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How to deal with timidity?

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  • #21
    Originally posted by talkofthetown View Post
    I have had similar fears of jumping, though luckily nothing so extreme that it's crippling (all my "bad" falls were when I was still an invincible, bouncy little kid). My first pony was a beast when it came to jumping...I swear he was a TB in a previous life. But if you didn't ride him exacty. right. to every fence, he'd stop dirty. It did teach me to stick, but it also really taught me to be scared of the possible refusal. It got so bad that I started anticipating it, so even on other horses, I would end up causing the refusal.
    I ended up getting some great lessons on my trainer's horses, and while I'm still not fearless, I am at least confident enough that I know I won't DIE every time I go over a jump. So the horse I was on really snapped me out of it. Sounds like you're doing the same thing on your steddy eddie. Keep it up, don't beat yourself up! Sounds like you've already come a long way
    That's where I am at the moment... my horse started learning to jump shortly after I was learning to jump, and since he's already inclined to worry and spook, my lack of confidence and comfort with jumping allowed him to develop a stop. I am now so tense and nervous about him stopping that I have to really work to overcome the same tenseness and fear when I ride reliable horses. I am dialing it back--working on jumping only on school horses to work on myself, working on only flat work with my horse, and asking my trainer to come out and jump him to give him more confidence. I don't plan to jump him again myself until I feel confident that he won't refuse or spook and feel confident that I can *be* confident on him without resorting back to the bad habits I've developed.

    There was an article a while back in PH, I think, about the learning zone--just beyond your comfort zone--as opposed to the fear zone, where your brain and body just shut down and can't learn. As someone who really started riding as an adult, I have always had a lot of fear but pushed myself anyway; I am starting to get better at recognizing where the boundaries of that learning zone are (and that they can change from day to day, as well). I am trying not to get upset with myself if I "wimp out" and avoid something that scares me, because ultimately my goal is to enjoy my horse and be a better rider for him, and I can't do that if I'm not in a mental and emotional state that allows me to learn and develop.
    "Remain relentlessly cheerful."

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    • #22
      Originally posted by jonquil View Post
      Crone- that is my story exactly, even to the 35 years. Sometimes you just have to invent a new reason for riding and go with those pleasures instead of the ones that used to motivate you.
      So true. As a kid I did the Arabian breed shows on a nutjob park horse. I miss the me that could ride that loony horse, but I'd feel like a total fool trying to re-inhabit that world nowadays.
      Dreadful Acres: the chronicle of my extraordinary unsuitability to country life

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      • #23
        Originally posted by SarahandSam View Post
        There was an article a while back in PH, I think, about the learning zone--just beyond your comfort zone--as opposed to the fear zone, where your brain and body just shut down and can't learn. As someone who really started riding as an adult, I have always had a lot of fear but pushed myself anyway; I am starting to get better at recognizing where the boundaries of that learning zone are (and that they can change from day to day, as well). I am trying not to get upset with myself if I "wimp out" and avoid something that scares me, because ultimately my goal is to enjoy my horse and be a better rider for him, and I can't do that if I'm not in a mental and emotional state that allows me to learn and develop.
        That explains a lot...

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        • #24
          Originally posted by The Crone of Cottonmouth County View Post
          I maintain that all of us re-riders are scared shitless.

