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

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

    So today I rode outside in the big grass field with 6 other horses and my trainer because the weather was so nice. I was PETRIFIED. My horse is a total packer who would most probably rather eat grass than canter madly around. However, he was a little "revved up" and was going rather fast (at least to me). And I was a nervous wreck.

    Now: I have had no bad experiences outside the ring in my 6 years of riding. I don't mind doing any kind of ring work or anything. I have never fallen off or had anything happen while on trail or riding outside. So there's no reason I should have this fear, right?

    I can't figure out what I'm afraid of... and that's the problem. Even going on a short trail ride around the barn freaks me out. Any suggestions for a) what might be causing the irrational fear or b) what I can do to fix it?

    TIA, and sorry for the kind of randomness...
    Different flavors of crazy, but totally NUTS. You know its true. - GreyHunterHorse


  • #2
    I know how you feel, I tend to be a nervous person as well. The only thing that's gotten me over it is that I haven't had a ring for several years now so I've had no choice.

    Give yourself time and you'll be fine with it eventually.


    • #3
      I think you're just worried about the lack of boundaries.

      I grew up riding with no arena so it's hard for me to relate. I actually PREFER riding outside.

      If your horse is good about it then you just need to take a deep breath and DO IT! Sounds like you have a good egg. But being out in the big wide open can be scary. You just need to do it more and have more good experiences!
      A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

      Might be a reason, never an excuse...


      • #4
        I found it pretty scary at first too! It helps to create visual points to work around, so you don't just stare at the vast open space and freak out. I used to even use manure piles in the pasture to do patterns. Or you can use discolored patches of grass, stones, fence posts, trees or other objects to make a plan. Having a plan keeps your mind busy!


        • #5
          we all have something that rattles our nerves./

          Try riding outside with a friend who is comfortable riding outside. having a friend along, a confident one, will probably put you at ease as well. Also try riding in a large pasture (without the horses in it - if you are still on AM turnout this time of year, that should be do-able). In the pasture you may feel more comfortable knowing that you are somewhat confined from there you can branch out to larger fields/open spaces, etc.

          Regardless I think having a riding partner will help. even if its just for conversation, it will help take your mind off of your F.E.A.R.S (false expectations appearing real).
          \"A smart lady knows its ok to change her mind, a damn fool never does\"


          • #6
            I grew up in the hunter/eq ring and later switched to dressage. I rode for nearly 15 years before venturing out into the wild! So trust me, I know how you feel!! I felt like a powerless blob of jelly as soon as the arena fence ended.

            The solution was to go out on the trails with a really quiet group of horses (especially the one you are riding). I'd basically force myself to go out and just walk for thirty minutes. It took about a year of constant trail riding to get over it. To give you hope, I now take my OTTB who is 7 to hunter paces regularly. And believe it or not my friends are usually the ones telling me to slow down because they are getting nervous! There is hope.


            • #7
              Ditto what twofatponies said. Create boundaries for yourself. Ride along something like a barn or fenceline just like you would the fence in the arena. If you can, ride all the way around the outside of the arena- staying right next to the fence. Find jumps, cones, rocks, etc. and walk a circle around it- or ride a circle between the rock and the jump.

              Once you feel comfortable with making your own boundaries, you may need to deal with the 'speed' and 'being taken off with' concepts. I've found it helpful to get on the quietest, deadest horse possible and try to gun it. It will be scary, but let go and see how much speed you can possibly muster. Then take a deep breath, count to ten and stop. It helps you to get comfortable with speed, and with the idea that you can still control the horse at speed. If you don't know how to pull up a runaway- ask your trainer to teach you. Skills can be empowering.


              • Original Poster

                Thanks! All the suggestions are really helpful. Now to go and actually put them into action...
                Different flavors of crazy, but totally NUTS. You know its true. - GreyHunterHorse



                • #9
                  My older gelding has been on rehab for a stifle injury for over a year now, and I've walked many, many miles in the process of bringing him along. He has become the most reliable horse in the barn to trail ride as a result.

                  I now have folks lining up to take their new/spooky horses or scardy cat selves out with my guy because he is so calm.

                  I've found that the folks that are worried about being out of the ring do best just going up and down the driveway a few times a week, then around the barn, then out around the pastures, both directions. Eventually we work up to the neighboring jump field (I put my guy between the open field and their horse) and the quiet lane running next to the barn.

