Cantering nerves

(28 Posts)
Latestarter1 Wed 13-Nov-13 18:31:06

I started weekly riding lessons in February this year at the grand old age of 54. I was pony mad as a child but we never had the money to pursue my dream of riding and then came a family so no time or money. Now I am finally fulfilling my dream, HOWEVER - it is so much harder than I expected!

I am fine with trot but cantering scares me to the point that it is really starting to stress me out and spoil the whole experience for me. I am never going to own my own horse and I know that I can sit the canter if I have to but I really don't like it so I have decided for the time being at least to just stick to walk and trot. I love trotting and am just happy being in the saddle but I must admit that I do feel a bit of a failure. Does anyone else feel like me or am I just a complete wuss?!

I don't think you should feel a failure at all; it is very brave to start all this up in your fifties! grin

But...I think it is worth, perhaps after a little break from it for a week or two, persisting with learning how to canter properly. Because, in the long run it is a lovely comfy stride and you will feel so glad you can do it and will really enjoy it when you can do it well. Can you ride different horses or do you ride the same one each time? Because different horses and ponies have different canters, some rather bouncy and speedy, others more sedate and rocking, smoother.

A few private lessons on different horses, focusing on the canter, and you will get it!

Good on you for going for it, and the main thing is to keep really enjoying your rides. It hasn't even been a year yet and there is no hurry to be brilliant. But I don't think you need to rule cantering out altogether. Perhaps you just need more time to build up confidence. smile

Latestarter1 Wed 13-Nov-13 19:22:34

Hi - thank you so much for your reply and encouragement! I did my first few canters on a lovely slow smooth horse and it didn't feel too bad at all but she wouldn't keep going for long (just went down the length of the school and stopped which suited me fine actually!) But then I progressed to a more forward going bouncier horse which felt so different and now I am losing my nerve. I make myself do it but am always relieved when it's over which kind of defeats the object of having a fun hobby but you are right, I should persevere - feel the fear and do it anyway so they say!

TropicalHorse Thu 14-Nov-13 03:53:01

Latestarter, can you have some lunge lessons? A very steady horse which will canter gently around on the lunge without you having to worry about steering or keeping him going will soon get you enjoying yourself! Also, a small tip which I'm always surprised that some riding instructor's don't give... when holding the front of the saddle and trying to stabilise your seat, make sure you lean back a bit and pull upwards against the saddle which has the effect of pulling your seat tightly down into the deepest part of the saddle. So many learner riders grip like crazy on the front of the saddle but push against it with rigid arms. Of course this is much easier on the lunge!

Aeroaddict Thu 14-Nov-13 13:49:52

Definitely stick at it, canter is by far the nicest pace. I'd ask to go back to the nice steady horse, and work on making your seat more secure, which will help with the confidence. Have you told your instructor how you are feeling?

Latestarter1 Thu 14-Nov-13 13:53:29

Hi TropicalHorse, I had my last lesson on the lunge as we thought this might help but as soon as the horse takes off into canter my brain just freezes and all I can think of is staying on and wanting it to stop so maybe I am just a lost cause! I will try your advise re holding the saddle though. I usually hold the neckstrap so maybe holding the saddle will help me sit deeper and feel more secure.

SmallBee Thu 14-Nov-13 13:59:59

It's a very good top about using a different horse for the canter. I used to ride to a competitive level but then had to stop at 16, I recently had some lessons & on the first one I was miserable as I couldn't sit to the canter, but once I rode some other horses it turned out that the first horse I rode just had a pace I found difficult.

Latestarter1 Thu 14-Nov-13 14:09:24

Hi Aeoaddict. Everyone tells me that canter is lovely and smooth - I think that's why I found it such a shock as I rather naively thought it would be a doddle! Even on the smooth horse I don't feel I have any control which I think is what freaks me out the most. I do feel I can get into the rythm on her but the problem is keeping her going. By the time I am getting into it she has stopped and unfortunately she can't be lunged (not sure why). Hence the reason for moving on to a more forward going but bouncier horse. My instructor is great but at the end of the day she can't do it for me and my nerves are getting shredded! But I will take all of your advice and keep trying!

frenchfancy Fri 15-Nov-13 17:55:09

Don't rush it. You've only been riding for a few months. It took me a couple of years before I would dare a canter, and a couple more before I was not scared of it.

From what I see one of the differences between teaching here and in the UK is that here (or at least at my school) they make sure you are competent before you start to canter, that means trotting not just rising, but also seated, in suspension, and without stirrups.

DH started a couple of months after you, he is fine in a trot until you take away his stirrups. It will be a while before the instructor gets him to canter.

gimcrack Fri 15-Nov-13 22:23:56

Canter is not smooth! I find it like riding a rocking horse. Make sure your seat is right - I used to sit badly and stay on by balance instead of grip. A good one to one session sorted that out and now I'm more confident. While you build your confidence up, ask for a horse with a smooth canter. Good luck!

