someone to keep your mind busy (then there is no wandering and worrying).

      Hope this helps!!


      • #4
        First, beat the crap out of your son. That was just beyond dumb.
        Jeez, ANY horse would have reacted to a cat clawing his nose. I would be far more nervous over an unprovoked explosion. At least you know what the reason was - and it was a good one. Don't hold it against him, expecting him to be bad. That would be completely unfair. Get on and think positive thoughts.


        • #5
          Firstly, glad you're ok!
          Secondly, you won't. And don't pretend you're not afraid when you get on him next time and you happen to be a little nervous. Most horses deal better when you're congruent in your emotions.

          The good news is that your horse had a valid reason to react, (and yeah, your son owes you big time).

          I would lunge the horse first, so he's got the exercise. Then get on and say "Today we'll just walk". If all is well once you're on him and he feels like your trusted steed, go on and have a great ride. If he feels like now he's got ideas, do whatever is safe. (Or make your son ride it out ). You don't need to put yourself in danger. But chances are, your horse is gonna be great for you. Good luck,
          "Reite dein Pferd vorwärts und richte es gerade.” Gustav Steinbrecht


          • #6
            It can be so scary but at least he had a "reason" for the spook. So, you now know NOT to put clawed cats to his face. I had a bad fall that put me off riding the horse due to his unpredictibility (I STILL don't know what caused the spook) but what people told me was:

            -Have someone on the ground just talking you through your next ride (instructor, friend etc...)
            -Just walk/trot (or whatever you feel comfortable doing.

            Worse comes to worse you desensitize him by chucking cats at him till he no longer minds


            • #7
              Second the recommendation for Jane Savoie's "Freedom from Fear" DVD.

              Also -- it might be easier knowing that this really, really was not the horse's fault, even though he had a reason to go nuts (I hope your son is hanging his head in shame!) I had a very bad fall a few years back and one of the things that helped me deal with it was that it was absolutely not the horse's fault (I fainted from low blood sugar and went off his side. Luckily I did not catch a foot in the stirrup. Poor horse galloped back to the barn!)
              You have to have experiences to gain experience.

              1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"


              • Original Poster

                Thanks everyone, everything you have said is more or less what I have been telling myself.

                Son got punished, he had to give me a backrub Sat night, and on Sunday he had to do hte barn work by himself (normally y son, I, and my daughter all work). We do everything, feed, clean, bed stalls, turnouts etc. My daughter and I went to get pedicures while he worked (they have these wonderful massage chairs). And EVERYONE at the barn has told him what an idiot he was to do that!

                I know that he had a reason, and that makes me feel better. But I do think that I will work on installing emergency brakes starting this weekend when I get back on (the one rein stop brake). Of course it wouldn't have helped me this time since I didn't havethe reins.

                I will definitely have a ground person when I get back on, my daughter (14) is actually quiate good at "giving lessons" and I am sure she will come in talk me through it.

                Will go look up Jane SAvoie on youtube. Ihave heard her mentioned more than once. Can't afford the dvd but does she have a book:

                Counter Canter - I can just imageine the look on his face if I lunge him and start chucking barn cats at him


                • #9
                  That was just bad luck. You have to keep in mind that at some point your horse will get excited\spooked again but you will have the reins and will shut any antics down before things get out of hand. You know what to do and the situation would have been totally different if you had those reins. It doesn't sound like it was fun for either of you. Hopefully the whole experience was scary enough for your horse that he won't be eager to unbalance you again any time soon. If it would make you feel better you shouldn't hesitate to postpone the chiropractor appointment and keep riding everyday all week if you think that would be best for you psyche.


                  • #10
                    Hell, I'd have run away too. Poor startled dude.

                    Think of it this way: a very weird, painful and scary experience happened to your horse.
                    He took off bucking like a dummy, which is understandable considering he was just beat up by a kitteh.
                    You fell off, a little bumped and sore, but ultimately OK.

