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Getting Over Fear of Riding Outside The Ring... Help?

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  • #21
    I have a similar problem. The first summer I had my horse, I was intrepid--riding out on the trails on my own, even cantering--and then the fear set in, and I'm not sure why--maybe I just became more realistic about what could happen. She's a total BTDT packer and rarely spooks but can get excited and very jiggy, particularly when she sees another horse galloping or thinks there is the possibility of jumping out on the trail.

    What helped me was finding reliable trail riding buddies with quiet horses. I only do what I am comfortable doing on a given day. I also wear the cross-country vest I bought for my younger horse--makes me feel better, even though I'm the only one wearing one. Finally, I like to take my dog along. He seems to reassure my horse.

    But there are still days when I am nervous. My horse gets "up" when she gets out on our cross-country course or sees the jumps in the woods and thinks there is a chance she could be jumping them.

    I also think mileage helps. After two years, she has finally started to listen to my half-halts. When in doubt, I just plunk her behind the butt of the other horse, loosen the reins a bit and try to relax. Getting nervous or fighting with her just escalates the issue.


    • #22
      Me too me too!!!!

      I am near-phobic about riding outside of an arena. I trail rode and hunter-paced when I was younger.....and now the mere thought of it makes me nervous.

      The barn I'm at now has no access to trails, so to get outside the arena, we'd have to haul out. I could ride in our front pasture, but it fronts a busy road and if a car backfired or someone honked, I think I would die of a heart attack.

      There are a lot of people at my barn that trail ride/cross country school, so I'd have some good people to ride with. I am just totally terrified of doing it! It's to the point where I've considered getting a few Xanax from my doctor and taking one before we go out, to see if it would help.

      My problem is now compounded by the fact that my OTTB has never been out on the trails. He is a pretty level-headed guy but isn't bombproof; the fact that I don't know how he'll react makes me even more afraid to take him out anywhere.

      It's a sucky problem to have, for sure. You miss out on a lot. Good luck to all of us with this fear......
      Last edited by LuvMyTB; Apr. 5, 2010, 05:41 PM. Reason: add more info


      • #23
        Just remember that your horse is ALWAYS outside of the arena... except for when you're on him. To him, it's probably not a big deal at all and is no different- you're just on him instead of next to him.

        I'd recommend going out with fewer horses, at least at first.

        Going outside of the arena makes you a stronger, more capable rider. Once you're over your fear, you'll realize how much FUN it is to go outside! I ride H/J and absolutely love training outside of the arena, like cantering along trains, balancing on hills, jumping natural jumps... it's a blast!

        Best of luck to you


        • #24
          I went on a Rocky Mountian horse-back riding adventure where we on trails all day, forded rushing water, galloped up logging roads, jumping the occassional fallen tree...all with no problem at all. Come home and the thought of riding on the trail on my own horse terrified me. Don't ask me why, I really don't know.
          We began by going out short distances after working and I was still really nervous, although she never did anything. I think doing a little at a time is the key.

          Your beliefs don't make you a better person, your behaviour does.


          • #25
            I was doing pretty well until Fella bucked me off while galloping up a hill last year. Completely my fault, but it set me back.

            1. Take your time, but do something. Even if your "outside" is a couple of minutes around the outside of the outdoor ring -baby steps.

            2. I second the oh crap strap. It's more psychological than anything.

            3. Go out with the right people -reliable steady eddy horses and patient understanding individuals who will know how much to push and when not to push.

            4. SING. The best advice I ever got for trail riding. It was from the trail guide at Gettysburg (yes I took my horse to Gettysburg this Summer -You know what? Motorcycles put bushes in perspective). Singing will help you breathe and relax your butt. Seriously, I get tense I start to sing and my cheeks kind of melt down the sides of the saddle -no joke. Cowboy songs are fun (I started on the trail on June 23 I been punching Texas cattle on the Lone Star trail singing Ki yi yippe yippe yay yippe yay...)

            You are so not alone!

            He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).