          I took 35 years off after the usual fearless horsey childhood.
          Rofl, see...everyone says this, but I don't get it. I was a nervous wreck as a kid/teen (not LITTLE, bouncing off my backyard pony I rode helmetless and with baling twine tied to the halter or doing crazy things with my friend's QHs, but 12+, riding with a trainer and my OTTB.) Never really got to a point where I felt comfortable jumping him. The first time I rode after he died was five years later, on future-BO's pinto on a hack around the place while I was waiting for Lucky to be delivered. When he decided to spook, and nothing happened except I stayed on, I think something switched off in my head. Then once Lucky arrived, he was so blase about everything, once I started riding him I started not worrying as much. I've done a lot of things with him I would never have dared with Old OTTB, not because he wouldn't have handled it, but because I wouldn't have believed he could. I think as an adult I have much more rational risk assessment skills--I can tell a pending disaster from a minor hiccup a lot better.
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          • #25
            Oh yes. I get nervous and excited every time I get on. I got my dream horse and she's a BIG girl with a BIG stride and a BIG jump and I'm just a plump out of shape novice. My trainer told me if this is the horse I wanted, that it would be painful at times. She put me in the hospital with a concussion. I had to decide to step up or it wasn't going to work out. I focused on flat work - without poles even! - and learning how to handle her powerful canter. It took a year to jump her. But I'm a much better rider now.
            You need time in the saddle. You need to push through it. Next time it's less scary. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Push just past your comfort zone and keep doing it. It's the only way to learn and not let the fear take over. The key is knowing where that line is and facing it. Don't expect leaps and bounds. Baby steps on a regular basis. It can be done.
            Don't measure your progress against anybody else and don't let anybody pressure you. Your progress should be measured in how much you achieve versus what you were comfortable doing.
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            • Original Poster

              #26
              Thank you all for the insightful posts. It really has helped a lot reading your experiences. I think I will bookmark this thread and return to it whenever I'm feeling discouraged. Like today: for some reason, from the moment I got on, I felt like my nerves were raw. There was no explanation for it. Horse was fine, nothing awry. I went ahead and rode around at the walk and trot, feeling frustrated at myself for feeling that way but at least I was going through it. Then, all of a sudden, my trainer left the arena and came back with a lunge whip. One of my biggest fears is people on the ground making the horse I'm riding 'go'. Still, I didn't say anything. She had the best of intentions; she wanted to help me since I had a hard time making him canter and stay cantering the last time I rode. But I was panicking, and I didn't know how to explain it to her. She got kind of frustrated with me, and I felt horrible. I told myself she has faith in my ability and it must be frustrating to see a student with potential limit themselves. Finally, a fellow student encouraged me to try again, and I did. That time I did it. I made him canter, and I stayed with it, several laps around the half of the arena. I was still leaning forward, but I pushed through it. She told me I should be proud of myself, but I wasn't really, but I thanked her for her support. I think if I keep at it, I WILL break through. It won't be easy but it'll be well worth it. My fear issue is complicated by the fact that I have anxiety on a daily basis, in every day life. Even with NO reason to be afraid, I will feel panicky and I have to fight through it. I chose not to take medication, but I'm re-thinking that decision. I can't let my anxiety run my life. It has so far. It's the reason I'm 25 and working as a restaurant server when I could have so much more. And there was a time when I couldn't work at all, so I've actually made progress. Just have a long way to go. Thanks again for your advice and suggestions. No matter what, I can't give up. I will try and fight as long as it takes until I become the rider I want to be.
              I saw the angel in the marble and I set him free. - Michaelangelo

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              • #27
                No, no, no! Your trainer needs to allow you to say "not today" and you need to be able to say "not today" without fear of frustrating her. You will regress at times, but that's normal. No part of riding improves in a steady uphill line. There's a reason we call it the subconscious and if you fight it too much you can make it worse. You can't learn if there's too much fear.

                Straight up - my jumping fear came from riding a horse with an unknown physical issue that made it impossible to tell if he was going to jump until he actually left the ground. We found the issue and I understand EXACTLY what the problem was - okay? Like totally every detail of why. My subconscious STILL maintained that I couldn't know if the horse would jump until he was in the air - and this went for ANY horse, not just the one with the problem (who was retired from jumping BTW). And that fear was what I had to work through.

                You MUST be able to say no at any time without having to make it a big deal. It's your out. You won't want to use it, but just knowing that it's there will help you be brave enough to try a little bit more. Part of working through the fear is gaining the subconscious knowledge that YOU are in control, and if you let your trainer railroad you then you don't have that control and you can't ever convince your subconscious otherwise. Please have a little talk with her before your next lesson.

                Be kind to yourself. You can do it. Keep looking at how far you've come.

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                • #28
                  Oh my gosh, if my trainer came at me with a lunge whip I'd faint! Do you trust her? Because that can make all the difference, too.

