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Have any of you lost your nerve riding and managed to get it back?

63 replies

Pixel · 15/02/2009 21:41

I was never the bravest rider as a teenager but I still got on and did everything, jumping, hair-raising gallops, riding bareback, you name it. I didn't ride for quite a few years as my pony had to be retired but have now got a new horse.

Of course I don't expect to be as brave as when I was a kid. I'm not as agile now and I have my own children to think of so wouldn't want to take unnecessary risks. Also, I'm much more limited as to where I can ride, no school and no more straight out onto the Downs. But I've been surprised at just how scared and pathetic I am. This darling little horse hasn't really put a foot wrong so far and I'm so nervous of him, whereas my old pony was an absolute terror and I still rode him for miles in all weathers!

We've had this one 18 months now and I thought I'd be feeling quite brave by now but I'm not. Ok, we have been taking things very slowly because we found out that he was only 2 when we got him, not gone 3 as we were told, so the fact that I haven't cantered him yet isn't solely due to my lack of nerve but secretly I'm relieved that I've had an excuse. But he will be 4 this summer so the excuse won't hold for much longer .

Anyway, we haven't done much with him at all this winter as he is still young, but we haven't turned him away completely as he loves going out. Any work he has done has been for my benefit really otherwise I feel I might never get on him again! Once a week (weather permitting) I have a lesson which consists of riding him out round quiet roads with my instructor walking with me and working on getting me to relax, sit back properly, not grab at him all the time (not helped by his amazing walk which makes me feel we are flying along) and remember to use my legs instead of freezing up. When the paddock dries up she is going to lunge him with me on too.

I do feel I've made progress. I'm more relaxed than I was and am starting to have more faith in his steadyness instead of imagining he is going to shy at every little thing. It just all seems so slow and such a waste as he is really gorgeous and is going to be the perfect family horse if I can only get over this. I should be able to ride out with my sister on her pony by now but have only done it twice and she got fed up with me panicking all the time.

Very long post, sorry it wasn't going to be!
I just thought it would give me some hope if anyone else had experienced the same and managed to come out the other side and enjoy their horse again.

OP posts:
higgle · 16/02/2009 14:46

Yes, I've turned into a really nervous wuss.
Didn't start to ride until I was 25 because parents wouldn't let me have a pony when I was little. Once I'd started there was no stopping me and I was happy to jump, a bit nervous about cross country and happily went on riding holidays in US, Morrocco and Exmoor. I owned three of my own mounts - a murderous Welsh Cob, a nutty Highland and a really lovely Highland mare after that and think my problems arose because all my own ponies/horse were not getting enough exercise and thought they were the boss, not me. Eventuallly we moved to a house without land and I sold Jig, my Highland mare and gave up fo;r a while. This year we decided to start riding again with the aim of a riding holiday in Tanzania, but so far I've been hacking once (fell off twice) been scared of a riding school horse and now have been relegated to the slowest horse they have. I'm taking a rest from it until the weather gets better but I'm not going on the riding holiday now, not good enought and if I fall off don't want to be eaten by a Lion. I'm seriously thinking of getting some advice from a life coach etc. before I start again. I feel that being stiff in the lower back doesn't help a me get a secure seat and then when I get nervous I end up 1/2 way up his neck. Very dispiriting, but you are not alone in this..

KingCanuteIAm · 16/02/2009 15:01

I rode anything as a child, my local riding schooll would buy in "backed" 3yo from thse sales every month and sling me on to see if they stayed or went. I retrained problem ponies for friends, I drag hunted, did cross country, you name it I loved it.

That all changed when I got pg with my first child. I went back to the local stable and borrowed their great big old shire cross in return for them having my psycho jumper. When I was about 8 months pg she got hte wind and a lorry up her tail and tried to run off (obv very slowly). I never quite got over that! Suddenly all the times I had ended up under a bolting horse in a ditch became a big deal, all those fond memories became the stuff of nightmare and I just gave up, rather than sticking with it.

Money was an issue so it was easy to blame that, really though I just lost my confidence. I have ridden since then and I dream of buying myself I nice big cob to plod around the roads. I know that, in reality though, I will have to do a lot of work on my confidence and technique before I commited to buying a new horse. I would never run the risk of ruining a good horse with my fears. I feel it takes time and patience to get any confidence back - especially when it is a dangerous sport so your fears are somewhat justified.

