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First fall off my horse... Need some advice please

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  • First fall off my horse... Need some advice please

    So I fell off my horse tonight. I've had him for a little over 2 years and never come off him before. I've come close, certainly, but not off. We're both fine. I just need some advice.

    A bit of background info might be helpful. This horse was a bit misrepresented when we bought him, and I definitely rushed into it. The first year I had him was hell. I'd make a mistake and he'd pretty much explode. This horse also gets nervous quickly and easily, so if something new was introduced, he panicked. Then I would panic, and it was a vicious cycle.

    In the last 8 months or so he has gotten so much better- relaxed and relatively easy-going. But I'm still afraid of him from our issues in the past. I've been slowly building up my confidence (and his) by taking baby steps, and it's been working. The problem is this confidence is really fragile right now.

    So, long story short, right now I feel fine about riding him (and I did get right back on) but I'm worried tomorrow I'll get on him and panic. I love this horse and don't want to be afraid of him. I try to just tell my myself "Get over it, quit being a baby" but that's not working so well.

    I just need some advice about not being afraid of him, I guess. Is there anything for me to do? I'm tired of being afraid of him, and I am really worried this fall will hurt our confidence. Help please.

  • #2
    Sorry to hear about this unpleasant experience. I am glad you are both okay.

    Can you provide some details about what caused you to fall?

    Are you working with a good trainer helping you?

    That said, I suspect my advice will either go:

    1. Yay! You can finally stop worrying about falling off the horse for the first time! Got that over with! And you're okay!


    2. Why don't you stop riding this horse, and find one to ride that you are not afraid of (especially after two years)?

    I can ride my horses without a sharps container.


    • #3
      I feel like I can relate. I've had my horse for almost two years and it started out really great, calm, the first few weeks, then it's been back and forth, lots of nervousness and then getting above the bit and just being ridiculous and shying at everything and nothing. My first fall was 3 weeks after I got her, when a cat leapt out to eat her and she went off in a bucking frenzy, i eventually lost a stirrup and then decided to bail. That was start of all the nervousness. I've stuck with it and this past month we've made SO much progress, no longer shying at the buttercups along the fenceline, headset much lower and being lovely. Just working on getting her to trust me and building her confidence, now over ground poles (which she was stopping at), hopefully soon over crossrails. I, too, fell today. It's embarrassing and I have GOT to stop hanging on to my reins when I go down (I took so long to hit the ground, i had time to sigh) because it's tearing my hands up. I've lost weight and my tall boots are loose so I double sock when I wear them, and wasn't planning on riding today but when the vet cleared her to ride, I figured I'd go ahead since DD was at an hourly drop-in and I still had time. So then later when cantering, she started doing something weird and wasn't cutting across the ring like I wanted her to, and was leaning for her to do and then all of my weight came out of my heels (stupid slippery nylon kneehighs) and ow.

      When I feel like I'm getting nervous, I take a deep breathe and do a big exhale to try and release it.

      I agree with Martha's two points. Definitely congrats on making this long without a fall! Give yourself some time to think about whether you'll be able to move forward with more confidence building and progressing your relationship with this horse, or deciding that it's time to move on. I told myself that if we didn't start making real progress that I was going to have to face facts that we were not a good match and were not going to move past everything like my old horse and I did, but it's starting to look like we will.
      Gracious "Gracie," 2002 TB mare
      Facebook me!

      I have Higher Standards ...do you?


      • Original Poster

        Yay for quick reply!
        He just up and bolted, I don't know if he saw something out of the corner of his eye or what. We were working on a more engaged canter, which he hates, so maybe he was mad. When he bolts, he really slams his head down and rips the reins out of my hands, so when he did that tonight, I for some reason just couldn't get my reins back. Then I went off when he dropped his shoulder and turned sharp.

        The trainer I have is awesome. I just won't see him until Thursday.
        I have been bringing my old show horse back to work. This old man had torn his deep digital flexor tendon two years ago, and had all that time off. That's when I got the current guy. But Kody (old man) is a schoolmaster, dead quiet, relaxed... It's been wonderful riding him again. He has just enough spunk though to keep things fun.

        It's just not in the budget to get another horse, and all the other rideable horses on the property are lesson horses/ponies in active work. And as amazing as Kody is, with an old tendon tear, fused hocks and bad knees, and mild navicular, it's not fair to him to do much. He's 21 now and has had a job his whole life, so there's some wear and tear.