            • #26
              My first lessons were in an indoor and even the ride to the outdoor ring was always scary at first. I actually just rode in an indoor again for the first time in almost a decade!

              I suggest riding just outside the ring and have someone ride with you on a very experienced, calm horse. Start off with really short rides - like 5 minutes if that's all that you're comfortable with. It's better to end every ride on a good note than to push yourself too far and have a scary situation.

              I also find that changes in terrain can be scary. Your horse will shift his weight when going up and down hills and it may cause anxiety. Stick to something very simple - like ride around the perimeter of an outdoor ring. Maybe avoid riding near paddocks where horses are turned out in case that excites your boy.

              It sounds like you have a great horse to learn on and like others said, riding outside is amazing. You'll develop a more secure seat, open your options to different disciplines and give your horse something interesting to look at.

              I rode my greenbroke horse outside of the arena at home for the first time yesterday! I'd done this at the trainer's farm, but not at home. He was cautious, but I could tell he was much more interested to get out and see the world, rather than do circles & figure eights in the arena.


              • #27
                There's a pretty awesome thread in the Dressage Forum on fear

                He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).


                • #28
                  I have always ridden trails and outside so no help with the fear, but if your horse tends to get stronger outside and you are worried about brakes don't be afraid to go with a somewhat stronger bit.

                  My last horse (homebred TB stallion), and my current horse (OTTB mare) both trail ride (rode) in Pelham bits. The mare is in a little mullen mouth, tom thumb Pelham, but that little bit of extra brakes can make all the difference in your confidence.

                  I do use 2 reins so I can ride on the snaffle most of the time and only bring in the curb when they need a little reminder about brakes. I addition, knowing I have the brakes, it allows me to relax more and give the horse a longer rein for them to relax. Just make sure your both comfortable with the new bit in the ring before heading out.

                  BTW, if both you and the horse are inexperienced and nervous going out, it might be a good idea to get a confident trail rider on the horse and borrow a packer for you for at least a few rides.



                  • #29
                    Strange what people fear. I grew up riding in pastures (bareback) on barely broke horses. Today, I'll ride my horses anywhere/anytime. When I hear someone is afraid to ride outside of the ring I think, WTH? But then I think, I won't show. I've never had lessons and showing is something that scares me. I've been ridiculed for that.

                    Honestly, if you fell of once and realized it won't kill you, you might feel better. Get that whole thing out of the way. LOL! I bounced off the dirt so many times as a kid that it's not that big of a deal to me. I do wear a helmet now since I came off and landed on pavement last summer. At 47, I stay sore a little longer than I used to but other than that, coming off isn't that big of a deal. Luckily, I ride saints that don't WANT me off. It's always something stupid I did.

                    Just keep trying. The world out of the ring is beautiful to look at from the back of your horse.
                    "Dogs are man's best friend. Cats are man's adorable little serial killer." -- theoatmeal.com


                    • #30
                      Very timely thread for me. I was going to start one.

                      I went to a horse show this weekend and wigged out because he got nervous (always does) at the Paso finos. This time he did a quick turn on the forehand and a bit of a neck shake. That was enough. I stayed on him after the Paso went by. We were in the outdoor make up ring and PF went into the indoor show arena. I rode a little bit longer, w/j/l, and then walked, mounted, back to my stall. And burst into tears. Again.

                      In the last year, I've gotten so I wasn't afraid to ride at home, in the outdoor ring. That's progress from when I was afraid before I even left the house and made up excuses why not to ride today. So improvement over the 4 years.

                      I am afraid of what he might do...where any reaction on his part might end. If I knew the future, I'd ride with the wind...wouldn't we all. But, I have always ridden "safe" horses and never had to learn how to stay on a buck, or a leap, or a rear, or a bolt. So if he did any of those things, I'm pretty sure I would come off, and in fact have come off. I don't fear the broken arm, the hyper-extended hip joint pull...I fear being incapacitated, wheel-chair, can't eat or speak injury. Not even death so much but a life that was perfectly fine and in a instant went to vegetable because I decided to face down a Paso.

