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The tack room

I think my dream is over

19 replies

SexNamesRFab · 05/02/2020 18:24

Since I was a little girl I've dreamt of riding. But I lived in central London and we just didn't have the money. I'm 42 and introduced my DD (11) to riding last year - she's a natural and now lives for it. Emboldened, I signed up for lessons and was absolutely loving it - until I panicked when the horse I was riding went into canter and sort of threw myself off. I went back today for a 'lunge lesson' but to my shock I hated it. Every time the horse went into trot I panicked and froze. I think I'm too old to learn new tricks and I'm gutted Sad

OP posts:
lastqueenofscotland · 05/02/2020 21:30

Where are you riding OP if you don’t mind me asking? It might be a case of needing a better school, or for the short while somewhere with a real plod for you to get confident on.

I ride other people’s horses for some extra money, I rode for a lovely lady in her 50s who bought her first horse (a childhood dream) and he while not sharp at all was a touch more forward than she was confident on and he started to take the piss. I helped her sell him and find a real kick along who is perfect, if we were that way inclined I reckon we could ride her down the m6... Shes delighted with the mare, and is so confident with her there is hope, you just need the right horse!

Booboostwo · 06/02/2020 09:55

Do you want to ride? Everyone has scary moments when riding. For some it's the end of the riding days because the risk is just not worth it. Usually people give up at the first trot, the first fall or the first time a horse takes off with them in canter. Others get back on and force themselves to get over their fear. There is no shame in realizing that your dream was not that wonderful all along.

If you still want to ride you just have to persevere until you feel more relaxed. Lunge lessons on a very reliable horse seem like a very sensible idea.

RatherBeRiding · 06/02/2020 10:57

It's a risk sport and maybe actually being on the back of a large, live, powerful animal has brought home the fact that there is always going to be a risk, and it's just not for you?

No shame in that - I love the thought of being able to ski but am pretty sure that if I gave it a go I would find out that it's not my bag - for many reasons. But feel perfectly comfortable, in my 60s, on the back of a bloody minded unpredictable half ton of horse-flesh!

Having said all of that, if you still want to try again maybe find a different riding school, tell them you are a bit nervous, and take it very slowly. Don't allow yourself to be pushed out of your comfort zone just because the instructor thinks you ought to be cantering by now. The transition from trot to canter for a complete beginning can be a very big step. No shame at all in sticking to walk and trot for as long as you want to. Lots of fun to be had in hacking around the countryside in walk and trot!

SexNamesRFab · 06/02/2020 11:48

Thank you so much for replying. So I think I know where I might have gone wrong...

I started off with a couple of individual lessons then signed up to Take up the reigns (adult beginners) - but this didn't get any other sign ups so they put me with Take back the reigns (adult returners). I hadn't appreciated how much of an advantage this would put the others to me.

The lunge lesson was on a horse I don't particularly like riding (she has a wiggly head which puts me off!). My instructor is very firm about everyone needing to learn to ride every horse, rather than having favourites - as she believes this makes you a real 'rider'. Which is fine - but I'm very sorry obviously nowhere near a real rider. I'm a 42 yr old woman wanting to keep fit and have some fun. In these circumstances, is it ok to stick with horses I know I like?

He wasn't meant to canter - we were trotting around the school in a lesson with 6 others when he got confused and decided to come off the path to follow one of the other horses (who might have been cantering). The change of direction and speed quite literally threw me! I actually felt one of my legs come up so panicked and thought it was better to throw myself off cleanly, than risk being dragged). I have since realised the more sensible reaction would have been to cling on for dear life Blush

Mentally I really want to go back, but yesterday I found the physical sensation of riding (trotting, I was finewalking) very different - before the fall I found it exhilarating and thrilling, yesterday it felt like nauseating fear. This could be muscle memory? Do you think if I keep going but take it slowly this might wear off?

I've asked if I can transfer the rest of my sessions to DD for pony club - then I might try an individual lesson with a horse and instructor I prefer. Even if that means just walking around the school for hours practicing my balance.

