Nervous novice, scared of riding my horse

fiwen30

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*pause for people to read thread title and scoff*

I'm sorry in advance, this may be a bit long-winded, but I don't have any horsey friends to bounce my thoughts off, and I'm going round in circles!

I've had my first ever horse, Lola, on loan since May 2014, and the agreement with her owner is that I have her for a year and then owner will decide what she wants to do with her next.

My getting Lola was part of an agreement with my soon-to-be-sister-in-law who is an eventer with her own yard. The agreement being that I help her on the yard every weekday morning with chores, and groom for her at events, and in return she gives me knowledge and practical experience of horse management and ownership, pays for and trains me for my Pony Club exams, and foots the feed, hay, bedding and livery bills for a loan horse for me. Sounds pretty good, right?

It was great to start with, I was riding nearly every day after my morning's work, and Lola was just as described by her owner - safe, forgiving and utterly paitent with my novice-ness. Summer was fantastic, I learnt to jump, we went on fun rides, galloped through fields and it was great. In July, her owner took Lola's saddle back. She was reluctant to do so, but she needed it to fit another one of her horses.

While I was in saddle-limbo, I borrowed a spare from my SIL which fit Lola OK, but not me at all. We rode in it twice, and the second time I'd barely mounted when Lola took off and bucked so hard I flew over her head and landed straight on my hip. Honest to god I thought I'd broken it - I was the only person at the yard, and I lay on the floor for 10 minutes sobbing in pain. I didn't ride her again until I'd bought a new saddle 2 months later, exactly like the previous one, and had it fitted for her.

After that, one way or another, I kept coming off almost every time I rode alone in the school. Sometimes it was my fault, sometimes it was hers, other times it was accidents or unfortunate circumstances, but after each time I was so shaken that I put off riding for longer and longer, because every time I rode, I fell off.

Lola has now learnt that she can throw me off by bucking, specifically when I've just mounted and not got my other stirrup. If she moves off before I'm balanced, she can buck, I fall off, she gets out of work because I'm too shook up or too hurt to get back on. When I turn her head so she can't go forwards, she plants and bucks on the spot instead, for up to 2-3 minutes of battling with her, rather than walking on.

Now I'm at the stage where I dread the idea of riding her. Not riding in general - after a little knee-knocking I'll hop on and hack SIL's 17.2hh eventing mare because I trust her implicitly. I've just completely lost trust in Lola, and my own confidence is in tatters. I've only ridden her twice since the start of November, which is just so shameful. SIL is getting angry about it too. I guess she see's a horse getting fat off her money, while not being used, even though I'm supposed to be the one working for her keep. SIL hasn't been scared of a horse in her life, and doesn't understand my growing reluctance. Her advice for Lola's bucking, and to get me riding again, is to just 'go and do it', because she's never known that sometimes you just...can't.

I know the sensible thing to do would be to try and give Lola back to her owner, as I'm not riding or enjoying her as I should be, but her owner was explicit that it would be a full year loan, and she didn't want Lola droped on her in the middle of winter. That would disappoint SIL too, and her fiance my BIL - they're very much the 'if you quit something, you're a good-for-nothing loser who's scared of hard work' types.

I don't want to quit riding. I don't even want to quit working on the yard. I just need a horse I can trust, that I'm not constantly scared will throw me of when I've only just got on. I know no horse is 100% all the time, but I've just not got an ounce of trust left in Lola. SIL hasn't said it, but I know she doesn't hold much stock in my fear. She sees it as 'laziness' and 'shirking', like I don't care that Lola in unworked and unfit. She makes me feel like I'm being irrational and ridiculous, and I don't have anyone else to source opinions from.

Having the bills paid for a horse on loan is supposed to be my reward, a hobby, a relaxation, a fullfilment of a long-held childhood dream, but my fear is making it miserable. Not helped by SIL insisting I should be riding 3-4 times a week, when I've not ridden that in the past few *months*. Is it irrational to want a horse you have confidence in? Or are there other horse owners/loaners slogging it out with animals they're afraid of? Is this normal horse ownership, or is it acceptable to want enjoyment from what is essentially a time and money pit, disguised as a hobby?

Medals for anyone who read all that, I'm not even sure what I'm after. Any insight or thoughts from fellow horsey people whould be gratefully recieved, as I really don't have any guidence.
 