TBH, I would be very unsure about putting a nervous novice on an untrained horse, not because I feel he will do anything wrong (from what you have said he sounds like a dream) but because I don't think someone in that position can do the horse justice or bring out the best in them. Of course this is just my opinion. If you are happy with the progress your horse is making then it is all good. As for your confidence, it will come back in time, you just need to keep putting your fears into perspective and squashing those butterflies!

Pixel · 16/02/2009 20:29

Oh Higgle, you made me LOL at being eaten by a lion ! I'm sorry you are having problems too but glad to know it's not just me. I did actually go riding on Exmoor last summer and ended up being given the job of holding back the ride until the beginners were out of sight so we could all have a canter to catch up. My horse was jumping about but for some reason it didn't bother me (mind you he was a 16.2hh armchair with enormous hairy feet, and I'm only 5'2" so I think I was wedged on, I couldn't walk for a week).

Kingcanute, it's weird isn't it, how you can have years of mad things happening and you just get on with it, and then one relatively minor incident can completely knock away your confidence. Also you can ride nutty horses and then be frightened by a plod.
I'm not actually a novice, otherwise I wouldn't have dreamed of getting a youngster. My old pony was given to me because he was practically unridable and his owner gave up trying to sell him. Even my sister who was a real have-a-go-at-anything rider refused to ride him any more because she was exhausted by his constant nappiness and total lack of manners. I stuck with him though and he turned into a lovely pony and we had 23 years together. I've still got our rosettes in a shoebox. I should be able to cope with this lovely youngster who doesn't even know how to rear or buck or run off.

Anyway, we had a lesson today and it was good. We were both calm and I came back feeling confident instead of desperate to get off, so hopefully all is not lost!

OP posts:
Nekabu · 17/02/2009 08:50

higgle, if you would like to start riding again then I would recommend lessons at a good riding school rather than hacking out. Speak to the instructor about your fears and make sure that you feel happy with him/her and trust them to help you. Lessons will help your riding to become more secure and that in itself should help you.

mistlethrush · 17/02/2009 09:03

I would also recommend finding somewhere you can take him to have that first canter out where you will feel relatively safe - not close to roads, ideally with a nice steep hill (up) at the far end. It means that you don't have to worry so much that you won't be able to pull them up - if they've had a good stretch with a steep hill at the end they tend to slow down all by themselves!

KingCanuteIAm · 17/02/2009 10:06

Pixel, I sometimes think that the more reckless you were as a young rider the harder it can be to get your confidence back. People who came off once and then took a long break have far less to get over than people who have been under, off and through just about everything in their riding career IMO.

It sounds like you are doing all the right things so I guess it is just time time time, hopefully you will soon be having more and more rides where youfeel like that!

higgle · 17/02/2009 19:59

Nekabu, I have found a very good school, but it is cold and windy having lessons after work so I have given up until the spring now, when Hedgehog ( the slowest horse in the world) and I will be reunited for another go. They do have a simulator horse as well so I might have a go on that. I booked a life coach for a conference I'm helping to organise so I will try to have a chat with him on the day to see if he can suggest anything too.

Nekabu · 17/02/2009 20:27

Good luck, higgle, and I don't blame you for waiting until the spring! Much nicer then ... Good idea about the simulator horse too. It'll be interesting to hear if the life coach has any recommendations too.

alicecrail · 27/02/2009 09:12

I would be interested if anyone has any tips.

I have always ridden, competed, hunted, i worked in a breaking yard and in flat racing riding half broken yearlings and was fine. I gave up racing when i fell pg but still rode my own 2. At 19 weeks pg i got trampled by someones loose horse and broke my leg in 4 places had to have op. Baby was fine luckily but had to spend 3months on crutches. I am now petrified of other horses and the thought of getting on one thats not my own makes me feel physically sick and i also don't want to go in a stable with one. I feel very pathetic

Pixel · 28/02/2009 20:09

Blimey Alice! You are hardly pathetic! Being trampled is bad enough but being pregnant as well is bound to make you think about what could have happened. It must have been a very frightening experience all round.

Were you planning to go back to working with horses or could you just concentrate on being around your own two for a while?

OP posts:
alicecrail · 28/02/2009 20:29

I am a sahm so there is no pressure to go back to work, but i worry that the longer i leave it the worse it will be. I am going to try really hard to push myself a bit more with my 2. It is such a blow because i would literally get on anything before, and without being bigheaded, i was good at it. I think the biggest problem is that i felt it was part of what made me who i am so now i feel like there is a huge part missing - does that make sense?