                      What I SHOULD HAVE DONE is bring him back out with his halter on, no saddle and stood him where all the pasos were going by. I got help from an owner later that day to expose him to the sound of their pitter-patter and he got bored quickly. But by that time I was in the depths of "why me, my sorry life, everything is a struggle, I'm a loser" pitty party. Then daughter arrived after work, her horse was a nut job. She put him up and we went home the next morning...after more revelry at my pity party.

                      I don't know where to go from here. I keep telling myself I don't even like to show but I used to so until I overcome my fear I won't truly know if I don't like it or if I'm just afraid. I have shown this horse over the last 4 years and daughter has shown him...more than I have...and he's never EVER done one thing wrong. The one time he did (at home) I did come off, got slightly injured altho long healing process. Got back on and wasn't afraid in the least.

                      I'm a mess, been home 24 hours, keep bursting into tears. The only thing I've thought of it to ride more outside the ring, more by the road, gradually getting closer and closer and farther and farther from the barn.

                      There's another show with the Pasos in about 5 weeks. I think taking him for the day, just to expose him (like I should have at this show) and then ride in my schooling saddle and not bother to try to show him. Just see if I can get comfortable riding on the fairgrounds with the Pasos.

                      I don't know....

                      p.s. 66 years old
                      Ride like you mean it.


                      • #31
                        I've ridden my whole life, and when I was young, I galloped horses bareback on the beach and swam them. I competed in jumping..trail rode, and then turned to dressage as an adult. I rode saddleseat, western (Arabs)..on and on.

                        One day, I was riding with some other people on a green mare in some woods, having a great time winding through the trees on the path, and when we got to the edge of the woods, everyone started across a huge open field. I got out in the middle and suddenly had a full-blown panic attack. It was as if the sky was so huge, and the field so huge..I felt like I was in a rowboat in the middle of the ocean...It was like reverse claustrophobia..I hyperventilated...ugh. Anyway, it took a few more rides to get over it, and after that, it never happened again. I did ride with a stronger bit (just in case) when on the trails after that however, but never needed to use it, but it felt more secure to me. Ten years ago, I quit riding due to personal circumstances, and now I have 4 horses. One of them (an Arab mare) is pretty herd bound, but she is ready to go out of the arena, and I have fear. I find the "fear bird" very helpful. I don't really have any fear when I'm onboard, it happens when I'm tacking up, and I have to fight through it a bit. My property is about 25 acres and fully fenced, and this thread is giving me the courage to just do it..baby steps. Fear is, as Paula says, the lies you tell yourself... Anyway, I just remembered the other day, that what I was doing when I quit riding 10 years ago, was training for an endurance ride on my trusty gelding, who has since passed away. Now is now, and I'm going to put his old rig on my mare and go do it....tomorrow...lol


                        • #32
                          Alabama, Have to say I don't think I could ever be that cavalier about coming off. For most people IT IS A BIG DEAL. I don't think making light of it is helpful. I may be wrong, tho.
                          Ride like you mean it.


                          • #33

                            I'd say the first thing you have to do is ease up on yourself. Beating yourself up will not help you get past your fears so it is of no use. I'm no therapist, but it doesn't sound like you're dealing with the fear of riding per se, but with general anxiety. Have you considered talking to a therapist about this? No point having it suck your life away! Aside from that I'd say instead of trying to conquer the Paso you need to re-build your confidence on a steady eddie. Do you have access to one?

                            I have to second this issue about falling not being a big deal. It's not, until you have a pretty good one. It's one thing to come off slo mo into the dirt, but it's another to bust a rib and lie on the ground trying to get your lungs to work. So I think it's reasonable to accept that it could happen, but I won't make light of it.

                            He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).


                            • #34
                              My point was that most of the time, people think it's going to be much, much worse than it is. It scares people more because they've never experienced it. I'm not cavalier. I'm not saying you can't get hurt but most times, you don't. Most of the time you might get a bit bruised and have a kick to your ego.

