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Another riding fear post
Last Post 23 Nov 2006 04:37 PM by breeze_horse. 11 Replies.
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kaprysUser is Offline
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21 Nov 2006 05:27 PM
    Hi,
    I posted earlier about my fear of riding after my bad accident that left me with a skull fracture... Talking to my trainer and my husband about what led up to the accident (I remember nothing of that whole week except grooming my horse before the ride)I realized what my major problem is. Apparently my horse spooked and took off on me. I tried to pull him back and stop him but accidentally tapped him with my crop when pulling the reins, so he started galloping toward the outside door and a jump. At some point he stopped abruptly and I fell off.
    I don't especially like his spooks, but they're never more than 3 strides of canter/gallop and he stops. This was obviously my fault, and I did panic more than usual because of the possibility of him taking me outside on many open acres or over a high jump.
    My real question is how to stop panicing when my horse spooks and I see a jump he's not even thinking of going over. I've had 2 horses take off on me, a horse took off on me outside and ran me into a tree (a horse I was riding with spooked and caused him to spook) and a lesson horse I was cantering around an arena saw a high jump halfway across the arena as I turned her and decided to go for it. She refused to listen to my aids to stop or turn her. She galloped toward it and I went over the back on the jump. Now I'm always afraid I won't be able to stop my horse and I'll end up in the same situation as before. My horse is usually very calm but tends to spook in indoor arenas by windows. I can usually distract him and he's OK, just puts his head up a little more than usual. Any suggestions on overcoming fears or working on my horse's indoor arena fears? He's always been rock solid outside (and 99% of the time inside) but it's too cold to ride outside until probably May here. I have my trainer riding him now, I'm planning to start again on school horses then go back to my horse eventually. I'm afraid I'm going to act the same way with the school horses as well and freak out when they spook and take off.

    Sorry for the long post, any sugggestions would be great! Smile
    RickRiderFraUser is Offline
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    21 Nov 2006 05:38 PM
    Wow, I read your post. Tomorrow I decided to take my 7yr back to pony class. He's been begging me for weeks. I ran into the trainer at the grainstore Monday, so it's confirmed. Stories like yours(and mine,) make me wonder, as a parent, if it wouldn't be better to take him swimming instead....Will look forward to reading what others say...Hang in there...rr
    Horsewoman_horseUser is Offline
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    21 Nov 2006 05:41 PM
    It sounds good that your trainer is riding your horse right now while you get your confidence back. He/she may be able to deal with the issues surrounding spooking that you mentioned. Actually, can you talk to him/her and ask if during this time that can be addressed? A good trainer should be able to work your horse through it, once he/she gets to the bottom of the problem.

    As for you, learning to control your fear before you get on a horse's back can be really helpful. Learn deep breathing exercises. They will help you relax, which controls the fear and keeps it from escalating. You want to breathe deeply, from your diaphragm. If you focus on the breathing, then you can't focus on the fear. Also, your calm breathing will help to calm your horse down. But practice it on the ground first, in a non-stressful environment, so that you can do it on a horse, when you may be more stressed.

    Another good technique is using imagery of the feared situation. Once you have learned to breathe and remain calm, imagine yourself being on your horse and having the spooking situations you mentioned. Really imagine every detail and feel what it is like. When you feel your fear and anxiety rising, immediately do your deep breathing and also imagine when you can do to stop the situation.

    So, let's say you're imagining your horse spooking and galloping off with you, headed to something you're afraid he's going to jump. First, begin to breathe deeply. As you do this, imagine you are doing a one-rein stop, and your horse stops. Next time, imagine that you are able to steer your horse around the jump and he stops. At first, do different scenarios so that you see you have options BESIDES going over the jump. Then, after you can do those and feel calm, then focus on one or two set things you will do if this ever happens (for example, a one-rein stop). Then, IF the situation occurs, you will go ahead and do what you have, in essence, trained your body to do.

    Hope that helps!
    kaprysUser is Offline
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    21 Nov 2006 05:48 PM
    That's great info! I'll try that and see how it goes. I'm going to talk to my trainer about this...she thinks it's a weird fear I need to overcome and school horses will help. It seems to be only on my horse, for some reason I also think he's huge (he's 16.2 hands) though I was comfortably riding a 18 hand horse with absolutely no problems or fears even though he did spook with me in an arena with jumps.

