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Losing Confidence on New Horse

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    Losing Confidence on New Horse

    Hi everyone. I am looking for some advice please. Around a year ago, I bought a young, green Dutch Warmblood with plans to finish his training as a show hunter or eq horse. He is a nice mover with a good jump, and has potential to do well. He has a great personality and I feel that we have a pretty tight bond. However, he has come with his challenges too. When I first had him, all was great; his little quirks never bothered me, and I always knew that with age and training they would improve. But lately, I have found myself losing confidence around him and have started to feel nervous before getting on. We had been moving up, and we had an incredible period of time a few months ago when we were unstoppable. Every lesson and hack went beautifully, and I was oozing with confidence and joy. Now, we have come to a stopping point in which I am just not as happy to get on him, and I feel that I am not giving him the ride he needs. For the past few weeks, every ride on him has ended with me in tears due to my lack of confidence, and a tiny bit of frustration as to why I am suddenly unable to ride this amazing horse. When I get on other horses, I am fine; no tears and my confidence comes back. It is just a sudden lack of confidence on my boy. For the past month or so it has been this nonstop. And it’s not at all the horse’s problem, as he has been great lately; it is just me. I do not know what to do, and would really like to get back to where we were a few months ago. (Having a great connection, ending with a smile, and jumping the higher fences.) I tried to take a break from him for a week or so and ride a horse that would boost my confidence a bit more (17 hand Irish Sport-horse schoolmaster) while my trainer rode my horse, but when I got back on I still felt the same anxiety and disconnection. I am just wondering if anyone has felt this way before, and what exactly they did to fix it? Thank you.

    #2
    what caused the anxiety or fear on your horse to start? Did the horse start spooking? A Fall? something had to happen to cause this reaction, it wouldn't have started out of the blue if you don't have the same fear on other horses.

    Comment


      #3
      Whenever I feel like I hit a wall or my confidence waivers I take a step back. Knock 6" of whatever height you are jumping or even 12" and jump courses that feel really easy. Do just a walk ride focusing on gentle changes of direction and adjusting the walk length of stride. Do some light gymnastics. Back down your expectations for engagement or or degree of difficulty for flatwork.

      A wise person told me long ago that it is always hardest when it is your own horse. You have your hopes and dreams wrapped up in that horse. When rides don't go well it is so easy to feel overwhelmed by the implications and start a negative downward spiral.

      What if you treated him like a baby horse you have in for training. No hopes. No expectations. Your only plan is to keep the rides easy and simple enough that it is a really positive experience. I'd keep things painfully simple until you are bored to tears and then incrementally add in "new" things.

      Taking a big step back for weeks or months can seem like the end of the world in that moment. However, over the lifetime of owning that horse, it is just a blip on the radar.

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by TXnGA View Post
        what caused the anxiety or fear on your horse to start? Did the horse start spooking? A Fall? something had to happen to cause this reaction, it wouldn't have started out of the blue if you don't have the same fear on other horses.
        It was sort of a gradual process. As springtime started, we had a few rides where he was very fresh, and I felt very out of control, nervous, and tense in a way I have never felt on a horse before. As I kept having those rides where he felt like he was almost to much for me, I started to lose confidence and maybe even a bit of hope. When those rides kept happening, I had developed a much more tense presence on him as I was always ready for him to spook and buck, take off, etc. (I know it is natural and alright for a horse to spook, but it can be a little intense for me!) Even though he has become less fresh as the weather evens itself out, I have just kept that scared presence on him. It feels like there is much more pressure to train/ride a horse well when he is young and full of incredible potential, and with an already weak mental game, it hasn’t been easy!

        Comment


          #5
          I also suggest just relax your goals and expectations, not only for the horse but yourself, its not all about jumping the bigger fences, or executing piaffe.Sometimes you just need to step back and just relax and enjoy. Nothing wrong with pole work you can make it as easy or hard as you want. Nothing wrong with also going on an easy walk trail ride. Sometimes we set ourselves goals that subconsciously overwhelm us and we start to think everything we do is not good enough, nothing is going the right way, its not working how you planned it. Its not the end of the world to lessen the pressure on yourself and your horse, to know you can't always improve every time you ride. Unfortunately its not possible to fix something or improve every time you ride. I dont care what anyone says but you can not always ride at 100% nor can your horse always perform 100%. Sometimes your horse will be 100% but you won't and other way around.
          Sometimes all it takes is one bad ride to loose your confidence and then its a slipper road down.