                              OP, learn how to fall. Practice it so it becomes second nature. I think I learned it my necessity growing up because I didn't have anyone around to teach me but there are people that can help. When I came off my mare head first over pavement, I landed on my hip. Should have landed on my head but I tucked and rolled.

                              You really can learn how to fall off. Practice until it's second nature. I don't come off often but when I do, I'd like to think I know how to protect myself.
                              "Dogs are man's best friend. Cats are man's adorable little serial killer." -- theoatmeal.com


                              • #35
                                I DO HAVE a steady eddy! That's what makes me so mad. I KNOW my riding limitations...I can look beautiful going forward at the right gait. If it gets much beyond that, I'm probably in trouble. And if it gets much beyond beyond, I'm in the dirt.

                                When I came off him last June...a spook reaction to another horse spooking...he did a half spin and I came off the side. Just kind of a slide off...not scary at all. But, really hyper-extended all my hip connective tissues on my right. I got back on (with help) and w/j/l both ways of the ring. The next day I was using a walker. No real damage, but I was done riding until August. I don't want to sit around, healing, instead of riding.

                                And yes, I have a habit of being very hard on myself. The result of a lifetime of people being very critical and very hard on me. I now play THEIR tapes in my head and do my beating up myself. Hard work to over come that. Every thing is hard work...the theme of my pity party. Keeping diabetes somewhat near controlled, keeping my weight from going higher. Seems like I always have a wall in front of me to knock down. So when he jumped at the paso going by...another wall. Instead of fighting, I just cried. Still crying today.

                                I love my horse and he loves me. Tomorrow I'm going to ride...I have no agenda except that some or all of it will be outside the ring, in the yard.
                                Ride like you mean it.


                                • #36
                                  Good, secure tack can give a lot of a sense of security.. I bought a barrel saddle...lol


                                  • #37
                                    Alabama, I appreciate what you are saying. Really. I do. You do realize that most incidents come out of the blue, without prep time.

                                    I did come off once years ago when I was walking my mare over a log. I saw both her knees come up and thought "Oh crap...she's going to jump". So ya, I pushed off her shoulder, tucked and rolled away once I hit the dirt. Knocked the wind out of me and we were several miles from home. So got my wind back, stood on the log to get back on and we went on our merry way...for about 100 feet when she spooked sideways from a mouse in the leaves and dumped me in the middle of the road. Back to the log, back on the horse and a very tight ride home. I was only 30 at the time...bounced much better then.

                                    When I came of last year the entire event was over in about 2 seconds....spin BOOM dirt.

                                    No prep time, out of the blue. I had no idea the other horse was about to spook and bolt in the pasture next to us. So KNOWING how to fall, while valuable, is about as useless as trying to use a credit card where they only take cash.
                                    Ride like you mean it.


                                    • #38
                                      Well, honestly, my first post was to the OP not you.

                                      However, that's why I say practice coming off until it is so second nature you don't have to THINK about it.

                                      I really don't know why you are taking my posts on this so personally. I was posting to the OP.
                                      "Dogs are man's best friend. Cats are man's adorable little serial killer." -- theoatmeal.com


                                      • #39
                                        Not taking it personally, it's the internet. Hard to tell who you're 'looking at' when you speak.

                                        But really, you suggest people ...what, roll off their horses until they've perfected it? Or are you talking about the emergency dismount.

                                        I think maybe I shouldn't be riding then because I can't swing my leg over in one movement either to get on or get off.

                                        I am not critical of your posts. How does one practice coming off until it's second nature. Do you trot along and then just flip off the side? Or at the canter? It's hard to write this and not sound sarcastic but I really can't get a picture of what you mean with the word 'practice'.
                                        Ride like you mean it.


                                        • #40
                                          Could you have someone on the ground walk along next to your horse while you took a turn around the field? Then move to walking with someone else on their steddy Eddie, etc. ?