                  We meet barking dogs, deer, wind, squirrels running up trees, cars, tractors, hay wagons, four wheelers, golf carts, other horses, mowers, etc... just in our jaunts around the farm. Their riders, who at first are nervous at every new experience, learn their horse's reactions to various stimulii and become more and more relaxed. If you KNOW your horse, you'll be much more confident when you're out and about.

                  Good luck!
                  Riding: The art of keeping a horse between you and the ground.


                  • #10
                    You are SO not alone in your fear... I know a ton of people who never ride outside of an arena. Heck, I know people who never ride outside of an INDOOR arena, even when a perfectly good outdoor one is available and the weather is to-die-for. I suspect this is probably one of the more common horse-related phobias, if my circle of experience is any indicator!

                    I was fortunate to have a few years as a teenager where I had free use of my aunt's pasture-pet QH, so for years I did nothing but ride outside on trails-- there WAS no ring to ride in. Even though my current boarding barn has an indoor, I still ride outside/out of the arena(s) as much as possible; I think it's healthier for my horse's well-being as well as my own sanity.

                    I will say this much... One tip I have found when riding outside with my 7 y.o. OTTB is that yes, there ARE days when he's fired up-- and the WORST thing I can do when he's a nervous ball of energy is to halt him or make him slow down. When he's tense, I TROT-- when he's expending forward energy, he's MUCH less likely to have an outburst than if I make him stop and stand still. When he stands still, he seems to take the time to plot and scheme ways to get even MORE upset. So, with my horse, when in doubt, ONWARD WE GO.
                    *friend of bar.ka

                    "Evidently, I am an unrepentant b*tch, possible trouble maker, and all around super villian"


                    • #11
                      To get over my fears of riding outside I:

                      1: bought a grab strap. I ride my horse on a loose rein on one side but with a some contact with the other hand. I also hold the grab strap with that rein hand. That way, if something happens I have a bit of rein to get to. The grab strap makes me feel more secure.

                      2: when ever something does happen, like a spook, I tell myself "Well, I survived that just fine." Or I will say outloud to my horse "We survived OK" or "We are OK."

                      3: I talk to my horse all the time. First, to alert any wild life that we are around and second, to keep me breathing. If you hold your breath and get tense the horse will know.

                      4: take small steps. Maybe lead your horse around in the area first, have the trainer ride him to see how he's really acting out side and how he responds. Only ride a little ways out into the open area, staying away from the sides (and hidden wild life) until you feel more confident.

                      5: LISTEN TO YOUR SELF. Don't let anyone push you into doing more than you are ready for. If you are feeling not good about a situation, get off and try it another day. I think it's better to listen to your gut. In time, you will start to feel more brave. Especially as you deal with spooks and the like.

                      ETA: It's been a 14 year process of getting bold enough to go outside. I still get nervous and I still use my grab strap. The reason for letting it be slack on one rein is to keep my horse relaxed. It's one of the reasons I have the goal of doing BN eventing. I too remember care free days charging around willy-nilly. I want to prove to myself that I can get over this and handle a horse outside.

                      On my new mare, about 2 weeks ago, I was nervous on her walking out on the quiet road in front of our barn. When she started to act a little nervous like she wanted to run for home, I simply got off and walked her back.

                      I don't see any reason to push an issue to have a potential bad outcome. We are taking it a little bit at a time and eventually, we (the horse and I) will be OK.
                      First, say to yourself what you would be. Then do what you have to do. ~Epictectus


                      • #12
                        I have taken the slow route to working out of this phobia. I walked around the barn then I graduated to walking around the fields (panic when I couldnt see the barn anymore!) Then I trotted and finally after years, I cantered. My horse rarely took a wrong step but I still had my own issues.

                        Then a relatively new rerider said to me "I cant wait until I am as brave as you, so I can ride outside"

                        Its all relative I guess


                        • #13
                          I had my instructor put me on a lunge line when I first went out into the field. Once I realized that he wasn't going to do anything she took me off.

                          At first I did circles close to the instructor and gradually made my way further away from her. Now, although I am not 100% "cured", I am more comfortable going out without the lunge at all.

                          As for trail riding I have done trail riding lessons - the instructor came out with me and we did our lesson out on the trail. Before that happened, though, I had been ponied one time and she had walked beside me around the barn area where spooky things like the windmill, smoking barrel and the whirlygigs were so if he had panicked she was there to grab the horse.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by twofatponies View Post
                            I found it pretty scary at first too! It helps to create visual points to work around, so you don't just stare at the vast open space and freak out. I used to even use manure piles in the pasture to do patterns. Or you can use discolored patches of grass, stones, fence posts, trees or other objects to make a plan. Having a plan keeps your mind busy!
                            Exactly, have a plan. Make a few boundries with cones, rocks, manure piles, straw bales etc. If your friends on horseback are game ask them and their mounts stand around the boundries. You can make the transition from arena to field as gradual as you want. Also remember that most horses prefer fields and work happily in fields. Your horse will thank you for making the transition out.
                            You know, everybody thinks we found
                            this broken-down horse and fixed him,
                            but we didn't. He fixed us. Every one of us.