          Comment


            #6
            We are all under so much pressure to develop a horse to its full potential, to train it to the highest level possible, jump highest, win maximum ribbons, attend the most prestigious shows, reach FEI level. People ask about breeding and make assumptions. People see it move and ask about your ambitions. People talk of investments and making money through more training and competition success. But in all this, the horse merely wants to eat, sleep and play with other horses a little bit. If a horse could talk, I suspect most would say that they enjoy a bit of variety but really they don't understand what the fuss is about. A cuddle with their human is a cuddle whether they have won a gold medal or pottered about in the sunshine.

            I suspect that you are putting a lot of pressure on yourself. Your horse really doesn't mind what you do as he has no idea what your ambitions and expectations are. Step back a bit. Why do you ride? What do you enjoy? Are your ambitions the same as they were a few years ago or have they changed? Are you having fun? Are you doing this because *you* want to or are others living their dream through you - ambitious trainer who wants and needs high profile clients? Also, recognise your limitations. We all have them. Maybe he really is too much horse for you and your subconscious is trying to tell you that. Would you enjoy seeing someone else have success competing him on your behalf? Would you enjoy trying another route such as dressage, or horse agility or mounted archery or sending him off to a BNR to go eventing? Also, don't discount your own health, both physical and mental, since it can have a vast impact on how you ride. My last meltdown was when my diabetic control was a bit wonky.

            In the immediate, go back to doing some basics until you are enjoying your horse once again. Everyone, horse and rider, benefits from doing so, whatever the discipline or level of skill.

            Horses are a blessing in our lives.
            "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths

            Comment


              #7
              I've got a fabulous horse who is "too much" for me - he's big (18hh), very athletic, and has a huge spook. Not a mean bone in his body, but needs a confident and "in the moment" ride. We're taking it *very* slowly. He'd been badly scared, so my trainer rode him at the walk for a good 3 months before I even got on. Now, it's two step forward, one step back - *I* need to be confident and in control before we move forward.

              This has translated into many days when all we do is walk. An _active_ walk, a bending walk, a walk "from behind", but working on relaxation and (mutual) trust. When I get the walk I want in less than 20 minutes, we try the trot. And so on.

              You need to give yourself time to trust the horse, and your reactions to what he's likely to do. This is going to take time, perhaps years, but you'll come out of it a better rider and with a horse you really understand... Or you can turn the page and sell him. My other (smaller, older) horse is generally a more fun ride for me, but he's never going to be able to do what the big one can.

              Comment


                #8
                Is there anything stressful or concerning going on in your life that is not related to your horse? If so, you could be transfering anxiety from that situation to your interactions with your horse.

                Comment


                  #9
                  How is your health? I find that I lose a bit of confidence and don't ride as well and then will come down with a cold or the flu in the next couple of days.
                  It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by springgreypony View Post

                    It was sort of a gradual process. As springtime started, we had a few rides where he was very fresh, and I felt very out of control, nervous, and tense in a way I have never felt on a horse before. As I kept having those rides where he felt like he was almost to much for me, I started to lose confidence and maybe even a bit of hope. When those rides kept happening, I had developed a much more tense presence on him as I was always ready for him to spook and buck, take off, etc. (I know it is natural and alright for a horse to spook, but it can be a little intense for me!)
                    This makes me want to ask what you’re feeding him, and if there were any changes to his diet. New cut of hay, hoof supplement, anything.
                    BLACK LIVES MATTER

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by paw View Post
                      I've got a fabulous horse who is "too much" for me - he's big (18hh), very athletic, and has a huge spook. Not a mean bone in his body, but needs a confident and "in the moment" ride. We're taking it *very* slowly. He'd been badly scared, so my trainer rode him at the walk for a good 3 months before I even got on. Now, it's two step forward, one step back - *I* need to be confident and in control before we move forward.