Equi

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Firstly, is anyone else able to ride her? You obviously know that she has picked up this incredibly bad habit of bucking with you because of you lack in confidence and probably riding ability too (it sounds like you haven't been riding very long) so i'm sure owner will not be happy at all. I would get someone else to get on her and if she plays up made her do a bloody good work out, then you get on and ride. Keep at this until she lets you get on and ride her.

Also, do the back n tack checks - even if a new saddle was fitted to her

I got rid of my loan horse in two months because of spooking, not worth it for me but the horse at least did this at home so wasn't my doing.
 

WindyStacks

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1. The owner was a bit of a cow for taking the saddle back during the agreement.

2. Get the back looked at - it's not normal behaviour for such a previously sweet horse.

3. Get someone else to ride her and then have someone you TRUST hold her whilst you mount, fiddle with your stirrups, put your gloves on and get them to pop you on the lead rein.
 

fiwen30

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Equi - I'm afraid not. There's only the 2 of us at the yard, and SIL has 2 of her own to ride, and another in for training, all to be done in the mornings before her desk job; hence why I'm there to help out.

In November when we were gearing up for my C test, SIL was giving me a lesson. I mounted, she planted and bucked on the spot, SIL took her by the bridle and lead her on, and she continued to hitch her legs up ad hump her back. We three walked around for over 5 minutes before I got off, SIL got on, and suddenly Lola behaved like an angel. The bucking is an awful habit I know, but one, I think, she reserves for me.

I'm having the saddle fitter out to check it again just incase, but I do think it's more behavioural - last week's ride was fine (though I was shaking like a leaf!), she stood like a rock and behaved well, this week's ride she planted and bucked again..
 

Pearlsasinger

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You poor thing!

TBH, it sounds like a pain reaction to me. I wouldn't be surprised if the borrowed saddle has damaged Lola's back and she is in pain. SIL probably is just such a firm rider that the mare couldn't buck with her. The first thing I would do is get the vet to check her back. Sane, safe horses do NOT suddenly learn to buck their rider off just because they can. Have you spoken to the horse's owner?
Your SIL sounds rather unpleasant to me and definitely unsympathetic! She should be helping to build your confidence, not putting on more pressure which only helps to destroy confidence. If you are continuing to do the yard jobs it's actually nothing to do with SIL how many times a week you ride.
 

alainax

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Don't feel down, could happen to anyone. You just need a plan.

First off, get saddler and vet out to check, may as well rule that right out.

Then, can you lunge? Get her working, knowing your the boss and listening to your commands - without even having to put a foot in an stirrup, so no worries for you!.

And at the same time, find a good local sympathetic instructor to come out. Your SIL sounded like the right sort of rider to help you, but maybe not the right sort of teacher. ( Which tbf, not everyone is)

You will rule out pain, get her working and listeing to you, and get a good instructor to get yours and her confidence back up again. :)
 

maj

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oh dear ---- people loan horses for a reason - either financially cos they cant afford them or usually cos they cant ride them and hope someone else can - you have a 12 month contract but still I would send it back - don't entertain trying to ride something that clearly has baggage - you will hurt yourself !!! if she wont have it back - tell her to come down and ride it - I bet she wont !!
 

Fruitcake

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How awful for you.

Agree with above comments about getting her back checked incase loan saddle caused damage It does sound like it could be a learned habit but the fact that the first time she did it was only the second time with a new saddle is suspicious in my view.

That said, horses are very intuitive. If she's learned this as a habit due to your lack of confidence and every time you ride, you're scared, the problem will just be compounded. At the end of the day, she could simply be reacting to your fear. When you tense up and transmit fear to her, her natural reaction is to think there's something to be scared of and try to escape. I really think that seeking help from an understanding instructor is the way forward (once you've established there is no pain issue). SIL perhaps doesn't seem the best person to help. A lack of confidence is real and when people use the, 'Just get on and get on with it' attitude, it really annoys me as, when you feel like that, you just can't.

A good instructor will work with you and your horse separately: With your horse to reschool her and with you to get your confidence back- probably on another horse, slowly and at your pace. The two of you can then be reintroduced gradually. Of course, if this isn't your own horse and there's a chance she'll be going back to the owner in a few months, understandably, you might not want to invest the kind of money that this would require.

