Advice from experienced riders....anxiety during lessons, help!(25 Posts)
First time post in this topic, please be gentle, it is a long one...
I am a "late to riding" beginner , in my late 30s (I still class myself as a beginner, I'm off lead rein, cantering but not jumping). I am not the most confident rider, but regularly ride a fantastic, if occasionally plodding, cob. I adore him and he would never do anything to surprise me. But I do suffer from anxiety ( not horse related, but PTSD) and if I feel I am not in control of a situation I get very upset and this can set off a cascade of anxiety. I have very rarely felt this on the horse I regularly ride, and have gone on trecks while on holiday and at other local stables. I have ridden other horses , no problem at all, until today....
I had a lesson on a different horse! She is a lovely horse, but I just had no control. She is more responsive so the slightest movement set her off. I felt out of control and stressed, and had to stop the lesson and dismount, I just couldn't go on. The teacher kept raising her voice and telling me to keep going, to slow my rising trot down to take control pull on the reins, relax my hand, shorten the rein....arrghhhhhh, she just went on!!!!
Was I being a complete wuss to stop? I understand the teacher wants me to conquer my fears and I do need to be able to ride other horses, but I'm paying for this lesson! I'm an adult and can decide if I want to stop?! And shouldn't it be fun?
Please help, any advice gratefully received. I love horses and don't want to give up. Should I jump straight back on, switch schools or just get a grip?
You should ask your teacher to show you some tactics to stop / slow down a horse. Just spend a lesson doing that and nothing else. It's an entirely sensible way to feel, horses should always be respected for the powerful animals that they are.
But I think it's worth telling the instructor what you want ie to find ways to be relaxed and confident while riding. Of course, not all teachers are equal, so if you keep getting frustrated and anxious then do consider moving, but I'd give it another go first.
You might find that reading a bit about techniques like parelli helps - if you feel more in touch with what the horse is doing/thinking I found it helps a lot in managing your own reaction - if you're tense they will be.
Thank you Sentia, I could really sense the horse was picking up on my lack of control. I don't "gel" so well with this teacher, she can be a little harsh and dismissive sometimes. I've not heard of parelli so will look into it. I really don't want to give up, but every time I think about it I just want to cry 😢
Sounds like a really bad teacher! She should have popped you on the lunge and worked with you to show you how to use your body to slow the horse. Most people naturally curl forward into a sort of foetal position and strengthen their arms putting pressure on the bit, with time and practice you learn to do the opposite, I.e. sit up, relax your arms and use your core muscles to balance. Being on the lunge would also help you do exercises to strengthen your inner thigh muscles like riding with no stirrups or keeping your balance standing straight up on the stirrups, which in turn will make it easier for you to slow your trot.
I'd look for a better teacher, one who can work with you before your confidence is so affected that you want to get off.
Parelli is quite controversial, Google the video where she randomly whacks the blind horse.
Booboo, that sounds just what she was trying to get me to do, to use my core and relax my arms, but I've never been on the lunge before. Using the lunge might have made me feel more comfortable. I have done a lot of work without stirrups, and I must say any lesson where I have started with a bit of stirrup work has always gone well. I think the teacher wants me back on this particular horse for my next lesson, so I will suggest a bit of stirrup work to get my core up.
I haven't seen any of the parelli videos yet, will view them objectively.
I'd stay clear of Pirelli.
It's difficult in lessons, but if I'm riding a horse that I'm feeling uncomfortable on I would stay in walk and concentrate on regular rein changes, until I'm feeling confident enough to do a couple of strides of trot, then back down to walk, stand etc. Better to do less and keep confident than to have a confidence wobble.
I think that was the problem, I was going straight in with this new horse. It would have been better to work on some transitions first, until I felt comfortable.
Thanks for the replies. I'm not going crazy, just need some time (and maybe one of the other teachers). A confidence wobble, but not the end! 🏇
I was going to say similar. The teacher shouldn't have made you carry on trotting if it was obvious you were not comfortable as that is hardly going to help you relax and deal with a more sparky horse. I would suggest plenty of walking, changes of rein, halts etc until you feel the horse is really listening to you and you are both relaxed, then introduce short trots into the mix. Try and concentrate on keeping a rhythm (count under your breath if you want) as this will discourage the horse from speeding up and getting away from you (I also find it helps keep my own anxiety in check) . Half halts are good for making you feel more in control too.
Once you are more confident that you can stop if you want then you will probably enjoy riding a more responsive horse. Your cob sounds lovely but if later on you want to progress to more complicated movements then 'occasionally plodding' might begin to feel like hard work. I would think it's worth having another go with the mare but have a chat with the instructor beforehand and explain you'd like to take it easy this time as you don't want to knock your confidence at this stage. If you still feel she's too much for you then don't be afraid to say so. You can pick up all sorts of bad habits if you are nervous on a horse and it's very hard to break them.
Thanks Pixel. Yes, the cob is absolutely lovely, but he can feel like hard work sometimes.