Nekabu · 01/03/2009 13:08

It does make sense but it is only natural that after having something like that happen to you that you will be wary of other horses for quite some time. The same as with anyone recovering after a bad accident and scare, start off small and (slowly!) work your way back up. Please don't rush or force yourself or you may undo the progress you've made.

That you are fine with your two shows that you aren't having an issue with horses per se, just strange ones who might behave badly, which is entirely natural after being badly trampled by one! Do you have a friend with a polite horse? If so, how about hanging out with her and her horse for a bit and see how that goes?

You may find that you don't go back to being a 'get on anything' person but is that a bad thing? Been there, done than and am now definitely pickier about what I'll ride but I don't mind not being a crash test dummy!

alicecrail · 01/03/2009 16:55

Thanks Nebaku i do agree with the crash test dummy bit. I think i'm just finding it hard to accept that horses are no longer my career, and rather than choosing to leave i've been forced out and that i can't go back iyswim. I have competed both of mine since having dd and that was fine but after having most of the winter off they are a bit fresh (though not dangerous) and i'm just trying to get mind over matter, but i think that by thinking about it is blowing the whole thing out of proportion.

To be honest at the moment i am most worried to how my leg will cope if i fall off, i'm sure it will happen sooner or later and i'm a bit wobbly about it and i know it will hurt!

Nekabu · 01/03/2009 18:46

Horses aren't your career at the moment. Who knows what you will do or want to do in the future! You don't necessarily have to have a career of being the one who'll 'sit on anything' and may well find something perfect for you when the time is ready.

If you do fall off, there is no reason why you should damage your leg though I can see why you're worried about it asit's only natural as you know you've done it a fair bit of damage already and are a bit chary of doing more. I had a fairly bad accident a few years back which did quite a lot of damage and was rather worried about the next time I came off too. As it happened I got bucked off in the school and was so cross I practically bounced off the rubber surface and back into the saddle before I noticed!

alicecrail · 01/03/2009 20:54

i was always more worried about getting sand in my knickers before!! Its really helped chatting to you and pixel, kind of made me realise that its perfectly acceptable to be wary, and pretending everything is ok will not help me at all. I'm going to ask my Grandma to come up and give me a lesson on both horses - she ends up keeping me so busy i can't think about being worried at all!

Nekabu · 01/03/2009 22:27

Lol about the sand! Lessons are just great for helping to overcome nerves because, as you say, you end up concentrating on doing whatever it is you're trying to do and tend to forget that you were going to worry about something. Good luck!!

MitchyInge · 03/03/2009 10:47

I think it's a Good Thing to be wary, I'm far too laid back about things and I wonder if it's because I've never had or witnessed a really serious accident - I'm only wary in the field when trying to extract one horse from a herd of hungry ones with hooves flying everywhere (and also once got pinned against the electric fence while a grumpy gelding bit me hard )

but then I've been in serious car accidents and that hasn't affected my nerve, plus side of being an adrenaline junkie maybe? down side = little sense of self-preservation

do think your nerve will creep back in though, your confidence is sure to grow the more time you spend around quiet horses without anything bad happening

Pixel · 03/03/2009 20:44

Hi Alice, I'm trying to think of something constructive to say that doesn't sound like "there there , you'll be ok", but I agree with Mitchy, I think you will be in time. Possibly you will never be the daredevil you were before but that happens to lots of people as they get older, even if they have no children and have never had a nasty accident. Maybe it's just common-sense? .

I do understand the feeling sick thing because I get it too and as you say it is partly to do with thinking about what is going to happen. In the past I would be hanging around the yard (no responsibilites!) and someone would say "would you like to ride Madbroncoboy?" and I would be on before I'd thought about it, no time to feel sick. Or I would have 10 mins to spare and go and ride my pony round the school, popping over whatever jumps were lying around. Nowadays everything has to be planned, I have to have someone to look after the children, I have to take my tack with me etc so by the time I actually get to mount I've worked myself up to a nervous wreck!