        • #5
          Are you riding with a helmet and a vest? Both help me not feel so afraid of falling.
          I have a Fjord! Life With Oden


          • #6
            Maybe some ground work would help him. My current horse was very spooky and "high" acting when she was younger. I had a very bad fall off a previous horse and broken bones. When I started riding the mare, I would be scared alot waiting for her to spook. I started going to "bombproofing" clinics and found that if I could see what kind of reaction my mare had to things it made me less nervous. It also made her less reactive. I also started trail walking her to get her out and about(me leading her). I found by desensitizing her to as many different things as possible in several different forums( clinic and real life) she became more tolerant and did not punish me for a mistake I might make.


            • Original Poster

              Thank you for the replies!
              I'm glad I'm not the only one with a horse like this. It feels like it sometimes.
              I always wear a helmet, but not a vest. Might be a good idea. Any recommendations?

              The groundwork sounds good. I think that'll work with him. It's definitely worth a shot. Even though I'm afraid, I love him and really don't want to sell. I guess I'm kinda being selfish about it all.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Kiera View Post
                Thank you for the replies!
                I always wear a helmet, but not a vest. Might be a good idea. Any recommendations?
                Try a variety of vests, choose the best fit & suitability for your local climate - the vest is only good if you actually wear it, so comfort is important.
                The Tipperary still gets the comfort vote (& it washes up nicely) - the color made me
                (call up & speak to the nice folk at Phoenix Performance)

                Your trainer is out thursday, wait until then to get back on the horse have a long chat with trainer about the incident & ways to build confidence, regain balance/control, groundwork etc.

                Do you have a grab strap on your saddle, neck strap on the horse? no reason not to have one or both

                Glad you were not hurt


                • #9
                  Hey, it happens! I used to count how many times I've fallen off... I couldn't after 40 Just remember you fell, and you were not hurt.

                  That being said, I agree with everyone else's advice so far. Bucking straps are underrated, I love them. I would also just focus on confidence building stuff. Hang out with him on the ground, graze him, etc. Bonds are so important, it will help you both trust each other. If you ride before your trainer comes, why not just walk and trot both ways, praise him and call it a day. Nothing wrong with fun hacks, not every day is a training day for the Olympics! Remember why we ride in the first place: it's supposed to be fun!

                  Good luck, you'll do just fine! All of this will make you a stronger and more confident rider in the end


                  • #10
                    OP - you are not the only one w/ this situation - though they are all unique in their own way. My (short version) story: Bought a 6 yr old horse, which was probably misrepresented a bit. He had weird issues that resulted in spins, bolts, etc. Though he was a WB, could put a cowpony to shame w/ his quick turns. Put me on the ground maybe 3 times in the first 8-9 months. Then he broke my foot, bolting as i tightened girth. Sent him back to the seller, who got him resold for way less $$ but that was fine. He just wasn't fun, even others were wary to ride him. About two years later ran into his sire's owner; she knew of this horse and said she heard he had been "overfaced, possibly to point of abuse". That explained gallons about his behaviors.
                    So you have to decide - take on a challenge, work through it if you can, or finding him another home so you can ride something fun. I'm old enough that I want safe and fun.
                    We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........


                    • #11
                      Fella chucked me while galloping up a hill last Fall. I think the difference between a fall and what happened to both you and me (I'm speculating so I hope I'm not going to be completely off base) is that we probably felt completely at one with our horses right up to that time that they tossed us over their shoulders. It's a bit of a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moment.

                      I'm going to second or even third what has been said; an o crap strap (I think it's more mental than physical) and a vest (I think there's some kind of TTouch, Thundershirt effect that comes with wearing that snug vest -I'm only speculating). You already have a helmet.

                      Also; how fit are you? For me I came to realize my reaction time wasn't optimum because I wasn't fit so I went back to the gym and joined cross fit!

                      Take it easy -you'll trust him again.
                      He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).


                      • #12
                        Glad you are okay! It is no fun feeling afraid of a horse we own and love. I had that with a prior horse that I decided to sell , ( don't want to hijack the post with the story) I since got another horse who I feel more confident on, but the one I sold was a more talented and sounder horse...

