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How do you get motivation to ride after a bad accident?

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  • How do you get motivation to ride after a bad accident?

    In early August I was schooling XC on a horse that I had just started to use in April for my B rating in Pony Club. He stopped at a newly built vertical, the first fence in a coffin combination, but then decided to jump it from a standstill which caused me to fall and land on my arm and break it. My horse made it over the vertical, the ditch, and even the third element without me just fine but when he took off he slid and received a spiral fracture up his radius. Given that he is a well conditioned thoroughbred, the owner, my mom, and I decided to put him down to save him from suffering for possibly years.

    I am lucky enough that I have other horses available for me to ride (too many actually) so I have ridden since then and I competed on the equestrian team for my high school. However, every time I ride I feel this sinking feeling in my stomach like what could go wrong next? I am getting to the point where I'm not sure if I even want to ride again. I love the sport of eventing and I love horses and I really want to start up again but I am so scared of hurting another one of my horses again. How do I get over this?

  • #2
    I had a nasty accident that resulted in a broken pelvis for me. I was eager to get back in the saddle but for a long time I couldn't shake the tenseness and anxiety. What helped me was riding a horse that was totally enthusiastic and I knew and trusted (as much as possible) that she would take care of herself and jump anything I asked her to.

    Riding her and just taking time to re-orient myself were the best things possible. I think it took time to allow myself to process the thought that bad things happen, this is not a risk-free sport, and be okay with that. If you need to maybe see a sports psychologist?

    Hope this helps.
    Forward momentum!


    • #3
      Do what you are comfortable with. When it's time to do more, you will do it. If you never do the same things again, then maybe that is your fate.
      Shop online at


      • #4
        I'm so sorry this happened to you and your horse. I am not a psychologist, but it sounds like you have some post-traumatic stress. I think it might be worthwhile to get some professional help. Some therapists do EMDR to help people get over traumatic experiences; some sports psychologists can do consultations over the phone. Here are a couple that I have heard of (I have read their articles):
        Abigail Lufkin also does sports psychology but I cannot find her website, if she has one.
        Taco Blog
        *T3DE 2010 Pact*


        • #5
          Outside magazine has an interesting article on this subject in the current issue -- although it's about a skier, not a rider. But the issues are similar.

          The Fear: Scott Macartney's Comeback


          • #6
            I highly recommend Jane Savoie's course "Freedom From Fear". It's a number of CD's with different techniques and three DVDs. I have been using for the past couple months and it has helped a great deal.


            • #7
              When I had a nasty fall from my mare, the second I realized I was suddenly too scared to keep riding, I put her in full training with my trainer and took lessons on one of the school horses. I was literally taking lessons 3-4 times a week, when, until that point, I had been taking one a week.

              The increase in lessons, plus the fact that they were on a saintly old schoolie, helped me get my nerves back. My mare was also getting schooled 5 days a week by my trainer, so when I was ready to get on her again, it was like a different horse.

              It was a very, very expensive way to go, but looking back I think it was also a very, very good investment.

              However, even though I eventually made it back to riding my greenies, I am still much more cautious and careful than I was before my fall. i don't think I'll ever be that bold of a rider again, but that's okay with me.


              • #8

                Just keep on, keepin on and your feelings will ease.
                I just went through a similar situation, and although I wasn't hurt, I still lost my partner. Yes, I still have many horses to ride. And yes, I thought seriously of giving up riding all together. It is always an option. Whether or not it's the right one for you can only be answered by you.
                \"In all manners of opinion, our adversaries are insane.\" Mark Twain


                • #9
                  Originally posted by strickland04 View Post
                  I am so scared of hurting another one of my horses again.
                  It sounds like you are blaming yourself for what happened. You didn't hurt your horse. You were not negligent. You were not reckless. It was an accident.
                  I hope you find a book or psychologist to help you so you can find the joy in riding again. Good luck to you!


                  • #10
                    I'm so sorry to hear about your accident.

                    I suffered a bad fall where I broke my neck in 2007. I got right back into riding as quickly as I could, but I had a lot of residual pain, and even more residual fear. I tried to soldier forward and complete my autumn competition schedule with my Prelim horse, but in retrospect that was a bad idea because I was riding so backward that I was making my saint of a horse jump badly and was effectively scaring both of us more and more every time we went out.

                    Finally, I got to the point where I seriously considered giving up riding altogether; I did end up leaving my working student position that I was in at the time and coming home for a few weeks. When I came back, I literally walked and trotted for the next month... and I had been trying to get ready for my first Intermediate before my breakdown. Fortunately I had one amazing horse that I could trust and that put up with me, toodled around with me while I spent the spring literally working from ground poles back up. We did end up going Intermediate that May... I owe it all to being able to trust that horse and making my trainer let me go at my (verrryyyy slow) pace to rebuild my confidence. Jumping other horses was an even bigger issue and took even longer to work out; I think, a year and half later, that I can just start to say that I'm coming out of the woods on that front as well, and again it's because I had some wonderful instructors and even more wonderful horses along the way.

                    So the bottom line: take your time with partners, both equine and human, that you trust. Don't listen to ANYONE else about what your timeline to rebuilding confidence should be; it's your decision alone.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by CookiePony View Post
                      I'm so sorry this happened to you and your horse. I am not a psychologist, but it sounds like you have some post-traumatic stress. I think it might be worthwhile to get some professional help. Some therapists do ..EMDR to help people get over traumatic experiences; some sports psychologists can do consultations over the phone....
                      I am so sorry as well. It might seem hard to believe, now, but time will help.