    Thanks again for the advice, I'll keep you updated as to how it goes Smile
    seahorse22User is Offline
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    21 Nov 2006 06:29 PM
    I think I am reading your post correctly and I understand you as saying your horse spooks less then 1% of the time but because of your accident you have developed a new fear of riding. Right?

    I have been where you are and there are a couple things I would suggest even though the other posters have already mentioned them to you.

    Spend some time around your horse on the ground to just be with her and see what bothers her and what doesn't. Doing that myself I came to realize she tries very hard to not intentionally hurt me - it is just when she gets spooked that we have problems.

    There are 2 things I would teach her from the ground - 1.the one rein stop (if you don't know it, just ask and I will try to explain it - or search here on the forum)and 2) a head down cue. The one rein stop (Clinton Anderson) helps you get her stopped if she actually takes off and also before she moves if you think something is going to light a fire under her you can use it before she even takes a step. While my mare and I are not perfect on the head down cue we keep working on that both on the ground and under saddle b/c getting a horse's head down is an automatic "turn off switch". (John Lyons, I think) Head up means watching for something and head down means relaxed and calm.

    Also, as you are doing, lessons or riding a calm steady horse just to help you relax and regain confidence. Along with that you have to again go back to just spending time around horses to remind yourself that it is not all spooks but also a lot of calm and happy time.

    I know how tough it is too screw up your courage and go - but I also know how good it feels to slowly but surely overcome your hesitations. Good luck with this - keep us updated.
    kara83809User is Offline
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    21 Nov 2006 06:31 PM
    Took the words right out of my mouth! And probably said it better than I could have.

    Positive mental imagery. Retraining your mind so the panic response is replaced with positive action, not just reaction.

    I don't see that it is strange that it is only your horse that you have this reaction with. He is the one you had your accident on. My personal fear (I posted at great length in the other thread Smile) seems to be related to green broke horses, since it was a mare I was training that bucked me off the first time, and another gelding I was training that bucked me off another time. I can, and have, ridden well-broke horses since, without a qualm, even ones that I have been warned are unpredictable. You have not had the bad experience with school horses, so you don't have the panic response ready to go before you even get on them. Makes sense to me!
    kaprysUser is Offline
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    21 Nov 2006 06:41 PM
    COuld you explain the 1-rein stop? I'm not sure if I know what it is...

    I've been grooming my horse and working with him on the ground since the accident. My husband is riding my horse, and watching them helps a lot.

    I taught him the head down on the ground about a year ago as I'm too short to groom his mane unless he lowers his head. He doesn't really respond to the command while ridden though. Any tips for transitioning it over?

    Also, my horse can be a little bit of a bully sometimes. He's never aggressive or unsafe, he just thinks he's the big stallion and should be in charge, especially when he doesn't want to work. He was gelded late, and I've worked a lot with him on the ground and under saddle to make him realize I'm the alpha mare and he should always listen to me. He's gotten better but will still resort to trying to get his way especially with other riders. I think this adds to my fear even though he respects me now.

    Thanks for the advice Smile
    Horsewoman_horseUser is Offline
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    21 Nov 2006 06:44 PM
    I hope the info helps. Smile

    I don't think it's a weird fear at all. Your memory loss of that week may be due, in part, to the level of trauma of the accident. When we suffer a traumatic incident, the mind will often simply not remember it so that we don't have to deal with fear and other emotions associated with it. Luckily, we can retrain ourselves, and that's really what the breathing and imagery is for - to show ourselves and teach ourselves that it's all ok.

    Let us know how you do!
    seahorse22User is Offline
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    21 Nov 2006 06:46 PM
    I use the words "head down" both on the ground and under saddle. She is pretty good about it on the ground - we are still working on it under saddle. I feel safest on my mare in the outdoor arena so that is mainly where we ride - she usually keeps her head very level but just for practice if it comes up I tell her head down and then if she doesn't respond I lean forward from in the saddle and "help" her lower her head. Probably not very professional - but that is the only thing I have come up with yet. Stick out tounge

    Let me look for the one rein stop and get back to you.
    seahorse22User is Offline
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    21 Nov 2006 07:06 PM
    Here is how I explained it in a thread to Kim W about 2 weeks ago - everytime I tried to copy the link to the whole thread, it also came up with access to my PM storage - how weird!! Smile Frown Yu could search for the thread if you want.

    OK I'll give it a try and maybe I can paint a picture for you - others can elaborate on it as I don't present myself as an expert. Also, I ride English and am not sure how exactly how to do this western style.