Pixel Fri 15-Nov-13 23:56:37

and stay on by balance instead of grip

Can't help thinking you meant this the other way around. smile

OP, it will be lovely if you do eventually enjoy a canter but please don't feel a failure for taking things at your own pace! There will probably come a time when you think "well why not?" and off you will go, but there's no law says you have to.

Latestarter1 Sun 17-Nov-13 12:46:29

Thanks everyone for your replies. I have decided to take the pressure off of myself and not attempt canter for now and see how I feel in the new year. Maybe a few weeks of not thinking about it will make me want to try it again - that's the theory anyhow!

Pixel Sun 17-Nov-13 15:07:31

Well there's no reason why you can't still feel that you are improving your skills. You could get hold of a walk/trot dressage test and have a go at that if you want something to aim towards.

Fwiw my friend does own her own horse and she has never cantered him. She decided long ago that she was quite happy mooching about the countryside in walk and trot and doesn't really care what anyone else thinks. It's not that she isn't an able rider, I remember a pony she backed herself that she could ride at all paces with no tack at all, and we had another trained by her who was the best horse we could ever have wished for. It's just that for her, horses are for relaxation not thrills and competition, and there's nothing wrong with that, she's the one paying the bills smile. I'm not saying you should be the same and rule out cantering altogether, just mentioning because you said "I am never going to own my own horse" as if that made a big difference to how YOU enjoy your riding.

SlowlorisIncognito Tue 19-Nov-13 23:52:08

Are there any safe tracks you could go out for a canter on? I know this is often unfortunately not possible, but maybe if you are just going in a straight line with your instructor on a steady horse in front you will feel more safe and have less to worry about in terms of steering. In general, when out horses are bit more enthusiastic, so you will have less to worry about in terms of keeping the horse going.

However, I know I am lucky where I live to have lots of safe, accessable hacking, and even more lucky that I can ride on the YOs land so I don't have to worry about meeting anyone/anything, and this is not always possible everywhere.

Equally, if you want a break from cantering for a couple of weeks, then tell your instructor this. I am sure there are other things you can learn in walk and trot, such as school figures, lateral movement and maybe a little work over poles on the ground. Given time, you may find yourself wanting to have another go at cantering!

Lasvegas Wed 20-Nov-13 15:38:06

I cantered in the school at the weekend, i usually canter on a hack. So it had been a long time since I cantered in the school. It seemed so fast i think because of the corners. he is my loan horse so i know him well, but even so felt fast. On a bridle path I personally find the canter easier as I am not steering. just ducking low branches.

I only got my loan at age 43 years. So much better than a riding school.

5OBalesofHay Wed 20-Nov-13 18:55:12

I would definitely try to start cantering out on hacks, in a straight line to begin with. Also, what is your aim with your riding? Do you need to canter in the school? If not then why worry. Just enjoy yourself.

Latestarter1 Thu 21-Nov-13 13:04:26

The hacking at my school is very limited (mostly roadwork). There are other good hacking facilities around but I wouldn't be familiar with the horses or hack leaders so I don't think I would be confident enough at the moment but it is something I would love to do and is what I had in mind when I took up riding (visions of black beauty and all that!) But that was before I realised it looks sooo much easier than it is!!

There is no pressure at all from my instructor but she said she would not ask me to do anything I was not capable of and I believe her as she is quite strict and knows her stuff so I know I am capable, it is just my nerves holding me back. However, all your replies have convinced me that I will be missing out if I give up cantering altogether so although I have decided to have a few weeks break from it I am now determined to master it eventually. Thanks for everyone's support and advice. I love this forum!

goodasitgets Thu 21-Nov-13 14:58:55

Definitely have a break. Then maybe try trotting half a circle and cantering half then repeating
I was scared of cantering (and I've ridden for 25 years!) and what I did was practice trot - canter - trot as it was the transition that scared me
Eventually I did it so much I got totally bored with it!

WillowKnicks Thu 21-Nov-13 15:16:02

I'm like Pixel's friend as in I don't canter because I just don't want to & if I'm REALLY honest because I just don't like it anymore.

I have my own DH & she will happily let the youngsters canter off without her, though we have had a couple of times when she has decided she is going & we've had a good old surprise uncontrolled gallop canter grin

I used to feel bad about it & felt that I really SHOULD be cantering but then decided that she's my horse & as long as we're both happy doing what we do, bugger what other people (my DD being the worst!) think.

