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Fear of riding in open, new mom, Nursing school, sell horse?

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  • Fear of riding in open, new mom, Nursing school, sell horse?

    In a nutshell, I've ridden since I was 4 ... Morgans on A circuit, saddleseat, western, eq, driving, park, then barrel raced for a few years in teens, quit riding in later teens (stupid boys), piddled very little with riding in early 20's, then decided eventing looked fun in 2007, pregnant in 2008, first child in 2009, turned 31 today!

    I had never jumped prior to 2007, and to be honest, haven't had consistent instruction due to money, time, winters, baby, etc. Maybe have had 3 months of consistency here and there, but still have a lot to learn. Even before I had the baby, riding in the open on xc (over tiny stuff) made me a little bit nervous. My horse is very well-trained, but knows that to do xc, so is forward, and ready (which I know should be a GOOD thing!), but my issue is that since I've had the baby, I'm actually scared to ride in the open, even on trails. I hardly ever trail rode as a kid, and when I did it ended badly on those hot show horses! Drives me nuts as when I was younger, I would ride anything! Had many really hard to handle horses that didn't faze me. Now I have a pretty level headed guy, and I've had him for sale all winter, had a couple offers, and declined them. Had one woman ask me if I knew how nice he was! LOL!

    I have a 1 year old, and am in Nursing school, so not a ton of time to ride. I am lucky to have a friend who's a good rider keep him fit for me through pregnancy until now, and I started back riding him in lessons a few weeks ago. I really like him, and I've owned a lot of horses in my life, and tried 34 before over 6 months before I found him, so I know what a good one is! Friend is moving later this summer, so that will just leave me to ride him, probably twice a week to be honest with class and clinicals.

    So to my question (sorry so long!)...any tips on how to conquer the fear of riding in the open? I feel like if I can get "over" that, I can compete this horse and start having some fun this summer (more time to ride over summer). I do have a bombproof large pony who I can ride, but to be honest, it's flat out fear of being in the open, on any horse! So the old "ride a schoolmaster" isn't going to help me really. The girl who's been riding my guy doesn't have issues in the open as he's sensible. But the difference is, she is confident and I am not. I know I make it worse as they feel me tense up!

    I am also unsure of whether or not I want to sell him now as he really is nice to own, and so easy to ride and mess with. I hope this makes sense, I'm tired and flustered as this has been weighing on my mind! Any opinions on any of this would be appreciated!

    FYI: I am back to taking regular weekly lessons, so plan to try and work on these issues!

  • #2
    I would recommend that you pick up the Laura King Keys to Winning Equestrian series. I think I got it on CD but may also be available as MP3 download. It is self-hypnosis, and I've found it extremely helpful. Even though it is geared toward people with "show nerves", most of the strategies apply to general riding anxiety.

    I'm not a mom yet (tho I'm a little older than you, not a lot), but I do have a deformed hip and related problems that for a while had me feeling like if I fell off outside the ring, I would just break into a million little pieces. Really put a damper on this last summer!

    I'm still fearful, but at least I have some anchors I can fall back on now so that while I am riding, I can reinforce the "good" feelings and not let the irrational "bad" ones take over.

    Comment


    • #3
      I was in a similiar position, my daughter is now 18 months. I realized I needed my horse as my escape again. I was going crazy having no hobby, but had lost all confidence on a horse. It really only took getting back on my horse and riding regularly to become comfortable again. I rode at a walk for close to a month, just short rides, added in trotting very slowly. Once I had some of my 'riding muscles' back, I just got back into it. It took a few months though. Don't give up on your guy, he sounds wonderful.
      - paintmare


      Horse Eden Eventing - A Virtual Eventing Escape

      Comment


      • #4
        I think some XC lessons with a good instructor and maybe wear a vest when you are out in the open, even if it is just walking and trotting around. It takes time to gain confidence and trust yourself and your horse. What is exactly the fear? That your horse will do something stupid like buck, bolt, etc? Learn how to do a pulley rein so if your horse does get to strong, you know how to control him. Also, you could ride him in the ring first, get him a little tired, before going out of the ring. You may feel more comfortable knowing he's tired and less likely to do anything. Just walk around the first time, then trot, then canter when you're ready. A lot of it is mind of matter. I wouldn't sell him (unless you want to give him to me! haha), but work on your fears if you really want to compete him.

