Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Blocking

Ahhhh as a trainer I get to meet all different types of people and especially with older people they all say the same thing!!! "I remember when I was younger I used to ride ANYTHING! With no tack, helmet or bridle, no boots, just flip flops and shorts. But, now I'm terrified." Even when I've solidly trained a horse or have students ride one of my broke horses they feel the same way, still nervous.

So at what age or milestone does that mental block set in??? Is it because you feel you don't "bounce" as well? I don't bounce well and hate coming of too LOL!!! Is it when you get married and have children? Is it when you're 40???? When do we stop taking risks that we used too?? Even though now we have helmets that are amazingly tough and correct and body protectors...

More importantly how do we overcome it???? People who have had horses in the past and are re-riders seem to have the biggest issue. No one's asking you to gallop in an open field bareback in a halter like you used to when you were a teen, just to simply get on a nice solid horse and ride around in a secure soft arena. Yet it terrifies people, even people who may have never even really had a bad riding experience...

For me I always suggest a lot of ground work exercises, leading and lunging exercises. Maybe even riding a nice horse on a lunge line while an instructor or friend is helping you. Little things that build that confidence back up.

So ANY idea why certain people can mentally block themselves from something they so desperately desire??? Is it just in our nature? Our genetic makeup? Our survival instincts kicking in???? That once we hit a certain point in our life we start to become more fearful ?? This one is a puzzler....

23 comments:

The Margarita Girls said...

I stopped riding like that when Christopher Reeve had his accident in 1995. When my trusty mare passed away in 2004, I waited till last year to get another one. He was green broke and I really took my time doing new things. I do LOTS more out of the saddle this time - lunging, leading, ground exercises. Fortunately, my boy is an angel :-)

uniquehorsetrailers.blogspot.com

autumnblaze said...

Your corpus collosum (responsible for conciousness/self awareness ie truly realizing YOU can actually get hurt) doesn't develop until you're in your 20's. Literally you don't think about getting hurt before then. A lot of 're-riders' stop riding in their early/mid twenties due to school, jobs, family etc. and don't return until they're older. Plus they've had time to remember/realize how dangerous/reckless they may have been when they were younger. They most likely have spent time chasing around their own kids, watching with bated breath hoping THEY don't get hurt. Then when they finally throw their leg over that 1000lb animal - all they can think of is I could get hurt really badly! What if that happens? I have a job, mortgage, the kids etc. etc.

That's my take anyways...

The Pale Horseman said...

I've always had a strong sense of self preservation. I started riding when I was 11, am now 19 and still wouldn't do half the stuff that my other horsey friends do. I've gone from having very little fear but no real knowledge of danger (I was just plonked on a horse and told to follow the one in front) to being knowledgable and confident, then hit an all time confidence low then since buying Nell, I'm slowly getting back to a stable, confident and happy way of riding. Most things I do now, I would never attempt on any other horse and thanks to her I'm finally jumping again and loving it. I doubt I will ever ride problem horses and am quite happy to predict what my horse is likely to do because although I'm young, I don't bounce back from injuries very well. It's not that I have a problem with falling off, I just don't like hitting the ground. ;)

The Pale Horseman said...

autumnblaze, Thanks for that little piece of information about the corpus collosum. That will be tucked away in my brain now ready to verbally spew out when the time is right.

autumnblaze said...

TPH - It's just true. Kids aren't grown and really making good decisions until their 20's! It allows us to do all kind of things we'd never do as adults!

Reluctant Cowboy said...