                        Looking back on the mistakes I made with the horse I was afraid of, my advice is, analyze the BEHAVIOUR of the horse that makes you afraid. You sound like a good rider, so you are afraid for a legitimate reason.

                        Is it bolting/and or spooking? Or stopping at fences, or a combination?

                        Write down the main behaviors of the horse that scare you. Then address the poor behavior both from the ground and under saddle, and work like heck to change the behavior as much as possible, yourself and with a trainer.

                        Imo, we tend to want to avoid the bad behaviors and start tip toing around these horses, hoping nothing will set them off, that we will have a good quiet ride that day etc.

                        I learned the hard way that is the wrong approach...my current horse is no saint and has issues with mini bolting and twirling but I learned from my "mistake" horse to deal with the behavior.

                        Is this horse obedient with you on the lunge line and on the ground, including standing quietly at the mounting block, or reluctance to enter a ring or leave the barn, ec?

                        Big misbehaviors often have their root in small seeming misbehaviors, so analyze that and see if that is part of the mix.


                        • #13
                          To continue on my longish post...I would recommend , inseatd of just cotiniuing on with normal lessons, focusing on solving the behaviors with your horse over the next few months.

                          Looking back on the mistakes with prior horse, I ask myself, what was I THINKING, re, why the heck was I working on a nice trot lengthening when the freaking horse would bolt, why wasn't myself and trainer working on CURING THE BOLTING?

                          There is a tenancy for both rider and trainer to get into denial about these kinds of issues and not focus on addressing them...sometimes another trainer might be needed if the original one has no idea about what to do or is simply working around the bad behavior, re hoping it does not crop up too often kind of approach.


                          • #14
                            We all fall off but not all horses have the inexplicable, wicked bolt with a dropped shoulder specifically to dump you. Some horses are just jerks.

                            Having had one very similar to this one but in a AA trainers barn with Pro rides for the same 2 year period? It never schooled out and he dropped some pretty good Pro riders, 95% of the time he was fine but would hurt you the other 5% of the time.

                            I gave him every chance and am no novice or chicken but...I got to where I could not trust him at all. One winter day he blew in the crowded indoor after being ridden all week, stuck me into the wall head first and knocked a Pony over. Never rode him again.

                            It's OK to be scared of one that can act like that and 2 years is more then enough time to expect a change. IMO you can wear all the extra safety gear you want but you'll still get tossed, it'll still hurt and you'll still be scared of him.

                            Honestly, the only shot you got is to get a trainer on him regularly but,IME, once the behavior is ingrained over a long period of time? It will always be a possibility.

                            Why not have your trainer ride instead of taking a lesson and see if they have any ideas- including a sale or trade. I traded the one I had for credit towards my lovely mare I showed for 10 years and he ended up happy as a pasture companion and occaisionally jumped around a 2'6" course, go figure.

                            Anyway, tough place to be and I know you love him. But he does not love you the same way and may never be the trusted partner willing to take better care of you we need them to be.

                            Dont feel bad to admit the joy is going out of your barn time and you sometimes dread getting on him. After 2 years? Might be time to say goodbye.
                            When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                            The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                            • #15
                              Life is too short and this sport is way too expensive to ride a horse you don't enjoy and/or are afraid of. Talk to your trainer & see if he/she has any plans or ideas that might help improve the situation. However, two years is a long time as others have said. I'd look into options for selling this horse so you can focus your time and money and one that you enjoy and feel safe on.


                              • #16
                                I've been slowly building up my confidence (and his) by taking baby steps, and it's been working

                                This horse does not need baby steps , he needs reform school ! Either sell him, or focus on re educating him to total obedience from the moment someone enters his stall till they mount till they get off. He may need another trainer for this and need ground work and lunging as well as specific under saddle work.

                                There is no way to "will" ourselves not to be afraid of a horse...either the behavior that scares us is addressed so the horse is a lot more predictable and obedient, or not.