                      I had a nasty fall in 2004 and rode as soon as I could but was really constrained by fear. I finally did EMDR with a riding sports psychologist. amazing results; fear and the "what ifs" are back to a totally rational level.


                      • #12
                        I am with you right now. I just had a fall and did some damage to my ankle, but of course I am already back in the saddle. Flat work is no problem. Jumping I broke out in tears about the other day. It is not that I am afraid to do it, but more like I don't want to do it and I am forcing myself right now. So naturally it isn't fun. I am hoping that maybe I will once again want to jump but for now no. Take your time, remember this is supposed to be a fun thing for you and your horse, keep it that way Good luck
                        No Worries!


                        • #13
                          Ditto what others said. I came back after a bad shoulder injury and at first thought I was fine. But once my strength let me advance past a certain point, I started to shut down. Having understanding instructors, horses I felt very safe on, and just realizing to take my time were key. An instructor suggested Jane Savoie's books, and they were extremely helpful. I find I still refer to her teachings years later.


                          • #14
                            This is going to sound crazy but what helped me the most after breaking my wrist, having surgery and being unable to ride for three months was to get those first few falls out of the way and realize I was going to be okay if I fell again. I broke the wrist on a horse who had a freak episode. I think having an injury of serious nature made me take a pause about what I should be riding and to be a bit smarter but it did carry over in my riding of other horses that I didn't know what well. I could ride horses that I trusted with no problem because I trusted them but getting on the greenies gave me a reason to stop and think. I did interfer with my riding a bit as I found myself going a bit slower than I normally would and perhaps riding a bit backward due to a lack of trust in myself and the horses.
                            I would say it was almost a year before I was riding at the confidence level that I had before the accident.I think that until you get that level of confidence back just stick to the horses you really trust to ride. It does wonders to building yourself back up and reminding yourself that it was just an accident. Accidents happen and you have to work past them so they don't control your thought process. You would be amazed what riding good horses can do to remind you that it can and will be okay.


                            • #15
                              It is amazing what our subconcious can do to us. I was sitting on my horse after a lesson and she spooked suddenly at a benign object in my trainers hand.

                              I did not fall off, I jumped off since I was about to get off anyway. I broke my ankle in three places.

                              When I was able to get back on about two months, I got on my safest horse and was still nervous. When I got back on the mare that I 'fell off' of, I was nervous still. And it wasn't her fault at all!

                              Like others said - the best thing to do is slowly push yourself out of your comfort zone. Start with walk/trot. When that gets boring tell yourself to just canter from A to C, then when that is fine, around the entire arena.

                              Start with crossrails. Put a crossrail out in the field and practice then - then work on some logs on the ground, move up to Beginner Novice height, etc. Getting on a good school horse for the first round of 'big, solid jumps' or difficult combinations will also be a big help.


                              • #16
                                Thanks everyone for your help and support! The article about Scott Macartney was amazing. I forgot to mention that the horse had been doing prelim for 10 years and the coffin jump was training/prelim so it wasn't exceeding either of our experience levels. I've been jumping a little since the accident, but only 2'6" to 2'9". The part that scares me the most is hurting my horse not myself.


                                • #17
                                  I recently just had a bad accident on XC fell off my horse stepped on my ankle shattered it and tore the tendons in my foot had surgery two weeks ago. I cant wait to get back to riding providing im goin to be able to! I keep tryin to wish myself to heal but I guess that doesnt work. I dont know how you guys dont go crazy when you get hurt and deal with all the idiots that tell me to get rid of my horse bc he is goin to kill me when we alll know all accidents are riders fault. He is a green horse and crap happens this I know but its super frustrating.


                                  • #18
                                    I'm so sorry you lost your partner. I think if you got some professional help for grieving it would be beneficial. What happened wasn't your fault, it was a freak accident. Many horses and riders have worse spills and the horse is fine.

                                    Talking with someone about what and how, might help you to heal emotionally. Good luck and know that your horse is over the rainbow bridge, he's doing fine. Death is not the end. (((hugs)))


                                    • #19

                                      having known you since before you were born, I'm here to say that you did nothing wrong to cause what happened.
                                      My answer? Com'on over and keep me
                                      company. Bring whomever, and we'll walk n talk.
                                      No matter what you end up doing, know that what happened was a fluke. Yes, examine it, rip it apart, learn from it. But do not blame yourself. 'k? <hugs>


                                      • #20
                                        I haven't ever had one really bad fall. I have, however, fallen over twenty times in the past 3 years. I'm young, so I bounce.

                                        Two years ago on Labor Day, I got bucked off and broke my collarbone. At this point I was riding all greenies, and I didn't really regain my confidence. I had several-while not bad-falls that really shook me up. Horses fell on me, and I was way overmounted.

                                        I did not get over my fear until two months ago. I just started leasing a horse for the first time, and she is an angel. So "been there, done that." I thought that this would annoy me...until I realized last week that I was having fun. For the first time in two years, I was smiling over jumps. I didn't wonder if I would make it over in one piece, or if I would screw up the take-off, and what would happen if...ect. And...I'm so much better! My distances are much improved, and so is my eq. Turns out when I jump without over-analyzing it, I don't suck as much as I thought I did!

                                        My point is...even if you think you don't need it, try riding a schoolie for three weeks if you have access to one. It will make an astounding difference.