Good question though I am afraid the anwers are a lot more complicated. Here a few of my observations.
1. As we get older our reaction time slows and our balance wains a bit. Each one of these can errode away at confidence which can manifest itself into fear. Trust me you can feel the change as you get older (unless your in denile that is) For me the only way I overcome it is to spend a lot more time in the saddle and to use what little horse wisdom I have picked up over the years to know what is coming before it happens.
2. Over the years we hear stories of something happening to someone and after awhile we have more bad stories that we remember and for some reason the good things aren't recalled. For every 1 bad story I hear or read I look for three to replace it.
3. If you can, always have someone there pushing you to be better so you don't have time to over think yourself into a fear.
4. If your fearful so will your horse not a good combination. When you are on your horse figure out what you want to do and just do it let fate pick up the pieces you have a horse to ride
5. Get into shape the best you can as your situation allows. Your horse and your body will appreciate it.
A fairly simple way to look at it but it has helped me.

Trainer X said...

I Love it!!! These are all great!!!! Keep 'em coming!!! You guys are on fire!!!!

jennybean79 said...

Great post - this is something I've wondered about alot recently. I'm 30, and since I've been about 24 I've been way way way more cautious on horseback. I used to get on any horse and ride through any problem. I've been riding horses since before I could walk, so a big part of me wonders why the heck I'm so nervous with new horses...I know I can ride already.

I'm not really afraid of bucking or bolting horses, but the thought of a horse rearing and falling back on me really gets me shaking in my boots...I don't know where I got that fear, but it's there.

Grocery Girl said...

i lost my nerve when i fractured my elbow after a fall and couldn't ride for a year (not because of the elbow). i got it back, mostly, but it made me think twice about what could happen if i climbed on than rank, just-off-the-range mustang. now i don't have a job or health insurance, so i definitely don't get on anything that i don't trust 100%. i'm only 28.

Grocery Girl said...

*that, not than

Aylisha said...

I agree with Jennybean and autmnblaze... age has something to do with it. I am now 31.... I still have no issues doing fun and crazy things with horses I trust, but not so with others. I have a 4 1/2 yr filly that was started for me by a trainer. I bred and hand raised her and I love her to death. But riding her terrified me for some time (at the trainer's she was on alfa and high as a kite...it is better now she is off it, but still not perfect) and still scares me and makes my heart beat fast. I never used to be a horn grabber (heck, ja couldn't even get me into a western saddle), now I will only ride her in my endurance saddle and at the merest whisper of impending trouble, one hand is gripping around the pommel...I have done tons of ground work with her, I can lie on her while she is sleeping on the the ground...none of that helps. The only thing that helps are the reminds we have that went quietly and calmly or even if she "acted up a little" and I got through it, it helps me remember that I DO know how to handle it. It is weird though...her mom can buck at a gallop and I sit and laugh...this one starts tossing her head and lifting a leg at a standstill and I almost bail off her in a panic...never saw that coming, even 3 yrs ago...I must be getting old now ;)
No kids or hubby or anything btw...and never even have fallen off a horse hard enough to break or concuss anything, so no "bad" experiences to scare me either...weird....

adrienne said...

For me it started when I was 13. I was a damn good rider until then, I was jumping 3'9 courses at home and showing successfully in the 3'6 hunters. Then my parents purchased me a new horse, a 16.3 hh OTTB who was severely abused. I rode him at the barn that they bought him from for months, and the owner of that barn would give me lessons. That man ruined my riding career. While I was taking lessons with him (I'll call him trainer X), Jake (through no fault of his own) bolted more times than I can count, bucked, reared, fell on top of me, you name it, this horse did it (again, not his fault, trainer X was tormenting and abusing the both of us) He would beat the horses that I was on, he swung a 2x4 at a pony mare that I was schooling after she refused a 3'6 oxer, she spooked and I fell off and was drug through the course of jumps, through the group of other horses waiting at the gate, and down a gravel road. I wasn't hurt, but I was scared. Still, I progressed in my riding with MY coach who knew something wasn't right (the entire time I had been telling my parents that trainer X was crazy and that Jake had to be moved, but they said I was being dramatic and that trainer X's barn was cheaper). Finally we brought Jake to my trainer's barn and he was safe at last, but not without some serious physical ailments as a result of his rough handling, he had a torn muscle in his shoulder and severe jaw injuries, that I watched trainer X inflict on him...when Jake was finally sound for riding again I just couldn't bring myself to get on him...I felt like a failure as a rider and I hated that I couldn't get on this horse. Since then everything terrifies me. I still ride because all I've ever wanted to do is ride, but I don't think I will ever be the same again. Before this happened I had top trainers offering me free lessons and working student positions, now I can't jump a crossrail without freezing up, and forget about cantering. I am 21 now and I have just about given up hope that I will ever gain my confidence back. I have recently purchased a 6 year old thoroughbred mare who is a saint, and I am working very hard to improve my confidence with her, we'll see how it goes...