I've slept on it, and decided to try lessons at a different riding centre ( one I have been to before for organised trecks). They've started providing lessons, so I think a few intensive one-2-ones, in a different setting will do me good. The problem with the current school I go to is there is no guarantee of which teacher I will get (I have tried to request certain teachers before, and they can't always do it)I will explain everything that happened and where I want to start from. All the suggestions have been great. I still feel this school has taught me a lot, they are really hot on technique, I just can't seem to get on with this particular combination of horse and instructor.
Also wanted to mention that I go to a lesson with my DD, aged 9. She seems to have reached a point in her riding and is not progressing. Maybe I am holding her back because we have a lesson together and I am clearly in need of more support than she is 😄
Yesterday really shook me up. I couldn't help but think that if I couldn't control my horse then it might affect the pony she was on...he was already getting a little skittish. I still feel I was right to put the brakes on, but with all your replies I'm feeling I can get back on again 😊
Riding is about having fun. It's not about tensing up and wishing it was over. If you are more confident on a sensible cob stick to a sensible cob. Confidence is the most precious thing for riders.
I've booked in with another school. I had a long chat with them about my experience, and the wobble. They were so lovely and encouraging, and I am really looking forward to the sessions I've booked x
Excellent. Let us know how it goes
I am really surprised at the lack of lunge lessons. Some training systems keep the beginner rider on the lunge for up to two years to develop an independent seat (on a well balanced, active and rhythmical horse that is controlled by the instructor). While I can see that that may be too boring for people who want to have fun not make riding their career, no lunge lessons at all is odd.
Nope, never had a lunge lesson...probably could do with one tho!
A wobble is normal. I've been riding for 35 years and am somewhere between BHSAI and BHSII (for flatwork, lets not talk about jumping). This morning when I was riding my horse in a field he got very spooked by the organised bike ride on the adjacent road. After a couple of circuits of him getting more and more wound up I thought "oh fuck it, let's go home and work in the school there". It just wasn't worth the risk and personally I don't subscribe to the "don't let them get away with it" school of thought. He worked beautifully in the school and we're both in one piece, which we wouldn't be had I persisted with plan A.
Horses are used in the treatment of PTSD - they've been helping soldiers returning from Iraq.
I think if possible tell your instructor what's going on. They should give you techniques for helping. Staying in the moment helps me - as in, OK, so I'm not in control of this canter but hey, it's a nice canter and I'm still on board, breath, relax, oh look, we're trotting.
I cascade too. What if she spooks and j fall off and I hurt myself and... It goes on!
6 years ago I was on the lead rein, and I'm an experienced rider. I'm now schooling at medium level, hacking alone and cantering through open fields
Things that helped
You're a rider that has nerves, not a nervous rider (keep repeating that!)
Stop before you want to. I used to get on and get off. Then get on and walk then get off. Eventually I bored myself so much i actually wanted to trot
There's a place that does a one day course in falling/confidence that is meant to be great, I haven't been though
Try a simulator lesson so you can concentrate on position and not worry
Something different - a hack or trek, ground work, side saddle, something out the norm
Here's the centre
Staying in the moment helps me - as in, OK, so I'm not in control of this canter but hey, it's a nice canter and I'm still on board, breath, relax, oh look, we're trotting.
I like that Gabilan
Good that you've changed riding schools... and yes, lunge lessons will help (as long as the horse is experienced on the lunge). Your instructor sounds awful. There's plenty that can be taught just in walk! Good luck. Just keep breathing!
I was heading on here to say find a new instructor too! The right person makes a huge difference IMO. The most experienced, competent riders can have confidence wobbles, there's no shame in it at all and a good instructor will help you work through them, not shout and ridicule you. Riding is too bloody expensive not to be fun!
Thanks to everyone. I am genuinely excited about my lesson at the new place. I've been there before for treks and always had a lovely time, so hopefully will be back on form soon. I agree with pps, it is too expensive not to be fun!! I have also been revising some breathing techniques I've used for autogenic relaxation ( I was a yoga instructor many years ago)
Will let you know how I get on 😊
Pirelli is a load of old shit, and I'm a bit of a lentil weaver with my horses - barefoot, low starch etc.
After a spate of a&e visits, I finally decided that riding is too expensive to not be fun, so if what you want out of it is to plod around on one very steady horse then do that! For me I felt that having worked as a work rider I didn't feel like I had to prove anything to anyone anymore, so I started to just enjoy riding horses with breaks!
You aren't planning on jumping at the b&c final at HOYS 2017, so it doesn't matter if you don't improve rapidly. I think if you really want to improve you may at some point event up slightly overhorsed but you don't have to if you don't want! Thought it may be worth learning to adapt a bit invade your usual horse is lame etc.
Totally agree Lastqueen. I just want to enjoy a fun hobby, not aim for the bloody olympics! I want to be competent enough to go out on a challenging trek every now and again, and be able to hold my own, especially if I decide to go for a beach ride on holiday for example.
I did it! Had an amazing lesson today, no wobbles. Had a long chat with the instructor and was put on a lovely horse. He was pretty forward in his walk but a steady trot. The instructor was amazing, lots of breathing techniques and encouragement. After every transition (of which we did a lot!) we talked through how it went, if anything felt different and why it might be that way. I'm back again in a few days with DD...and I can't wait! 😀
Thanks to everyone for your wisdom and sharing your own wobbles with me.
Great update, glad it worked out!
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