        Comment


        • #5
          Fear is the unknown.

          Trust in your horse. If something is going to happen, it is going to happen no matter how afraid you are. Don't think of "what if .....happens....". Think about the breeze, the smell, a good horse.

          Relax, enjoy the ride. Go out with a seasoned trail rider who is good for conversation. Ease on the reins and let your hair down.

          I don't have kids so I can't relate on that front, but I do have a very high stress job and a high maintenance hubby. I love my pony more then life itself, and he is a lot of mental (and physical!) work, but when I am on, I'm there and in the moment. Horses and riding should be therapy for you and your horse, and joy.

          I ride with a mom of 4 and one of my trainers has 3 kids, and both are worried about what will happen if they get hurt. If you are worried all the time about what COULD happen, you lose the whole point of riding!

          Your horse is good. So what if you don't event, or trail or hunt. Even if you plug away in the ring on a warm day, you get a few hours away from the hustle and bustle to be with yourself and your horse. Focus on that instead of the what ifs...half lease him out so he is in work (or keep your friend riding him).
          Just remember, no matter how paranoid, frightened, prepared you are...sh&t happens! Enjoy yourself! If we worried about the negative possibles, great things would never happen!

          Comment


          • #6
            See if either in your lessons or on another ride during the week you can get some time just riding out and about with another calm horse as company -- I don't think there is any real cure to this anxiety but mileage and trust in your horse. Heck, I ride out ALL the time on both my horses and have a very high level of comfort with them, even when they are spooky or a bit on the muscle...because I have SUCH a good bond with them in general...riding someone else's well behaved horse I am less at ease simply because I lack that basic comfort relationship.

            As for riding time -- if your horse is a solid citizen you should ask around...you should be able to find someone to ride 2 or 3 times a week for free! I've got more responsible young women (16-22 ish) lining up to take my guys out for hacks than I know what to do with!! I am SURE if you try you could find someone like that to pick up the slack when your friend moves.

            Don't get rid of your horse!!! he sounds like a great guy...
            The big man -- my lost prince

            The little brother, now my main man

            Comment


            • #7
              I would check out some books on sports psychology from the library. Could be really helpful to work on good visualization, very specific visualization like seeing you and your horse trotting in an open field, soft and relaxed, and going over a little log, and continuing on nice and relaxed. Visualization works for pro athletes, even NFL QBs use techniques like that!

              Also, do you have an opportunity to hand walk with your horse out in an open field? maybe with your horse on something like a 15 foot lead? That way, if your fear stems from him reacting to something in the field like a bird or a car passing by or whatever, you can see him react from the ground instead of only feeling what he's doing which can be unnerving. If you start to get comfortable (and bored) with walking and even trotting in hand in the open, maybe that can help you establish a 'safe' zone in a way, somewhere that you know you and your horse are comfortable. Then just walk in the saddle until you get the same comfort level, move up to trot, and so on. Just a thought.

              I had a scary trail riding accident when I was young (and thought as many adolescences do that I would not get hurt). I nearly bashed my head off a rock (not wearing an approved helmet, again stupid kid), the horse flipped me over its shoulder and the horse nearly fell on top of me. not good at all. It was several years and several good horses later when I was finally comfortable on a trail, especially a narrow trail, again. It can take time, even when you've not had any particular instance to cause the fear. Just like training your horse, when you do something that doesn't make you comfortable, go back one step to what you know is okay, and then try going forward to the next task again.

              Good luck, I hope you can work through it. Riding is so rewarding, it'd be sad to give it up after so many years in your life!
              Day Care, Preschool, Grade School, High School, College, Job: When do I get to PLAY??