autumnblaze said...

adrienne - Your story is awful. That man ruined more than your riding career. He broke your confidence in yourself and other people it sounds like. Possibly horses too. After goign through crashes like that I cant' believe you get back on any horse. However, since you can... take baby steps and I bet you'll get back close to where you were. Remember you're both out of that situation now. Animals live in the now and you have to try and do the same too. Your now is better and safer and calmer. Don't forget that. You know you're a damn good rider too. I hope you can find joy in riding again and I"m sorry for what you went through. :( That makes me very sad. Unscrupulous trainers should be outed and prosecuted even for endangering people like you and horses like your boy. Makes me sick.

Tammy said...

I fit the demographics from some of these posts. I was almost 40, a re-rider, a mother of 2...

I recently blogged about this topic and from writing it out and seeing the comments, I think a lot of it has to do with lack of control. The 40 yr old brain says I'm now on a 1,000 beast, with 2 leather reins for control. And that same 40 yr old brain tells me I don't know the first thing about controlling a horse. When I was a child rider, it was as easy as a carnival ride. Now, not such much.

It took me finding the right horse, hours and hours and hours in the saddle, lessons and a good support of other riders to get over that hump. The fear I have now is deemed reasonable. But no longer paralyzing. My desire to ride has won out over the fear. There is no turning back.

That's the short version. The longer version is on my blog:
http://horsetrailriders.blogspot.com/2009/11/fear-factor.html

adrienne said...

Thanks autumnblaze, and I just realized my faux pas of calling the horrible bastard "trainer X" SORRY!!!!!! I didn't mean it to imply that you trained like that at all, sorry again! it was purely a brain fart :(, I suffer from foot-in-mouth disease, which as you can see is completely uncontrolled...

kestrel said...

I think part of the fear comes from expecting perfection in ourselves. As kids, we just rode. Then the whole "you're doing it all wrong" BS sinks into our psyche and destroys our confidence.

NewHorseMommy said...

I'm not really a re-rider as my parents could never afford a horse when I was little, although I did take riding lessons for a little while when I about 10. I don't remember being afraid.

I have generalized anxiety issues anyways, and started having panic attacks out the blue for no reason a few years ago (I'm 37 now). I have not had one since I started taking medication for them (which annoys me to no end), but the panic attacks were WAY over the top). I would have ended up never leaving the house again, as ridiculous as that sounds, without the medication.

Regardless, I started taking riding lessons last year, and was not even slightly nervous, until I spooked the horse I was riding with the crop and he bucked and I fell. Nothing broke, but after that I was terrified to sit on a horse.

I got my own horse about 10 months ago (because I did not like riding different lesson horses all the time). I wanted to rescue one, and was fine with the idea of a pasture puff if I could not get over my issues.

I totally lucked out, because he was fugly and free and on his way to auction. He is handsome now and has turned into a complete babysitter for me. He has not once kicked, bucked, reared, or bolted (despite being a little spooky for his age). He actually spooks better under saddle than on the ground, but he has drastically improved in the last few months (I think it took a while for him to trust me). And I sure my nervousness did not help things.

However, it took 3-4 months of lessons before I did not freak out every time I got on him (even though the worst thing he ever does is balk-he just stops when he's in a mood). I seriously just sat on him for many lessons. I still take an ativan everytime I ride, but after 6 months of just walking, I am FINALLY trying to go faster (he does a nice running walk).