                    Now ask yourself: what the heck could possibly get a bigger response out of your horse? He just got clawed in the nose by a cat (!) and you both came out of it okay. Surely you can handle anything else that might worry him, like plastic bags or ghosts. Ghosts, after all, do not have pointy ends.

                    As someone who has successfully conquered riding anxiety, I can say that it's almost better to have an experience like this early in your relationship with the horse. You get up, you dust off, you realize the world didn't end. In my experience, not falling off for long periods sometimes makes you unreasonably afraid of falling, to the point where you won't do certain things when you ride.

                    Anyway try to laugh it off, he really had a right to react as he did, it was just an unfortunate situation altogether. Don't be upset with either of you, get back on and avoid the cats.


                    • #11
                      instead of a one rein stop (great way to bow a tendon) try teaching a pulley rein, or in all seriousness teach WHOA. For some reason people don't work on the verbal response to whoa like they should. If your horse had whoa instilled to the extent my horses do, cat would have scratched, horse would have stiffened, preparing to rear, you would have said whoa, and that would have been the end of it.
                      and i dont deal with plugs, i mostly deal with abused TB's and bringing them back from psychosis.

                      Teach it while leading, lunging, at a walk, trot, and canter. Some like to do clicker, i'm not that high tech, I use the ol peppermint method, and wither scritches.
                      chaque pas est fait ensemble


                      • Original Poster

                        I did say (yell) whoa, but since I have only had him 2 weeks, we don't have much whoa! I have been working on instilling it on the lunge, but we have actually had to go back to basics on the lunge, he seemed to think that he got to go at whatever speed he wanted for however long he wanted, and then when he was done, he just stops and walks in to the center. So I have been teaching verbal, walk, trot, canter, stay in gait until you are told otherwise. Whoa has been a problem unless he is ready to whoa, if I say whoa and give a yank on the lunge, he tends to speed up and get a little wild. Any ideas on how to work on that?

                        Also, what do you mean by pulley rein? That is the term I have always used for one rein stop, so clearly you have a different method, I would love to know it And do you carry peppermints in your pocket and feed them under saddle if they give you whoa when you want? Please I would love more info on how you school the reliable whoa. I know that having that in my pocket would give me a great deal of confidence under saddle.


                        • Original Poster

                          Thanks again everyone, I do know it wasn't his fault.

                          Interesting trivia, the cat who got me dumped isn't really a barn cat, he is one of hte bo's house cats. His name is "obama" but since "hillary" and "sarah" moved into the house, he spends a lot more time outside!

                          I went out last night on the way home to just take Teddy out and give him a grooming. DH didn't want me out for very long... But I think maybe he (Teddy) missed me because he seemed really happy to come out and play for a bit. when I went to put him back in his paddock, he followed me right back out hte gate before I could get him shut in! They certainly do appreciate having a person when they have been tossed in pasture and ignored for awhile don't they?

                          I think I am going to save up to buy Jane's conquering fear dvd, I think it will help my riding overall even if I do feel fine getting back on him, I just tend to be spookier than the horses, I have always been a bit of a jumpy person.


                          • #14
                            There is an article on using the pulley rein in the March issue of Practical Horseman. I do like the one rein stop but I use it before the spook or scoot happens and at the walk. I used it last week when my horse was reacting to a little dog coming towards us through some weeds while I was walking around the property. I could feel the spook/scoot coming and immediately used the one rein stop and he was fine. I also have some fear, trust issues with my OTTB, doing some groundwork and working on installing the "whoa" as someone else mentioned and practicing the one rein stop has given me more confidence!!Good luck, he seems like a good guy!!


                            • #15
                              Good luck, I have totally been there. Had a fear of mounting after I was in a mounting accident. The only thing that helped me was 1. Deciding I'd rather take the chance of being hurt again than never ride, and 2. Riding. A lot. Took me about 4 months to be able to just swing a leg over instead of checking the girth obsessively and laying across the horse.

                              Keep at it, you'll do great!