              Comment


              • #8
                This isn't uncommon situation at all and particularly with new mums it's entirely understandable.

                Instead of being in the here and now and thinking about what you're doing and just enjoying riding, you start to dwell on what might be and the overwhelming responsibility that you now have.

                My own wife was exactly the same: though not when she had the children. In her case it was when I was seriously ill. She used to freely 'admit' that she got on her horse and thought "job, bills, carer, nurse, what if...."

                In her case though she also knew she loved riding. Not just the riding. But the freedom and independence and the getting out and about in the country and the time for herself or for her and her friends. The very being with her horse. She didn't want to let that all go and wanted to try to get her confidence back.

                So that's the important first step: do you want to ride?

                If so, then go to a good mature instructor and tell them you've lost your nerve. Ask them to work with you and help you. Good instructors are very used to working with folks who need their confidence building.

                Each and every time you go for a ride get in a positive mood. There's a mass of techniques you can adopt. Look in a mirror and smile and say out loud "I can do this" 3 times louder each time.

                Stay within your comfort zone as you build up your confidence. If it means going onto a lunge line or lead rope and just having a good friend walk next to you leading the horse then do that. You don't have to go yee-haaing and jumping at all. You can just enjoy the time having a walk around the field with the horse and build from there.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Allison- this is where I think having a friend/instructor is so important. I have always had some students with major fears of riding out in the open and still do. I find that what helps the most is either me riding their horse and putting them on something bombproof so they can just enjoy the ride and realize their horse will be okay as well or having them ride their horse and taking it as slow as necessary.

                  This might mean starting with 15 min walk trail rides and progressing from there. I currently have one rider who is a very nice rider but has an irrational fear of her TB. She traded her QH for him and although she KNOWS he is good her brain has a hard time believing it. We spent the winter just doing walk trails rides. Then we worked up to trot trail rides just bits and pieces at a time. We just added a tiny bit of canter in. Now we are riding on trails that are in the C&R which are sort of confined. She feels comfortable but put her in an open field and she gets nervous again. I have her get right on my butt and just focus on following me.

                  The other thing that I find is that people stop riding when they get on the trails. It really helps to give yourself something to do while out on the trails. Such as we are going to do a transition at this log or leg yeild over to this tree. Practice riding in the front and riding in the back. Work on going back forth between the different positions and working on your 2pt. This keeps the nerves from overtaking the ride.

                  I think it is normal to have these fears and so many people have a fear of riding out of the ring. The only way to conquer it is to practice until it becomes fun instead of a nerve wracking experience. If you ever want to come down and trail ride with me we can go on a really easy set of trails and just take it easy. I love having company!
                  http://www.benchmarksporthorses.com/

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    If you can find one an instructor who will help you practice some "in case" skills, it might help you feel more prepared/secure. After a nasty riding accident, I found myself really tense whenever a horse would drop a shoulder- which set me up for even more trouble. I ended up working with a vaulting instructor who was a friend of a friend. She literally taught me ten plus ways of getting off a horse and out of its way. (It was a great workout too )I felt much more confident in the saddle after I had an escape plan.

                    I just returned to riding a month ago after having my now 8 month old. On a fresh of the track TB to boot. I took my time, had help, but still found myself on that first lunge line ride, reviewing all those ways to bail.
                    Equestrian Photography

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by allisontatman View Post
                      In a nutshell, I've ridden since I was 4 ... Morgans on A circuit, saddleseat, western, eq, driving, park, then barrel raced for a few years in teens, quit riding in later teens (stupid boys), piddled very little with riding in early 20's, then decided eventing looked fun in 2007, pregnant in 2008, first child in 2009, turned 31 today!