OP posts:
Astrabees · 06/02/2020 13:05

I'm 63 and was a fairly decent rider in my 20's, then gave up in my late 30's and now I'm riding again. Most of us returners and older riders are more nervous and we don't want to ride all the awkward horses in a riding school to prove we are "real riders" Where I ride there are some larger and more spirited horses but I stick to a good natured Fell Cross and a cob who is very laid back having spent many years doing everything very well. this second horse did canter of once and the instructor said it was because I'd gone into sitting trot which he took as a signal to canter. i won't do that again!
My suggestion would be to book a private lesson on the quietest horse or pony they have with an instructor you relate well with. If they don't offer that then find another school. Riding is supposed to be fun, not frightening.

maxelly · 06/02/2020 14:28

Crises of confidence are quite normal for riders, particularly as we get older and more risk averse! For most people they pass quite quickly once you 'get back on the horse' (literally) and you get back to the same level you were before within a few weeks. If anything having been through the frightening experience but with ultimately no harm done, rationalised what happened and what you'd do differently next time is something that should help you long term. I do think it's sensible to take things back a notch or 2, group lessons are great for your development, as is riding lots of different horses but when you've had a knock taking a step back into your comfort zone and having some more predictable, positive experiences can be what you need to rebuild before you step back up again. Your plan re private lessons and a horse/instructor you know you like sounds ideal, I personally think maybe not a lunge lesson (at least at first) as to me that can feel a bit intense and also you are not in control of the pace you go at which was your 'trigger' for panicking in the first place. I'd go for the quietest, most sluggish horse the school has (possibly a pony if you are light enough, being close to the ground always makes me feel better!) and get the instructor to walk beside you (perhaps with a lead rein attached) so they can stop the horse in the unlikely event of them doing something unexpected but you still control stop/go. The instructor can then gradually retreat as you feel more confident. If you want to hold onto a neckstrap or the front of the saddle when you trot, feel free, there should be no shame in that (we all need to do it sometimes!) If the school are pressurising you to do more, remember that you are the client so if you want to pay your money to potter slowly around then that is your choice (although they may not always be able to guarantee you your exact choice of horse).

Finally, if you do find you just aren't enjoying yourself, it doesn't have to be the end of the dream, you can always enjoy spending time with the horses without riding yourself, esp as your DD rides you can always ask to do some grooming or just fuss one of the horses for an hour or so which may give you a great fix for less money and little risk!

maxelly · 06/02/2020 14:40

Also, sorry, something that really helps me if I get a bit nervy and/or my horse is being a pain is keeping my mind and theirs busy in a positive way, not just walking around aimlessly wondering when the next bad thing is going to happen, negative thoughts do tend to lead to negative happenings IMO!

So perhaps you could practice your walk/halt transitions lots and lots of times, or practice turning across the school/circles/serpentines etc, or even doing turns on the forehand if you know how (or get instructor to show you). If/when you do feel confident to trot again, do short bursts of trot, then ask horse to come back to walk, walk, regain balance and rhythm, then back into trot again and repeat. If you can, try and get to the point where you can fit in a few transitions within the space of the long side of the arena. This will have the benefit of emphasising that you are in charge of pace and direction (to you and horse!) and should minimise panicky moments as you always need to be thinking about the next part of what you are asking for, plus at the end you should feel you have achieved/improved something (e.g. the horse responded quicker to the aid than at the start), even if you haven't trotted/cantered/ridden the difficult horse/whatever!

SexNamesRFab · 06/02/2020 15:35

Don't apologise @maxelly , you're really helping Thanks

OP posts:
Spudlet · 06/02/2020 15:41

Yeah, I’d suggest finding a different riding school. It’s a bloody expensive hobby, and it’s meant to be fun, not an endurance challenge.

You can ride the trickier ones when you’ve got a bit more experience - if you want to, which you may not. And that’s fine! Feeling that you’ve got somewhere with a more challenging horse can be very satisfying, but if you just want a nice straightforward ride, that’s fine as well.

It’s just as important that you click with your instructor as well as your horse too. If I were you, I’d ring round a few places and be totally honest about what’s happened and what you want to get out of lessons. And maybe go for one as a tester before you commit to a course of lessons. Find someone willing to work at your pace without pushing you too hard too quickly. They’re out there - I lost my nerve totally and got it back, so it can be done 👍

fluffysocksgoodbookwine · 06/02/2020 16:06

I think the school shouldn't really have put you in the returner's class, returning to riding after a long break is a very different thing to learning for the first time! I returned to riding last year at age 40, after 20 years out of the saddle, and it only took a couple of lessons for it all to come back (although longer for the fitness to recover!), but my DS, learning for the first time, was riding weekly for 7 months before they started him cantering, and it'll be a while yet before we can have lessons at the same level. I would have thought that having a beginner in a class where others are cantering would be a very bad idea!