The difficulty we are having now is that after 6 months of walking, he seems to be having trouble believing that I want to go faster, although he is a little more willing each time I have a lesson. It's like he thinks "Oh no Mommy, you just walk, remember?"

I think a lot of the anxiety is just genetic. My mom said she had the same issues at about my age and that it eventually passed. In most areas of my life I am VERY confident, which is why the anxiety is so frustrating!

Best Horse Gifts said...

That's really interesting about the corpus collosum!
I was a pretty fearless rider for 3 the better part of 3 decades until I went on a trail ride on the beach while vacationing on the coast. We were riding at the water's edge when from out of nowhere this viscious bulldog came running towards us. Instinctively I positioned myself and my horse between the dog and the group (which contained 2 of my children and several complete novice riders.)
The dog jumped up and locked it's jaws onto my foot, preventing me from pulling out of the stirrup. The horse reared and spun and then bolted. Of course I had to stay on or be drug by one foot as the bleeping dog would not let go!
I managed to quickly get the horse to halt, at which point he turned around enough to grab the dog by the ear and rip him from my foot! The dog, once loose, went for the horse's neck! (I later learned that bulldogs wer bred to take down bulls - hence the name - and that they did/do so by going for the throat of the bull. Clever, eh? ;()
My horse began rearing and stamping at the dog. I feared it would go after the other horses/riders so I dismounted (picture half cartwheel-like leap, landing on my side in the sand)very graceful! Then the dog jumped on me! As I'm sure you can understand, at this point I had a bit of bone to pick with this dog! I punched him square in the jaw with all of my might and sent him back a few feet. His owner finally came running up with his leash in hand (good place for it, right?) yelling to me about how it's alright, he won't hurt you, he's a really nice dog, etc. I refrained from punching her, - just barely and told her that perhaps I could believe her if I weren't laying in the sand gushing blood from my foot.
Anyway... it took me a full year and the unwaivering love of a completely bomb-proof quarter horse named Rose to get my confidence back in the saddle. It's still hard for me to be around dogs while on horseback though. I have a strong impulse to pull out of the stirrups when I hear or see one! :O
~DD

kestrel said...

You restrained yourself from punching the dog's owner?! You have such presence of mind. I'd have helped the horse stomp both of them into a pile of red jelly in the sand...! Brave horse you were riding.

Best Horse Gifts said...

Yes - that was a brave horse - an ancient old trail horse too. Probably seen it all. My young daughters were on the ride as well and obviously very traumatized by the whole thing - I think I exercised more restraint trying to act like I was okay for their sake.
My husband was back at the car w/ no idea what was happenning til the medics sped past. Good times.

sterling said...

I'm a teen, and I'd like to say that, no, I'm not eager to get on anything! I will get on my own horse after a good longe, my trainer's schoolies, but that's it. I like my body intact, thanks very much. And I won't get on any horse without a helmet, EVER.

I had a really bad wreck when I was 11, and my confidence was shattered. Luckily my trainer spoecializes in fear issues and I rode some real solid old ponies to bring me back. However, I am very cautious with any horse other than my own.

I know how to deal with the crud my horse and my old pony can throw at me, but the other horses I don't know...their quirks and style of midbehavior are completely foreign, and I don't know how they'll react, so I prefer to ride my own horses and leave the others to their owners.

Best Horse Gifts said...

Sterling ~
You sound wise beyond your years! :D
~DD

PeterC said...

Well, although I've been trial riding before I took my first lesson a week ago today. Age 37. I've a terrible fear of heights and the back of a horse is quite high... :)

Anyhow, I'm not terrified, as I expected to be, when I'm on the back of a horse. I did find my balance does not seem to be as good as it should be. I was banging around in the saddle pretty good, poor horse. The trainer did have us jog as slowly as the horse would go and still be called jogging and that was a little exciting but not fear inducing.

Just found your blog today and I am enjoying the... honesty... of it... Thanks!