                            • #15
                              I am reading some of you all's posts and it's breaking my heart! How hard it is to want to do something you love so much yet fear more! I applaude you all for getting out there and working through your fears! I've always been a trail rider so my initial fears was cantering and then galloping.

                              Once I finally was comfortable cantering I felt like I conquered the world! LOL! And then to actually gallop, man I remember the TERROR the first few times I did, and luckily I had such a saint of a horse, her gallop was smooth and not that fast so she was a good teacher for ME! Her patience and fast reactions (to me bringing her back down after about 10 whole steps at a gallop) really helped me overcome my fears.

                              If your horse is confident and has been good as gold, relax, breathe, let HER take care of YOU!
                              I want a signature but I have nothing original to say except: "STHU and RIDE!!!

                              Wonderful COTHER's I've met: belleellis, stefffic, snkstacres and janedoe726.


                              • #16
                                I have gone through that. Only last summer with the horse that I trust did I feel good enough to canter in an open field. My biggest thing still is that I don't like cantering around corners that we can not see around. I am like that even on a bike or driving. IF I can't see around the corner I will not go full out.

                                My horse LOVES to have a good gallop in an open field. Besides jumping, that is the closet I feel to flying!
                                OTTB - Hurricane Denton - Kane - the big dog!
                                Tuggy - RIP 9/12/2016 - Wait for me at the bridge
                                Foster LolaMaria AKA LolaBean (Boxer)


                                • #17
                                  I am PETRIFIED of riding outside the ring also!But for me, its about the footing. I am SO SCARED of my horse tripping and falling, which is weird because that has never happened to me. I am fine with actually I love) a walk only trail ride. But CANNOT trot outside the ring. It just never comes up for me because no one at my barn rides outside the ring.
                                  When the boogeyman goes to sleep, he checks the closet for George Morris. -mpsbarnmanager


                                  • #18
                                    Oh, my heart bleeds for OP! When my class went outside the ring for about 20 minutes one day, I was blindsided by how freaked out it made me. We were between the arena and a pasture, so it was almost like a mini-arena, but there was - irregular footing! Dear Jesus! Help! And - rocks. I obsessed over the difference between arena dirt and non-arena grass/dirt for nearly the entire time. My near-comatose school horse just kept on keeping on, mostly ignoring the freakazoid on his back.

                                    I have ridden outside while trail riding on vacation, so it wasn't that really that. I think the problem was the sudden introduction of a semi-familiar experience (non-arena horseback riding) at a very familiar place (lesson barn) where I almost never ride outside an arena. And apparently, trying to bring 'riding outside a ring' into the slot reserved for 'my riding lesson' just blew my mind.


                                    • #19
                                      I grew up at a barn that had about 60 acres with lots of cross country jumps and several outdoor arenas that weren't really fenced - so fortunately I've had a lot of opportunity to be outside the ring.

                                      However, I do sometimes feel anxious when I'm on an unfamiliar horse outside of the arena. What helps me is knowing I can stop him if things go ary So practicing the one rein stop within the arena is very useful. Also, when you start to feel nervous, feel the rhythm of your horse's walk and how your saddle moves like a rocking horse - then pick a song and sing it to yourself to the rhythm of your horse's walk. Then listen to your horse's hoofbeats, listen to the birds sing or the wind blowing through the trees. This helps you relax and to think about something other than being nervous. Just enjoy riding
                                      "Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you're a thousand miles from the corn field." --Dwight D Eisenhower

                                      Boston Terrier Rescue of NC - www.btrnc.org - Adopt for Life!


                                      • #20
                                        As recently as a year and a half ago, I was afraid to leave the safety of the arena. It was a fear that developed late in life after some challenging horses. I spent a few months getting myself (and my horse) over it. That was the fall of 2008. All last year I rode out more than in. This spring, we picked up right where we left off. Saturday was the first day there was really firm ground for galloping, and we made good use of it. My horse even threw in a few joyous forward leaps, and none of it phased me. I realised a week or two ago that am now the rider I used to be. It took a concentrated effort, but it can certainly be done.
                                        Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans