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For Us Senior Riders - Coping with Fear

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  • For Us Senior Riders - Coping with Fear

    For those riders who are over, say 40, how do you cope with any fears you may have?

    If your horse is acting up, a little fresh, do you immediately fear getting thrown? How do you deal with this fear? Have you been thrown at our age?

    The reason for the questions is I am 54. My two OTTB's that I have been riding have been wonderful. However, the other day, one of them starting to get a little buck on him and I was "afraid" to say the truth. I stayed on, but I am concerned about this now.

    The same day, I was riding my other OTTB out on a hack, train came by, and for the first time, he was acting a little stupid and again, FEAR....fear of being thrown.

    Does anybody else get this concern and how to you deal with us at our age????? Thanks so much.
    Last edited by gooselover; Aug. 3, 2009, 06:04 PM.

  • #2
    60 here. The best way is to be suitably mounted. I am still pretty tough but my reflexes are not what they were, and I do break now instead of bounce although the docs were amazed how quick I did heal.

    The jumps look bigger then they used to too.

    Just remember the lunge line is your friend and that's not being chicken. It's being SMART and probably something you and whatever youthful knothead you were on would have benefitted from when your still bouncing younger self had problems.

    So lunge 'em down and go ahead and pay the Pro to smooth them out for you. You earned it. Nothing to prove by "sucking it up" when your gut says get off.
    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by findeight View Post
      60 here. The best way is to be suitably mounted. I am still pretty tough but my reflexes are not what they were, and I do break now instead of bounce although the docs were amazed how quick I did heal.

      The jumps look bigger then they used to too.

      Just remember the lunge line is your friend and that's not being chicken. It's being SMART and probably something you and whatever youthful knothead you were on would have benefitted from when your still bouncing younger self had problems.

      So lunge 'em down and go ahead and pay the Pro to smooth them out for you. You earned it. Nothing to prove by "sucking it up" when your gut says get off.
      Yep, when that "hump in the back" is there when you get on...hand the little bugger over to the trainer.

      I won't show over anything bigger than 3' anymore. I try to not overthink everything...riding is not really that complicated.
      Surgeon General warns: "drinking every time Trump lies during the debate could result in acute alcohol poisoning."

      Comment


      • #4
        Just a smidge over your "40" mark, but I no longer bounce--I break! I understand your fear. I "go back to kindergarten"! I am not afraid to just tell Trainer Man-today, I'm doing poles on the ground. Or, you ride him first. I won't be bullied into doing something when I get "that feeling". You know the one, that niggling doubt that the horse really is going to blow up over the blue coat tossed on the mounting block or that little gleam in his eye means we'll have on of 'those lessons'? I listen to myself more, I call it self-preservation, not chickening out.

        I agree with being properly mounted. A packer is a gift to yourself beyond measure. Sure, you still have to ride, but the potential for rodeo disaster is taken out of the equation when you know Mr. Pony is going to jump regardless of your stupid antics in the saddle. Ask me how I know!
        Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          These two guys are 5, over 17+H and have been absolutely lovely. This was the FIRST time any of them have remotely thought about anything.

          The horses are at home, I really have no "arena" except for my round pen and then I have my pasture that I ride in. I ride by myself except when DH is around. I do not have a trainer, however, I have ridden and shown for almost 30 years. (not that I don't need a trainer, there is no one near me). I feel like I am riding at home in the rough! No arena, no trainer, no jumps, no nothing....but alot of fun.

          I just HATE feeling that fear!!!!!! I didn't have it until just a few days ago when this happened. I am NOT jumping at this time - don't have any jumps and we are not ready for that yet. I am just working on transitions and getting things down packed. I have one guy that is so level headed that we ride around our small town!!!! He was the one with the train the other day - it was just odd.

          I'm glad to hear I am not the only one that has this fear. It's very powerful.

          Comment


          • #6
            I'm 54. I deal with my apprehension by being prepared. I'm a lot more conservative about what I expect from myself and my horse (the jumps
            DO look bigger over 50!). I stay in regular work with a trainer I have tons of confidence in. And, no little thing, I try to stay fit and do at least a little strength and aerobic training-gotta keep full use of the reflexes I have left!