                      This has translated into many days when all we do is walk. An _active_ walk, a bending walk, a walk "from behind", but working on relaxation and (mutual) trust. When I get the walk I want in less than 20 minutes, we try the trot. And so on.

                      You need to give yourself time to trust the horse, and your reactions to what he's likely to do. This is going to take time, perhaps years, but you'll come out of it a better rider and with a horse you really understand... Or you can turn the page and sell him. My other (smaller, older) horse is generally a more fun ride for me, but he's never going to be able to do what the big one can.
                      If the horse is too much for you (your words, not mine), would you consider selling him for something you could enjoy more right now? I'm not against taking your time but all that walking would bore me to death if it was months of walking.. An 18 hand horse with a "big spook" that is "too much" for you doesn't sound like a good ammy prospect.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Springtime can bring out some nutty behavior in even the best horse.

                        My suggestion for next time you feel like he's a powder keg is to get off, grab some side reins or vienna reins, and lunge. If he settles in after taking some edge off, take the side reins off and get on him. If he doesn't settle, then finish the lunging, cool him down, and be done for the day.

                        There's no pride before the fall. If you don't feel safe, or you're tense and know it's going to translate into a rough ride, get off. There's always tomorrow. No need to win the battle but lose the war.

                        Your horse doesn't know or care about his own potential, ever. That should never be a driver for you to feel bad about yourself. If you're doing your best and you're not injuring him, and you're having some modicum of fun on a regular basis, yall are doing fine. He's got his whole life to "reach his potential". There's no rush.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          I have been following Warwick Schiller, he has some fabulous videos on focus, connection, and relaxation. Some of his wife's videos touch on anxiety in people, and they tie it all together nicely. You might look into it. A lot of the work is like watching paint dry, but it REALLY makes you be present, focused, and relaxed, as well as it makes your horse be more present, focused, and relaxed. Just a thought, throwing it out there. He has a video subscription which I subscribe to, but there are also other videos out there, even other clinicians and trainers that have different methods and good ideas on how to get you, and your horse, to relax.

                          Good luck OP!

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by Bristol Bay View Post

                            This makes me want to ask what you’re feeding him, and if there were any changes to his diet. New cut of hay, hoof supplement, anything.
                            No, he has been on the same supplements and feed since I have owned him. I am guessing it was just the sudden onset of spring weather that was causing him to be so excitable? And I probably just wasn’t prepared for it...

                            Also, thank you to everyone for the insight. I will be riding again tomorrow and we will try to take it slow. Something I heard lately is that “it is a marathon, not a sprint” and to enjoy the process. Maybe this is a reminder to take it slow and remember why I love riding in the first place.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by Groom&Taxi View Post
                              Is there anything stressful or concerning going on in your life that is not related to your horse? If so, you could be transfering anxiety from that situation to your interactions with your horse.
                              I was wondering this too. This spring has been unusually stressful and anxiety-inducing to humans everywhere (understatement of the year?). You might need to do some introspection, meditation, whatever helps, and take a few steps back with the horse to cut yourself some slack. He sounds lovely and a return to basics wouldn't hurt either of you. Good luck!
                              Building and Managing the Small Horse Farm: http://thesmallhorsefarm.blogspot.com

                              Comment


                                #16
                                Have you an instructor who can give you the tools to deal with this sort of thing. A good instructor should be able to teach you the necessary reactions you need to use automatically with an overfresh, I'm distracted horse.
                                Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                                Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