ThatVikRinA22 Wed 15-Jan-14 03:19:38

ou are not alone op.....

i worry about cantering because im like a sack of spuds in the saddle and i worry about hurting the horse.....

ive taken a few months sabbatical. i actually enjoy just working with the horses more than riding them i think because im a bit rubbish....my instructor is however a complete control freak (tho i do love her) who wouldnt take me off the lunge.

i want to get back to it. my friend has just bought a horse - she hasnt ridden for years and bought a 5 year old warm blood....

i think i might need to just get my own to do my own thing. biding my time until finances allow

LucyHoneychurchsPiano Wed 15-Jan-14 10:11:03

Latestarter - how are you getting on? I used to be fine cantering until a few weeks ago, I've become tense after riding a horse that threw someone recently and am now also being held back by nerves. Funny as I've never been anxious before, really. I think a lunge lesson would do me good, did you find it helped you improve your seat at all or lesson your feelings of being out of control? I want to have realistic expectations grin

Waves at Vicar - reading about your enthusiasm for horses gave me the final push to return to riding, so thank you for that (eyeing up the costs, DH may thank you rather less!). I know you're taking a little break at the moment, but have you been off the lunge yet? You were getting a bit frustrated before, I seem to recall. Also, I bet you're not rubbish at all. I reckon a lot of us are really tough on ourselves - perhaps because we have visions of whizzing about like Mary King, when the reality is rather more Thelwell-esque...or is that just me?!

Pixel Wed 15-Jan-14 17:12:45

That's funny Vicar I was only wondering yesterday what happened to you smile.

I need to get my confidence cantering but it won't be on the lunge. Tried that and found it absolutely terrifying blush.
Actually once I'm cantering I'm ok but I'm having awful trouble with the transition which means I get very unbalanced. I never used to find it a problem so I don't know what's gone wrong hmm.

ThatVikRinA22 Wed 15-Jan-14 17:34:41

im still knocking around!
truth is i just dont think im good enough to loan or buy, and yes i was getting very frustrated being permanently on the lunge. its hard on the horse too just working in a circle.

there was a lady on here in my vicinity who needed someone to loan her horse for a year - it sounded perfect but the reality was that i knew i was having surgery (im just had it and wont be able to ride for a while) and finances would have been very tight. someone else was interested so i said let them take him....sad

im going to go back to it. im just debating how i can begin again....i didnt want to take a huge break but i couldnt see the point of stop/start lessons for the surgery to take place so i stopped with a view that i would go back after ive healed.

im missing it. not missing the lunge line and the unsuitable horses....i understand the principles involved and i do wonder if i would just be best loaning/buying and messing about on my own until i get it.....that would be more fun for me i guess.
got to pay the car loan off first tho.....

Pixel Wed 15-Jan-14 19:12:43

Oh God don't go back to that lunge!
Lunge lessons are valuable and they do have their place but not if that's the only riding you get to do. You know riding isn't just a case of 'if you learn to sit properly you will be a rider' as horses are all different and you have to get to know them and learn to adapt to get the best out of them. You won't learn any of that all the time someone else is in control.

My ds is having lessons now and I wish you could have his instructor. She's had him doing all sorts, trotting on lunge, trotting and one unscheduled canter by himself in the school, going over some little poles, hacking on downs and roadwork on the lead rein. It's different teaching someone with severe learning difficulties but he still gets plenty of variety and the instructor is not afraid to let him have a go within a safe environment (even though I have to avert my eyes sometimes!). He is loving every minute of it.

ThatVikRinA22 Thu 16-Jan-14 00:38:57

ive been talking to DH tonight.....i think im going to go back to the stables as a volunteer to work with the horses in my spare time but im going to put the money i would use on lessons into a savings fund - ive found a fantastic site - near to me - a dealer but a very reputable one.

they currently have a 14:2 cob - 5 yrs- fantastic happy hacker - £1600......thats doable for me.
i think im going to just take the plunge and get my own and learn as i go. sod it!
it wont be that horse - will need to wait a little while - but it shows there are good horses around and near to me - i just need to find pasture/livery and then i think getting my own is going to be ok if i livery at a good yard that will help me.

Go for it Vicar - you probably know a great deal more and are far more capable than you think. Having your own horse forces you to get on with it and find a way round any difficulties - decisions are up to you and while it is scary, it's up to you how you do things and you're not worried about doing it "right" all the time. Lessons on your own horse will be invaluable too - intensive individual lessons when you can afford them will be much more worthwhile. Good luck.

SiouxieSioux Thu 23-Jan-14 07:11:04

I am 52 started learning to ride at 50 and find Canter very worrying. I bought a horse I share with my granddaughter last year it's been an experience! She's a lovely mare thoughsmile It's the Canter transition with me. I have had a couple of nasty falls but I was anxious about canter before then. I also don't find it comfortable. This weekend I'm supposed to do a short canter in a straight line on a hack. I'm riding a forward going pony. My hands usually end up all over the place and I don't give enough rein. I want to be able to canter because then not doing so becomes a choice not because I can't . Also , if my horse spooked into a canter whilst out I wouldn't be up the creek!

canthelpbutthinktheworldismad Wed 29-Jan-14 23:02:42

i have just found this bit of MN! i'd say go for it vicar! i just got my first horse this year, i had not ridden for YEARS! she is a fab horse, i couldnt ask for better. I am really nervous, but i have taken my time and got to know her. Worked at my own pace. I attempted my first canter a few weeks ago. It was scary but a success!

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