In response to your questions, no you don't have to slog ot out with a horse you're afraid of. This isn't beneficial to either of you. It really isn't irrational to want a horse you have confidence in but, in order for a horse to give you this confidence, they have to feel confident in you so it's a bit of a two way thing. (I'm speaking from experience here, having had a total crisis confidence a few years ago which resulted in my previously very safe horse losing confidence in me. Help from my fantastic instructor got us both back on track and we have a great relationship again). I suppose what I'm saying is that another horse may well react to an unconfident rider too over time so if I was you, I'd focus on finding a really understanding instructor to help you with your confidence.

I really do feel for you. Don't beat yourself up over the situation. Make a plan. Take it slowly and record every small achievement to keep you positive. Good luck.
 

fiwen30

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Thanks all. I understand that horses need confident riders as well, and I was at the start of the loan! Realising that she can throw me off far easier than I can stay on will be difficult to overcome though. I agree, and would love to be taking regular lessons, though I don't think SIL would be too chuffed with another instructor coming to the yard. She teaches at PC as well, and while our earlier lessons were great (she was the one who taught me to jump earlier in the year), she just doesn't 'get' nervous riders. However, there's a number of riding schools in the local area, and while I don't have transport to take Lola out, weekly or fortnightly lessons for me would at least get me using the right muscles again.
 

tubby1

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This could be me, bought first horse got on great, then started throwing me off for no reason, back, teeth , etc checked.a bit of re schooling , got back on, ok for a wee while then started again. Result I was terrified dreaded going up . I sold this horse got a nice sensible horse did fab and now have my lovely mare. I still have huge confidence issues but that's my problem. I would say hand it back if you have reached the point of being terrified . There are loads of nice safe horses out there
 

9tails

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Quite a few people have suggested getting her back checked, the saddle fitter can't do that so suggest a recommended chiro before thinking she's doing it as a learned behaviour.
 

Leo Walker

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Thanks all. I understand that horses need confident riders
They dont all! I have one, currently out on permanent loan, but he is absolutely rock steady in any situation! He has taken my OH out hacking alone the second time my OH ever sat on a horse! He had a firework thrown at him a few weeks ago and just looked at it in disgust.

However as she was what you wanted and has suddenly changed it is soo worth doing all the physical checks! My other horse came back from loan being absolutely vile and refusing to hack out, rearing, cow kicking and full blown pig rooting. I had a vet check done first and they said he was 100% sound, no issues and just clobbber him through it. Then as a precaution I got the chiro out. She thought he looked ok until she started treating him. Turns out he had some pretty nasty soreness in his shoulders. She treated him and hes back to being a lovely willing sweet pony. So always worth doing!
 

Spot_the_Risk

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Some great advice here. Have you considered if you mount differently to others eg are you slow so the saddle shifts across her spine? Do you land with a thump, or clench your bum or grip with your knees? Any of these could be upsetting to a horse. Make sure you have a neck strap, and hold it while you mount. I have suffered with nerves and fear, and had a sharp in the school horse. I used to lunge him for a few minutes (enough to make him puff) then get on while he was still puffing and he would be very well behaved then, and I became bolder because I could then ride him.
 

millikins

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I read your previous thread about being left in charge over Christmas. Your SIL seems to be doing an excellent job of destroying your interest in horses/riding. You are a nervous rider whose horse is dumping you, maybe you've inadvertently taught the horse or maybe she's in pain, either way the experienced people aren't listening to you or the horse. I think if you want to carry on with riding you should find a polite way of moving.
 

hcm88

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Get her back checked ASAP by a well reputed chiro/physio, your sister in law should be able to recommend someone.

She could be in pain and its how you are getting on her (rather than the way your SIL mounts) that causes the pain, hence she only does it for you. The saddle change coinciding with the behaviour makes me think they are connected, get a good saddler to check it over. Has she ever done anything similar before with her owner?

Don't ride alone if you can help it until you know the problem is fixed, once you've got the go ahead from the chiro/physio/saddler/vet/etc have a couple of lessons from your sister in law until you're happy, then start riding on your own again. Build it gradually back up and you'll be fine, confidence is something you can grow but it takes time. Good luck!
 

NeverSayNever

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sounds very much to me like SIL is the one on a win win situation and you are being used as a bit of a doormat. Id get out of that situation and if you want to continue riding do it elsewhere where people have some respect for you. I would also not continue riding that mare, it sounds like for whatever reason you are heading for a nasty accident.
 

paddi22

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you're sister in law sounds like a complete ars*. That situation would be very easy for her to fix if she had a bit of empathy and kindness in her. The issue only started with the saddle, so its fairly clear what happened. A good physio check, visit from the saddle fitter and a bit of schooling from your SIL would fix the whole issue. If she'd any sense she'd be giving you lessons on another horse to build your confidence up. and then slowly switch you back to gentle easy lessons on your loan once its had a bit of schooling.