            Maybe your instructor can show you a few tricks to deal with "happy horse hijinks", like a one rein stop, or pully rein. Also, maybe you can practice some lateral work in lessons, which is a good help with a spooky horse. If it makes you feel more comfortable, use a neck strap-we don't have to prove anything to anyone-we're old, take advantage of it.

            Learn a few tricks, and stay strong enough to sit up and use them-and remember, it's supposed to be fun!

            Edited to add: Sorry gooselover-just saw no trainer. Is it at all practical to find one?

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by gooselover View Post
              These two guys are 5, over 17+H and have been absolutely lovely. This was the FIRST time any of them have remotely thought about anything.

              I'm glad to hear I am not the only one that has this fear. It's very powerful.
              You are not alone. I'm 45, with a horse I've had almost 2 years who was imported from Holland and only 2 weeks out of a field and under tack when I got her as a 4.5 year old - NOT broke or respectful of humans in any way. She's better now, but we've gone a few rounds with her, she still has that stupid WB spook that TBs don't seem to have, and she would still probably spin around at noises or something that alarms her, and I can't hack out alone - most of the time we're in a sand ring or indoor, but I go out in the big field only with another horse, because she'd probably stand up and go back to the barn otherwise.

              When she pulls some crap, my trainer is great about talking me through it, and now he has me trained. The one thing you HAVE to do is put them to work and get their attention. Go forward, change direction every 10 steps, halt, walk, trot, big circle, little circle, gallop forward, slow trot -- keep them really really busy, you get the picture. If you have to be a little rough, it's fine - just try to relax when they start to behave so that your relaxation is their reward.

              By doing this, I immediately get her attention and I quickly turn my fear of getting spun off into an exercise that gets everyone focused, starting with me. Instead of me thinking, "Oh sh*&t, I'm in trouble here," it turns quickly to me acting like a drill sargent and getting her attention, and all of the sudden I'm not so worried.

              And every now and then, especially if it's a cold night in the indoor arena with the wind howling and she's leaping around at the goblins that only she sees, I get off and call it a night. She's actually a very smart and quiet horse -- and easier at the shows than at home.

              good luck - I feel your pain!

              Comment


              • #8
                As a veteran of the Long Stirrup or Rusty Stirrup Division, I see plenty of senior fear including my own in classes. I've been dumped enough in my 8 years of riding to know. Being 57, it isn't coming off. Not like a 12 year old that will bounce, get back on and win the class. Fear is real and trainers that are way younger than the rider need to understand this. I am perfectly happy with two foot, but can and do 2'6". Not going to the Olympics.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I'm 46 -- Got a 3-year old 3 years ago and have eaten dirt 4 times since them -- I have a few friends with screws/plates holding them together thanks to riding accidents, a couple with riding-related surgeries gone bad, and memories of an 'older rider' whose horses I exercised years ago who suffered a serious brain injury -- Today, my boss is here visiting and shared the details of a riding accident her 40-something cousin had 2 weeks ago that nearly cost the woman her life -- So, life's proved to me that my fear is rational --

                  I try to avoid danger when possible -- If I notice my horse is fresh, either before I get tacked up or once I'm in the saddle, I'll turn him out or free lunge him -- Every trail ride or hill work session starts in the ring so that I can figure out how much horse I have before heading out -- I take advantage of trainer rides more than I would have years ago --

                  I try to keep the horse's mind busy so that he's less likely to spook -- A little bit of shoulder fore, keeping my gelding's mind on moving foward and looking away from monstors, does wonders to difuse scarey moments --

                  I'm also a big believer in 'head down' cues to calm a horse although, shame on me, I haven't taught this cue to my gelding yet -- It really only takes 2-3 rides to teach, so you gotta wonder why I haven't made the time over the past 3 years --

                  When my horse spooks, if I survive that first nanosecond without being tossed, I think 'look up, heels down' -- Training myself to do something has helped me avoid panicing -- Looking up and ensuring my base is solid usually buys me enough time to avoid a bad ending --