                  I get not wanting to disappoint your trainer. I've got an awesome instructor, she's a septuagenarian, not a bully by any means, but very old school hardcore George Morris. She has a bunch of teen superstar students who win everything, and then there's me. I respect her a lot, and hate disappointing her, but we both know I'm not A-show material, and dang it there are times when I just have to say "Sorry, no way I'm doin' that, let alone with my eyes closed in half seat without stirrups." Sure she gets annoyed, but I gotta keep it real. As in "suck it up, lady. You know I'm chicken, and if you don't like it, fire me already." But she doesn't fire me because I'm just that lovable!

                  A lot of the advice has been to push yourself out of your comfort zone, but I'd consider staying in your comfort zone as long as you effin need to. You will naturally progress, it'll just take some time. Like after my fall, when I'd been leading my horse around for 6 months instead of riding, one day I just hopped up bareback. It was a huge step forward, but I wasn't out of my comfort zone in the least. It just felt like the right thing to do at the time. No panic, no trauma. Apparently I'd just needed six months to reestablish the trust thing with the mare. Slow and steady and a pitcher of margs, that's the motto of the Crones.
                  Dreadful Acres: the chronicle of my extraordinary unsuitability to country life

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                  • Original Poster

                    #29
                    Originally posted by The Crone of Cottonmouth County View Post
                    Oh my gosh, if my trainer came at me with a lunge whip I'd faint! Do you trust her? Because that can make all the difference, too.

                    I get not wanting to disappoint your trainer. I've got an awesome instructor, she's a septuagenarian, not a bully by any means, but very old school hardcore George Morris. She has a bunch of teen superstar students who win everything, and then there's me. I respect her a lot, and hate disappointing her, but we both know I'm not A-show material, and dang it there are times when I just have to say "Sorry, no way I'm doin' that, let alone with my eyes closed in half seat without stirrups." Sure she gets annoyed, but I gotta keep it real. As in "suck it up, lady. You know I'm chicken, and if you don't like it, fire me already." But she doesn't fire me because I'm just that lovable!

                    A lot of the advice has been to push yourself out of your comfort zone, but I'd consider staying in your comfort zone as long as you effin need to. You will naturally progress, it'll just take some time. Like after my fall, when I'd been leading my horse around for 6 months instead of riding, one day I just hopped up bareback. It was a huge step forward, but I wasn't out of my comfort zone in the least. It just felt like the right thing to do at the time. No panic, no trauma. Apparently I'd just needed six months to reestablish the trust thing with the mare. Slow and steady and a pitcher of margs, that's the motto of the Crones.
                    Exactly. I do not do lunge whips! If I'm even afraid to use a dressage whip/crop on a horse, that should tell you something. I do trust my trainer, but as my fellow student was saying, she doesn't understand fear like we experience it. I sent her an e-mail a couple of days ago explaining that I do have anxiety on a regular basis, in normal situations, so it's probably not just about the riding. My worst fear is she'll get fed up with me and drop me. Did I mention she's been letting me ride for free in exchange for some work? I'm afraid she'll decide I'm not worth the hassle, especially since she doesn't understand how paralyzing this fear is yet how badly I want to ride. That would just completely crush my confidence. I'm only just starting to get a little more comfortable around the barn, talking to people, etc. I don't think I could handle having to find another barn because my trainer is sick of me.

                    eta: sometimes I wish I could just get a horse of my own, a broke to death one, so I could do things at my own pace and not feel the "pressure" to push myself as much. Then again, my goal is to get where I'm riding better and more confidently, so if I go ahead and buy something dead-broke HOPEFULLY I'd be bored within 3 months. Then I'd have to sell and look for another horse.
                    I saw the angel in the marble and I set him free. - Michaelangelo

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                    • #30
                      Seat lessons helped me a great deal with my anxiety, because now I know I can ride. There's something about being able to do a series of exercises on the longe, no stirrups or reins, that helps build confidence.

                      There's no way I would allow anyone to chase me around with a whip. My mother did that when I was in the 4th grade, and it didn't do anything to help build confidence.

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