                                • #17
                                  I bought a green horse. He would buck, bolt, spook, you name it and I would generally end up on the ground. Got hurt a couple of times, once severely. I could not afford another horse either. So, I just got back on, terrified and shaking, but I didn't see that I had a choice, I was going to ride him. We also were not working with a trainer at the time. For the past year we have had a trainer and that has helped. I have also learned that the more confident I am, the better he is. I can make myself fake it enough for him to believe it. Really I think a lot of it was him being unsure of me and what he was asked to do, he would get frustrated, scared, and either try to run off or have a tantrum. I think at this point, he has finally accepted that I'm not going to let him get eaten and that he is capable of doing what I ask. So no more tantrums. I really think a lot of it is just time and making myself go out there and do it. Some rides were just a few minutes at a walk, but I figured it was ok, since I hadn't gotten bucked off. Maybe you need to just go back to the basics for a while and not worry about pushing him so hard. You didn't say how old he was, but he may not be ready yet. After the last time I got hurt(could have easily been fatal), we went back to walking and trotting. Now almost two years later, we are cantering and I trust him again. Now I wouldn't trade him for anything. I also think that exposing him to a variety of things is good. Ride outside, take him for walks and work from the ground, spend some time doing 'fun' riding rather than work all the time. I really think my horse just would get overloaded and lose it. Sorry if some of this is repetitive, but hope it helps a little. You can do it, if you are convinced that you want to keep him, just slow it down and give yourselves time. Also, if you decide you want to sell him that is ok too.


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Wow everyone, thank you so much. Definitely feel a bit better about this now. To answer some questions.. Bit scrambled post here, sorry.

                                    Not sure about the pink vest, lol. I'll look at other colors- I'm kind of boring. I don't have a grab strap on my saddle, but may borrow one of our lesson ones for a few rides, see how that goes.

                                    We spend time together on the ground, lots of time getting groomed and loved on. Not as much time as I'd like, but definitely some.

                                    My fitness level leaves much to be desired, lol. I try to eat healthy because right now it's been hard to have the time to do much. This schoolwork is running me into the ground. But school is out in 3 weeks and over the summer I want to get fit. That'd help confidence levels. Any ideas on exercises? Anything work well from experience?

                                    This horse will sometimes just up and bolt. He does tend to be a bit spooky, but this is not the first time he's just started running. Maybe he heard something I didn't, I don't know. Our over fences work is much better, he doesn't run out near as much as he used to. He will still way over jump though, sometimes at random (been over the fence all summer last year, and then decided one day to freak out about it) and when he lands he bolts. But he's got great ground manners. All my guys do- I can't stand that impoliteness on the ground.

                                    Will definitely talk to my trainer on Thursday and see what he says. I will probably get on this horse tonight, because we have a show this weekend. If we don't go show, my dad'll be disappointed and I'll feel guilty for backing out so soon. But we'll just (try to) do walk/trot and then call it a day.

                                    Thanks again for all the replies and help!


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Double post.


                                      • #20
                                        OP - My heart goes out to you!!!!

                                        I leased a horse a couple of years ago. I LOVED him sooooo much! He was great to me on the ground, would follow me around the indoor, and would even play a little game of horsey tag with me when I was setting up jumps in the indoor. That said, as soon as I got on his back it was a different story! He would rear for no reason out of the blue, spook at nothing, run away, and buck like you a bronc on the other side of jumps just because he felt like it. It got so bad that I was signed up for a clinic and spent the night before in tears because I was actually scared to get on him!

                                        And yes, I had a trainer - an unscrupulous one - but still a trainer who would get on and school him. The catch was he knew that the trainer would beat the snot of him if he pulled anything on her so he never did.

                                        Anyway, we made it up to about 3'6" verticals when I finally decided I had come off hard way too many time (like more than a dozen), and terminated the lease. At this point, my confidence was shattered!

                                        Fast forward to two weeks ago. I came off my new horse on the back side of a jump and fractured my pelvis. Obviously I'm not riding right now, but I am not worried at all about getting back on, even though this is definitely one of the worst falls I've ever had. The difference is, my new horse is Mr. Predictable. He has his moments, but he does his job honestly. I can control my anxiety because I can practice simple ground work when he's acting up without ever worrying about a spook, or bolt, or buck. It sounds like you do not have that with your horse, and, as crappy as it sounds, it's essential if you want to get over your fear!!! You need to be able to get back to a place of safety when things are starting to go bad. That way, you can relax and work on making a little more progress next time. As others have said, the best way to overcome your fear is through baby steps.

                                        Hopefully, this will help you, and again, I feel sooooo bad for you. Been there, and I don't ever want to go back