                  Reading about managing fear, particularly stuff written for equestrians, has been helpful for me --

                  I try to remind myself to trust my instincts -- The latest friend to be injured knew her horse was too fresh to jump, but allowed herself to be goaded into it -- A couple of years ago, I knew it would be best for my youngster's first trail ride of spring to be with 1 or 2 calm trail horses -- Instead I went along on the first barn ride with a large group and ended up setting my gelding off -- Experiences like that have made me more willing to act on my instincts --
                  "I never mind if an adult uses safety stirrups." GM

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I've been thrown so many times in my life, for me it's part of riding.
                    I don't let my mind think about falling off. I take every precaution, but sometimes it just happens.
                    Oh and riding in a soft ring definitely helps, takes the sting out of landing.
                    "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." ~ Albert Einstein~

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Fences definitely look bigger; ground definitely feels harder. If not always brave, I try for courage.

                      Try to start with the assumption that neither trainer nor horse are really trying to get me killed. Thus, trainer isn't going to ask me to do anything or ride anything that's likely to get someone hurt. Plus I'm lucky to have a horse that's fundamentally a good guy, but has enuf of a personality to keep me entertained. Truly think I'd be bored with one that was always good. He's a horse that's pretty easy to ride 95% of the time if you are a good rider.

                      IMHO, pushing a bit towards the edge of your comfort zone once in awhile keeps you from retreating further into it.
                      The Evil Chem Prof

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        It's not just for those of you over 30. I'm 22 and I just sold the TB I had for three years. A couple years ago I was on crutches for 3 months from a fall in the spring (lost that whole summer) and had fallen off him a couple more times in the 3 years I owned him. The fear was overwhelming every time I sat on him to the point where I was scared to ride. I did learn to become a much much better rider (everyone comments on my seat) but it took a huge toll on my confidence. I now have a saint of a mare who is just 3 years old and I broke her myself with the help of my lovely, confident husband. It was the best thing to get a sane sane sane horse who's worst thing is to stop and stare.

                        I am still nervous on her, I just can't help it, but I'm slowly getting over it and it helps me to think about what my instructor would tell me to do instead of thinking omg omg omg. I just think in my head "okay, a little more push from behind, etc etc" and I find myself so much more relaxed since I am not focused on the fear of falling and getting hurt.

                        I'm still in my 20's but I think for me the fear stems from actually getting very hurt from falling. Yes, falls are a part of riding but getting very hurt from them should not be the norm. My TB could shoot me into the ground like a rocket launcher and I did not want to be playing that game.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          57 here. Have two suitable horses, well, one already suitable and one getting there. I ride smaller horses now. Less to manage, lower to the ground. I am 5'7" and 16 or 16.1 is plenty big. Plus I am not having to worry about containing a huge stride.

                          My best helper is my trainer. All I want to do now is 2'6" and she never pushes me. Never makes me feel bad about not doing higher, and when I get brave and do a 2'9" class she is supportive without putting any pressure on me. If I want to trot in and canter out the lines on my green horse, she does not make me feel bad about that. I get to do what I am comfortable with. Thank you KIM!

                          The one thing I wish is that the local shows would have more open 2'6" classes (not restricted to limit riders, green, etc). I think there are lots of older riders that would show more if there were more classes with smaller jumps. I have noticed that the A shows seem to have more 2'6" divisions I could do than the local shows. Also, the open classes are fine. I would rather show against pros than little kids!
                          Rest in peace Claudius, we will miss you.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by gooselover View Post
                            For those riders who are over, say 40, how do you cope with any fears you may have?

                            If your horse is acting up, a little fresh, do you immediately fear getting thrown? How do you deal with this fear? Have you been thrown at our age?

                            The reason for the questions is I am 54. My two OTTB's that I have been riding have been wonderful. However, the other day, one of them starting to get a little buck on him and I was "afraid" to say the truth. I stayed on, but I am concerned about this now.

                            The same day, I was riding my other OTTB out on a hack, train came by, and for the first time, he was acting a little stupid and again, FEAR....fear of being thrown.