                      I had never jumped prior to 2007, and to be honest, haven't had consistent instruction due to money, time, winters, baby, etc. Maybe have had 3 months of consistency here and there, but still have a lot to learn. Even before I had the baby, riding in the open on xc (over tiny stuff) made me a little bit nervous. My horse is very well-trained, but knows that to do xc, so is forward, and ready (which I know should be a GOOD thing!), but my issue is that since I've had the baby, I'm actually scared to ride in the open, even on trails. I hardly ever trail rode as a kid, and when I did it ended badly on those hot show horses! Drives me nuts as when I was younger, I would ride anything! Had many really hard to handle horses that didn't faze me. Now I have a pretty level headed guy, and I've had him for sale all winter, had a couple offers, and declined them. Had one woman ask me if I knew how nice he was! LOL!

                      I have a 1 year old, and am in Nursing school, so not a ton of time to ride. I am lucky to have a friend who's a good rider keep him fit for me through pregnancy until now, and I started back riding him in lessons a few weeks ago. I really like him, and I've owned a lot of horses in my life, and tried 34 before over 6 months before I found him, so I know what a good one is! Friend is moving later this summer, so that will just leave me to ride him, probably twice a week to be honest with class and clinicals.

                      So to my question (sorry so long!)...any tips on how to conquer the fear of riding in the open? I feel like if I can get "over" that, I can compete this horse and start having some fun this summer (more time to ride over summer). I do have a bombproof large pony who I can ride, but to be honest, it's flat out fear of being in the open, on any horse! So the old "ride a schoolmaster" isn't going to help me really. The girl who's been riding my guy doesn't have issues in the open as he's sensible. But the difference is, she is confident and I am not. I know I make it worse as they feel me tense up!

                      I am also unsure of whether or not I want to sell him now as he really is nice to own, and so easy to ride and mess with. I hope this makes sense, I'm tired and flustered as this has been weighing on my mind! Any opinions on any of this would be appreciated!

                      FYI: I am back to taking regular weekly lessons, so plan to try and work on these issues!
                      go out with her on both horses ie you ride one and she rides the other one use the older horse 1st to regain your confidence and when out change places a lot ie go in front then behind then infront for a little while
                      iwould do this until she goes but before she actually does towards the end
                      go on a short ride by yourself 1st with the older horse one day and tell your mate where your going - as she will know how long it will take and roughly what time you will come back into the yard

                      then next day do it with the other horse keep doing it
                      then when mate goes you should be able to ride anywhere you like by yourself

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Ride with a vest, a good helmet, and a cell phone. This should improve your confidence. Also, find a good rider who will half lease your horse. That will help with the finances and will keep the horse well exercised.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I think there's no need to have goals like eventing now. That can come when it comes. For now you have a lot on your plate, so just let riding be a fun hour away from responsibilities and challenges of daily life. Ride in the ring, walk around the barn yard, take a lesson now and then. Don't pressure yourself to have to ride a certain way.

                          But that's me, always excited to lower my standards, as it were.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            With a small child, and a bit of a break from riding, it makes perfect sense that you're a bit nervous about some things. If you can't ride in the arena often enough to keep him in work/justify to yourself owning him, then see if you can find a part-leaser, or perhaps consider selling if the situation won't change any time soon. Otherwise, it sounds like you're still generally a good team, and once your kid is a bit older, you'll probably feel less nervous. Even if you don't go back to trail riding or eventing, there are plenty of flat-work only/arena-only options available to you. If you're more comfortable with riding the pony, then you might want to sell him, since keeping two horses in work with your schedule would be a huge challenge! Good luck with school and the kidlet!
                            Stay me with coffee, comfort me with chocolate, for I am sick of love.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              IMO: You already own the horse and it sounds like you really love and appreciate him.

                              I agree with those who have said that you should just stick to what you are comfortable with for now... even if that means staying in the ring for a while. Just take baby steps. Keep taking your lessons and have your instructor push you just tiny bits at a time. I would share your concerns with her.

                              Maybe your goal can be as simple as going hacking this fall. In the interim you can cool him down after your rides by walking outside the ring after your lesson (in a familiar place when he is spent). Maybe your instructor would be willing to give you a lesson in a paddock and then a field so that you can get the sensation of being outside but still with boundaries.