Agree with all the above, the instructor needs to allow you to develop at your own pace, not be pushing you, especially after a bad experience. It might be a good idea to have a 'side walker' - someone walking beside the horse who can grab them if they do anything unexpected, or pop them onto the lead rein when you feel ready to try trotting again.

A few lessons on a sensible horse, in walk, will help you to relax and start enjoying your riding again, there's no hurry! If your current riding school won't accommodate that, then trying somewhere else would be a good idea. If you do a few weeks of 'steady' lessons and find you're still not enjoying it, then as others have said, it's perfectly possible to enjoy spending time with horses without having to be a rider.

kittykarate · 06/02/2020 16:49

I really think that they put you in the wrong class - even though the Returners will generally be a lot more realistic about how things can go wrong than a kid, but they also have a huge wealth of knowledge about how horses work and what can set them off, and how to bring them back that you can't have as a beginner. It would need really careful handling by the instructor to stop this being a problem in the lesson, as the herd instinct in horses are strong, and they want to be near their buddies.

As a late starter I hate 'unexpected' accelerations, so lunge lessons are not my favourite as I don't control the speed. I also used to hate it when if the horse was not listening to the leg in general school some instructors would crack the whip literally and the sudden acceleration would scare the bejeezus out of me.

I think back to private lessons for a while, if they cannot offer a suitable group. Remember that you are the customer of the school, and in a private lesson it can be more of a conversation about what you want to do than a set lesson plan. So if you want to do a lot of basic transitions stop/walk/trot , steering, stopping etc. tell them. You can also do a bit more lead rein type stuff then.

I'm never going to be great shakes on a horse, but I enjoy my lessons (most of the time) but I do only do private lessons where I can control the agenda more.

SexNamesRFab · 06/02/2020 20:53

Thanks - you've given me the strength to call and ask if I can transfer any credit I have left over for private lessons. I think I was naive to let them persuade me to join the returners class, especially as the numbers started to swell (started with 3, went up to 7). We'll see how accommodating they are. They'd be fools to say no, I spend a fortune up there on DD.

OP posts:
GSD20 · 06/02/2020 21:33

Just to say OP there’s nothing wrong with sticking with a horse who you like and who makes you feel safe.

I’ve ridden all my life, hundreds of horses probably but now I will not even touch any horse but my own. The thought of it makes me sick and although mines naughty at times I’m so comfortable with her that I don’t feel scared.
I don’t see why you can’t learn on a horse that makes you feel safe then move on if and when you want too.

SexNamesRFab · 07/02/2020 11:01

They've let me transfer the balance to individual lessons with my fave horse. I'm going to try again next Friday. Thank you so much for your support and encouragement Thanks

OP posts:
user14572856389 · 09/02/2020 14:58

Good luck.

If it helps to know, the brain learns and remembers that something is dangerous/threatening more or less instantly from one experience, whereas it takes it much longer to learn that something is safe (especially if it's learnt that thing is unsafe first).

So that might have been a factor in you feeling sick instead of thrilled last time - your brain recognising that last time you had that experience it went badly and trying to activate your threat response.

Hopefully a series of positive, safe experiences in your coming lessons will let your brain relearn.

SexNamesRFab · 29/02/2020 12:55

Quick update - I took a little break then started again focusing on my seat and steering, with my fave sensible mare and gentler instructor. Yesterday I made it back to sitting trot and thoroughly enjoyed it. So thank you for your encouragement and advice Thanks

OP posts:
Astrabees · 02/03/2020 13:34

Very pleased to read your update. There is no harm in trying another horse if you want to, but it is all about enjoying yourself and if, like me, you need a steady mount to feel safe don't let them push you onto something less reliable if you don't want to. Here's hoping you have many happy years in the saddle.

Biddie191 · 03/03/2020 11:30

Glad things are looking up - you're doing it for fun, not expecting to compete in the next Olympics, so stick to what you enjoy and what you are happy with

fluffysocksgoodbookwine · 03/03/2020 14:52

Lovely to read your update OP! Wishing you many happy years of enjoying horses Smile.

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