                                Comment


                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by springgreypony View Post

                                  It was sort of a gradual process. As springtime started, we had a few rides where he was very fresh, and I felt very out of control, nervous, and tense in a way I have never felt on a horse before. As I kept having those rides where he felt like he was almost to much for me, I started to lose confidence and maybe even a bit of hope. When those rides kept happening, I had developed a much more tense presence on him as I was always ready for him to spook and buck, take off, etc. (I know it is natural and alright for a horse to spook, but it can be a little intense for me!) Even though he has become less fresh as the weather evens itself out, I have just kept that scared presence on him. It feels like there is much more pressure to train/ride a horse well when he is young and full of incredible potential, and with an already weak mental game, it hasn’t been easy!
                                  I have felt the same way with my first horse. He would get tense and spooky and buck for no reason. This made me a very timid rider. I agree with the above responses to take the jumping and flat down a notch for a while and do what makes you feel comfortable. I am lucky to have an amazing trainer who helped me by showing me what to do when I or my horse felt nervous. She would have me do lots of circles, changes of directions and gates. So I would do small figure eights and go from walk trot every 5 -10 steps. This helps me relax because I am thinking about what's coming next (trot, walk, change direction) and it keeps the horses mind busy on what you are asking instead of being fresh and spooky. While I might be nervous about how my horse feels underneath me it turns that nervousness into productive energy to use to concentrate on getting my horse to relax. This method has usually worked to get my horse thinking and relax, Good luck and hang in there!

                                  The Love for a Horse is just as Complicated as the Love for another Human being, If you have never Loved a Horse you will Never Understand!!!

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    When I bought my mare, she was almost borderline "too much" for me but I felt confident that I could grow into that as a rider and it would stretch me. The first short while was great, but then I started to feel like maybe I had made a wrong purchase and we were not suitable; I wasn't confident on her, spooking made me really anxious and I wasn't making the progress that I remotely imagined. I often ended rides in tears. This went on for a good 6+ months, until around the year mark things suddenly began to work much smoother and I finally felt like we were a team.

                                    I'm so glad I stuck it out because she has taught me innumerable things, but that isn't for everyone. I agree with the advice to dial down your expectations, enjoy what you have in the horse that you have on each day (some days are very different horses in the same skin!) and communicate clearly with your trainer so that she/he isn't pushing you unnecessarily. End rides on a good note, even if that means you're only mounted for 15 minutes if you can feel it might be a bad day for you!

                                    Best wishes and don't get down on yourself. It's a journey, and as mentioned, a long one, so don't feel the need to hurry along!
                                    thebaybondgirl.wordpress.com

                                    Comment


                                      #19
                                      I have an amateur/owner horse that I bought as a coming 5 year old. He's quite literally the most powerful horse I've ever sat on, and was definitely too much for me when I bought him. But I'm on a budget and have always had him in a trainer's program so we've made it through fine and I became a way way better rider from sticking with it.

                                      Mine's antics are definitely worse in the spring. Hormones. Cool fresh air with few bugs and lots of yummy spring grass. When mine is bored and fresh, he amuses himself by spooking at things he's seen a hundred times. Trot too close to a jump? Picks up all 4 legs and moves them over. Bird flies up when you're walking by? Leaps into air and scoot off. Endless headshaking. Drama everywhere.

                                      On fresh days (seemingly every day here lately) here are my tips not to die or lose confidence.

                                      Work. Immediately.

                                      Trotting around in large circles will not do you any good.

                                      Walking? Then you are lengthening and shortening while you are walking and doing lateral work. Shoulder in. Haunches in. Leg yields.

                                      Trotting or cantering? You're doing circles and changes of direction and transitions constantly. Both within the gait, and between gaits. I do not go more than 10 strides or steps without changing something. Left lead, circle left. Trot 5 steps. Pick up right lead canter and circle right. Go forward out of the circle. Walk. Canter right again. 10 strides later, walk and pick up the counter lead. Go 10 strides. Halt. Back. Walk off. Trot 10 steps, canter true lead for 5 strides, trot and circle, using your leg yield to spiral in and then back out. And on and on.

                                      Do this and he does not have time to spook. He is paying attention to YOU and ONLY YOU. And riding like this tires him out mentally and physically much faster.

                                      Comment


                                        #20
                                        Originally posted by springgreypony View Post

                                        No, he has been on the same supplements and feed since I have owned him. I am guessing it was just the sudden onset of spring weather that was causing him to be so excitable? And I probably just wasn’t prepared for it...

                                        Also, thank you to everyone for the insight. I will be riding again tomorrow and we will try to take it slow. Something I heard lately is that “it is a marathon, not a sprint” and to enjoy the process. Maybe this is a reminder to take it slow and remember why I love riding in the first place.
                                        Feeding changes with how much grass they are getting as well as how much work. It is the extra grass in springtime that makes the change, not just the weather.
                                        It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

                                        Comment

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