                              I have dealt with confidence issues in the past and it can be very frustrating, but if you love riding it is worth trying to make little steps toward solving your confidence issues. Be really honest when something freaks you out. My trainer got good at "seeing" when I was tensing up, but I had to remind myself all the time that it would be more productive if I just told her myself.

                              I am not a mother (yet!) but I do know how meditative horses are for me. I am an over-thinker and riding forces me to think about ONE thing: the horse. I would imagine that that type of escape might be really great for you given all the other demands in your life right now. Horses can be very patient. Hopefully yours will sense what you need and remember to thank him!
                              "We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals" Immanuel Kant

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                Thanks so much for the advice, encouragement, and giving me some hope! My instructor is very aware of these issues (and she's also a regular here on COTH ) and is helpful and pushes me, but not too much!

                                On Thursday, my friend rode my TB and I rode the pony out when we were done riding, and it was completely without incident! TB was super, pony was great, and I actually relaxed! Riding is supposed to be fun, and I need to get over my fear so it can be fun again! Friday I rode them both alone in the ring and had great rides and worked on the new BN dressage test. I think a huge part of my issue is just to RIDE and feel comfortable again in the saddle, and start doing some short rides around my farm. I know that I don't need to compete, but I thrive on goals, and that's what keeps me motivated. So I'm trying to make smaller goals that I can accomplish without competing like better dressage, starting to jump again (in lesson tomorrow, hopefully!), and getting a more secure seat and in better shape.

                                Jess-I might take you up on trail riding up your way, it sounds as if you have some nice places to hack out and I appreciate the invite!

                                Finding someone to part-lease him at my place after my friend moves would be ideal, but it's hard to find people in Southern DE who are decent riders close to my farm and willing to come out. I'm sure my instructor would be happy to ride him once a week for me when I start school, but of course that costs money, which is tight since I'm in school FT and not working at present.

                                I'm still on the fence about selling him, but leaning more towards not. He's a really nice horse with good training and impeccable manners (which is sooo important to me!), and he may have sealed the deal tonight when my SO let my 1 year old son walk out in his pasture at feeding time (SO was right next to him), and he quit eating, put his head down, let my son kiss him on the muzzle twice! Then he kissed him back (wriggled his muzzle on my son's cheek!) It was so cute!

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Note the date of this old thread: April 2010.

                                  Dredged up by a spammer. Reported.
                                  Last edited by Justa Bob; Sep. 5, 2011, 07:39 PM.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I've got an 18 month old too.... and all the sudden I worry about things a lot more. I've considered selling my VERY NICE but young horse for something with more miles and more bombproof but in the end I always know that I'd be giving up a FANTASTIC horse.

                                    I'm still a little nervous every time I jump my horse but I've got a fantastic instructor and we have an understanding. She will push me a little beyond my comfort zone but I also know that I can (and believe me I have) say no to whatever she's asking me to do.

                                    I frequently lunge my horse well beyond what she needs to ensure she's not going to buck and there are days when I say I'm done because I just don't feel right - but they're getting fewer and farther between. We're off to the AECs next week (just BN) and I'm already losing sleep because I know there will be a down bank on the course (they turn me into a quivering wimp) but I've had lessons enough and my coach has done enough with my horse that I'm just going to take a deep breath, keep my leg on, my chest up, and trust my horse to step down politely....

                                    Also Xanax helps
                                    The rebel in the grey shirt

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I find that while goals are good, and keep you motivated sometimes they add pressure when what you actually need is to feel that you've got all the time in the world.

                                      I'd echo what JLeeG said about just doing it bit by bit, a short walk outside the ring, then a longer one. Go with a friend who's got a good reliable horse. When you feel OK doing something, try something more. How would you train a worried horse? Same concept!

                                      If you like your horse and like riding him, then don't sell him. I found that the 'all the time in the world' mentality actually allows you to relax and take whatever time you need and you end up with a much more solid result. And sometimes it doesn't take as long as you might have thought - huh, 2 months just flew by and here I am doing something I never thought I could.

                                      Comment

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