    You teach the horse a one rein stop at all gaits before you ever need to use it in a real life situation. I start on the ground by teaching my horse to respond to pressure from one rein by flexing their neck so that their nose basically comes back to their barrel. You almost have to stand near their hip and gently pull their nose around, both sides of their body. I did this daily for a week with each lesson causing their nose to come back farther and easier. I also started with a lead rope and then went on to doing it with a bridle and bit and then added mounted with bridle and bit.

    Then from the saddle - mounted but not moving - holding your arms bent at the elbow and close to your side - move your arm straight back next to your body so that your hand with the rein comes to your hip which also brings your horse's nose to his barrel/shoulder. At the stand still, he should flex/bend his neck but not move. I keep my legs loose - I don't want him going anywhere so I am not squeezing. Again, both sides.


    At the walk, with my elbows bent and keeping my arms at my side, I draw my hand back to my hip (maybe a little in front of or a little behind my hip) again causing my horse's nose to come to his barrel/shoulder. If I put my arm out to the side, his head comes around but not to his barrel - I want a tight bend and not a graceful arc. Again, legs off because I don't want him going anywhere b/c I want him to stop. He may make small tight circles but he will eventually stop. It may take 8 or 10 circles or more to begin with (and you may get dizzy) but as you practice the circles will become less and the stop will come sooner. The idea is eventually that when he feels your legs off and your hand come back to your hip the stop will follow automatically.

    Again practice from both sides. One hand is coming back to the hip and the other hand is staying up near the saddle horn or pommel or his neck and is keeping that rein loose. Sometimes when practicing at a walk I will "drop" the rein I am not using and just bring the one back to my hip (I ride English and the rein ends are connected).

    Again the idea is that in a run away or bolt situation, the horse has become so flexible and conditioned to your one rein stop that he turns his head and follows his nose in a circle instead of running off with you. Or instead of into a tree with you or whatever!

    Each time I ride I tend to do this just a time or two for practice and to keep it fresh and my horse responsive. I haven't yet had to use it in an emergency but I will say that my horses stop better and just in general are more responsive the more I get them to flex. I have used it in situations where my one horse tends to get flighty - i.e inthe arena with all sorts of noises and activity going by the door, rather than her taking off, I just immediately did the one rein stop to get her standing still and not reacting to all the commotion.

    Oh - sometimes - just for something different I also combine the one rein stop with disengaging the hind quarters (the foot on the same side as the nose at the barrel steps over in front of the other hind foot so that the hips are loose and not all tensed up in a "run for my life posture" - and I also teach that from the ground and go over it once before each ride).

    Was that the picture you were looking for or shall I try again?

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    kaprysUser is Offline
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    21 Nov 2006 07:21 PM
    Great description! Make perfect sense to me. Thanks for the help!
    breeze_horseUser is Offline
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    23 Nov 2006 04:37 PM
    I agree with the one rein stop. It is something every horse and rider should know. Firstly for safety. Secondly for the knowledge. If a horse is being a nutcase and is ready to pop, using 2 reins will only empower the horse's hind end.

    So if you are pulling back with 2 reins and your horse is going to go, he will go powered and collected! If he is going to buck, you are just giving those hind quarters more power.

    Teach it on the ground first, in halter and lead. I do it a bit differently, standing where you would be if you were in the saddle, place your hand nearest the horse on his withers with the end of the lead in that hand, run the other hand down the lead till it is about 10 inches from his muzzle.

    Then pull it back towards the hand on the withers, only aim for where your knee would be if you were in the saddle. Hold it till he stops moving and relaxes his neck. As soon as he is not bracing open your hand immediately and let him straighten out.

    You should be able to do this from both sides.

    Then do the same thing from the saddle with out a bit first. Before your horse even takes his first step. Drop your right rein, take the left rein in your right hand, and run the left hand down the rein, then bring it to your left knee, with your right hand bracing on the pommel. ie. as hard as you have to pull with the rein, push with your right.

    Keep your legs off and your eyes on his nose. He mat take tight circle, just stay relaxed and wait for him to stop, then wait till he relaxes. As soon as he stops bracing open your hands and let him take the rein back. Again, should be able to do this from both sides. (you may have time to have a coffee or a smoke till he stops Wink )

    Once you are both good at this from ground and at the halt, you can progress to the walk. Do not trot till you can do it at the walk, both sides. Same for canter, do not canter till you can do a 1 rein halt at the trot.

    A horse can not run very fast in a tiny circle, and won't go far either! Nor cam he buck very hard with no power in the rear.

    Deb
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