OP posts:
alicecrail · 04/03/2009 08:21

I think you've hit on something there pixel when i was in racing/breaking yards you would get there in the morning with your horses up on the board and wouldn't stop til lunchtime - no time to think, but now i try and plan what to do with my horses and i somehow end up talking myself out of riding and lunge them instead. Thanks for you help, sorry to hijack your thread! Will let you know how it works out, hope you start to get more confidence too

Pixel · 04/03/2009 20:46

Hijack away! I'm good at talking myself out of actually riding as well, although I did it today so am feeling rather pleased with myself. Ok it was only a 10 min jaunt round the block but dhorse was in a lively mood and I didn't panic and get off so it was good .

Mitchy, I've only witnessed one bad accident and unfortunately it was a 5 yo boy. He was being given a 'lesson' on a 15hh horse out on the Downs (yes really!) and his non-horsey mum who was walking behind had grabbed the horse's tail to pull her up a hill. The horse took off home and the little boy managed to stay on somehow until they jumped off a bank but his foot had gone through the stirrup. When we saw the horse come galloping down the track we thought at first it was a coat flapping under him. I still remember the horrified feeling of realising it was a child, even now it makes me want to cry. He did come off when his foot slipped out of his welly and he had a broken arm etc and was unconscious when we got to him, but he was so lucky really and his hat saved his life.

Thanks for reminding me of that, it's really helped my confidence .

OP posts:
alicecrail · 05/03/2009 08:49

That would scare the life out of me!! I have decided to really try to stop thinking about my accident, as its not helping at all!
Well done pixel I am going to try to ride one and lunge one today - will let you know how i get on

MareWithAMitchyInge · 05/03/2009 09:20

uuuggghhhh feel sick just reading that - a 5yo in wellies on a 15hh horse out on the Downs?

he is lucky to be alive after that, and that poor horse probably didn't enjoy the experience either!

anyway, nice one pixel and have fun today alice

tries not to feel depressed about own horse not being well - but on plus side get to have my lessons on various other beasts which is not a bad thing is it?

Countingthegreyhairs · 05/03/2009 09:58

[Waves to MarewithaMitchy!]

Another jelly rider here! I rarely ride nowadays as I am very much city-based but when I do I just go for a very steady cob type.

I'm following this thread with interest because I want to teach dd (5 yrs) to ride this summer and the last thing I want to do is transmit my nerves to her ...

When I was a teenager I would happily ride a number of different horses in different situations, and used to do one day events. I got knocked unconscious twice when I was 13 (once jumping and once after a horse ran away with me) and got back on without giving it much thought really.

(Definitely agree about everything having to be pre-planned etc stoking the worries ...)

For me it's a combination of getting older which means a heightened understanding of what could potentially go wrong and less confidence in my physical body, combined with a new nervousness that just comes from motherhood. I think this must be nature's way of helping us protect our offspring ... I see EVERY possible danger lurking now ....

Last time I went out, my lower leg was shaking so much I could barely get my foot in the stirrup. I felt like a complete twonk but more than anything I just found it really really frustrating as there was nothing to be (rationally) worried about! I relaxed eventually but I know I will have to go through that same fear again next time ... which is a bit dispiriting ...

Pixel - I think you are doing REALLy well to be out doing roadwork on a youngster - ignore your sister and just take it at your own pace ...and (hope this doesn't sound patronising) just because you feel you "should" be able to cope with this lovely youngster - and it's evident you CAN because he is going really well - it doesn't mean you HAVE to. Give yourself permission to ride an older more experienced horse if it would give you more confidence and enjoyment...times change .. we get older ... there's no shame in it!! (One day I will take my own advice as well )

alicecrail · 05/03/2009 17:52

I didn't ride today, dd was wailing, she has her first molar coming through and is a serious grumpy pants at the moment! But i did get them both in from the field together (no time to do 2 trips due to dd) and they actually behaved. They were terrible when i turned them out - cantering sideways on the spot in a chifney - hooligans! WILL ride tomorrow (hopefully )

MummyDoIt · 05/03/2009 18:00

Reading this thread with interest. Although I've never owned a horse, I was a keen rider as a child and went back to it as an adult. Just hacks at the local stables but had a fantastic riding holiday in France, galloping and jumping, and decided to take some jumping lessons when I got back. Got thrown off three times in one lesson and completely lost my nerve. I did go back (once my broken collarbone healed) but didn't really enjoy it. In the past 10 years, I've only ridden a couple of times on a friend's cob, only at a walk with her holding the reins, and I was terrified. I keep thinking of taking some lessons to try and get my confidence back but it's so expensive and I hate to waste the money if I don't enjoy it. I regret it, though, as I did love it so much and that holiday in France was one of my best memories.

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