                            Does anybody else get this concern and how to you deal with us at our age????? Thanks so much.
                            I wish you were in PA - there's a confidence-building clinic this Sunday to help work through some fears by offering "be prepared" tips -- and allowing riders who are going through this to help each other. (I'm 52 - I know of what I speak!)
                            Hidden Echo Farm, Carlisle, PA -- home of JC palomino sire Canadian Kid (1990 - 2013) & AQHA sire Lark's Favorite, son of Rugged Lark.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              53 here, and still riding and loving it! However, the TB gets a pro ride once a week and on the rare occasion he's being really stupid in a lesson, I will politely ask trainer to get on. My trainers are wonderful and seem to understand that older people don't bounce like the kiddies. To be honest, a genuine buck scares the crap out of me. My horses generally don't spook, bolt or buck, but with a horse anything and everything can and does happen. At my age, I would not select the same type of horse I enjoyed riding when I was younger.
                              It's 2017. Do you know where your old horse is?

                              www.streamhorsetv.com -- website with horse show livestream listings and links.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Haven't quite hit 40, but I'm not naturally brave and tend to freeze and curl up when bad things happen.

                                I firmly believe that horses don't get all their brain cells issued until 9 or 10 years old, and I have no desire to ride the young ones who occasionally lose their minds.

                                I'd say... buy that packer, then make sure you're in reasonably good shape.

                                I've spent a year working with a trainer on core strength, balance and flexibility. The weight loss was a bonus -- I now have a body that does what I tell it to, so when I'm told to sit *up* and hold my position, I actually can -- and what do you know? When I stopped flinging myself up Patrick's neck, he stopped running at fences.

                                Riding is *way* more fun now, and not as scary.

                                --
                                Wendy
                                --
                                Wendy
                                ... and Patrick

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I have been riding on and off for over 30 years, since I was nine... do the math. As a child, I DID NOT BOUNCE. As an adult, I DO NOT BOUNCE. PLEASE, LET THE MYTH THAT CHILDREN BOUNCE END!

                                  Overcoming fear as an adult, for me, has come down to NOT letting myself be pushed what my horse and I can do on that day. If that means getting a new trainer, longe lessons, poles and crossrails, whatever -- that is what I am doing.
                                  "Go on, Bill — this is no place for a pony."

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    PS: Ditto to wsmoak: Pilates, yoga, whatever works. A few lessons with loose reins, or no reins, can also help....
                                    "Go on, Bill — this is no place for a pony."

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      My current solution to dealing with fear is selling the horse that caused it.

                                      I bought what was supposed to be a pretty quiet horse (kids rode him and he was used for lessons) at the beginning of May and a week and a half later fell off him and got a concussion and really banged up. I still don't know what happened, but after sending him off to a trainer for a week we learned that he has a super duper spook in him, the kind where he just takes off for what seems like no reason and doesn't care who is on his back or what is in the way. Of course I saw no indication of this when I was trying him out.

                                      He's a really nice horse, gorgeous and a super nice ride (when he's not being stupid) or I wouldn't have bought him to begin with. I don't want to spend the next 6+ months in intensive work with him when the end result is likely to be that he'll still spook. I've ridden him twice since the fall and have no desire whatsoever to ride him further. I'm always going to wonder when the spook is going to come. I've come to the conclusion that while he might have been the right horse before the fall I've changed as a rider and he's no longer appropriate. Being realistic hurts a bit, but less than another fall will.
                                      Pam's Pony Place

                                      Pam's Pony Ponderings

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I'm 64, and have been riding since I was 7. But I realize that I'm a) not as strong as I used to be and b) not a quick as I used to be. That being said, I'm usually pretty confident, but I'm also not ashamed to hop off if my OTTB gets really stupid, which she occasionally does when outside on the grass. I also only started back jumping a few years ago (after a 30 year lay off!), so that's when I get faint-hearted. I don't see a distance any more and 'keeping a rhythm' doesn't seem to work for me. I find myself in horrid spots at times, and that does scare me. I"d love to know how to get over that. I'm not really afraid of falling off, but I'm afraid of making mistakes and am trying to force myself to show over a 2'6" course.

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