I'd serious reconsider what you were getting out of the situation with the current situation. You have lost confidence, aren't been given correct advice and are working your ars* off for her still.
 

Honey08

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You sound like you have a lot of people around you thinking about what they want/think is right and not caring about you. You could get hurt! Once again you're in a dodgy situation.

Your sister in law - for an instructor sounds incredibly stupid or selfish and only able to see things from her angle. If I knew someone was scared and getting bucked off regularly I wouldn't be making them feel bad. It was the same when you were left with the yard.

Your OH - can he not see the situations you keep being put in are too much for you? Can he not see his sister is using you/not treating you well? Does he not care?

The horse's owner - do they know what is happening since the saddle was taken? Do they not care about their horse? Are they not worried about you getting hurt? Also, if you loan a horse out there is a chance it will come back mid winter. As long as you give reasonable notice it's not your problem. She sounded quite happy to change arrangements when she took the saddle back. Again, it's all her way..

As an instructor I would say send the horse back after a months notice. Then walk away from your sister in law's yard too (again give her a months notice). Find a good riding school and get your confidence repaired. If you decide to get another horse stable it at a decent livery yard where people won't talk down to you and where you can have an instructor that suits you. Some people relate to harsh, no nonsense instructors like your SIL, others relate to softer teaching.. You just have to find what suits you.

This is your hobby. It should be fun and shouldn't be a chore or frightening. And if your boyfriend can't understand or support you I'd be rethinking him too!
 

Fruitcake

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That situation would be very easy for her to fix if she had a bit of empathy and kindness in her. The issue only started with the saddle, so its fairly clear what happened. A good physio check, visit from the saddle fitter and a bit of schooling from your SIL would fix the whole issue. If she'd any sense she'd be giving you lessons on another horse to build your confidence up. and then slowly switch you back to gentle easy lessons on your loan once its had a bit of schooling.
.
^^This. Totally agree.
1. Rule out pain.
2. Separate schooling / confidence building lessons for you and your horse.
3. Gradually build up to riding your horse again.

Could you ask SIL about possibility of her schooling your horse and giving you some lessons on her horse (the one you felt confident to ride)? Judging by what you said, she won't have time so this gives you the perfect excuse to bring in another instructor without causing any upset between you and SIL.

Do agree with what others have said though that, in the long term, maybe being around your SIL perhaps isn't the best thing for your confidence.
 

madmav

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Feel your pain, particularly difficult with a loan horse and also what sounds like a tricky sis in law.
Personally, would take a step back from her and either return loan horse to owner then go and find nice riding school with school masters, or bring in a really good instructor to help you with current horse.
 

Redders

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Firstly, your sil sounts like a plonker (read Xmas thread) calmly and seriously point out that you are having genuine issues with confidence, and as you know she is limited in time to help you through it, you are going to bring an instructor who specialises in confidence work (they do exist, have a couple in my area) so you can over come it. Get your oh on side too. This situation will wreck your enjoyment and good memories of horses if it doesn't change, don't let it happen because of an inconsiderate owner taking back a saddle and a sil who is completely the wrong type of instructor for you.( not to mention the fact that I think she takes huge liberties with you and is incredibly selfish when it comes to your needs/issues/abilities)
You mentioned in your other thread what a good opportunity she is offering you etc- it is only a good opportunity if you are enjoying it, and your not at the moment. I really wish you all the best.
 

Goldenstar

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Your SIL does seem a bit of a Madame .
Lots of good advice on this thread .
Never ever underestimate the fact that a powerful determined can get horses in pain to work .
My advice would be to go back to the saddle .
Contact the owner ask for the saddle back or tell her the horse is coming back.
When a previous well behaved horse starts to miss behave there's almost always pain at it's route and everything points to the removal of the horses saddle .
It's also extremely unusual for previous well mannered older horses to start being difficult like this without a good reason , tricky horses are usually tricky from the start.
 

Theocat

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Always worth getting the back and tack checked but assuming they're okay - See if SiL will do some schooling for you, and slowly transition to you having lessons on the mare. Ideally with you riding something else you trust during the schooling phase.

If that's not possible, horse needs to go back. People who loan rather than sell always take the risk the horse might come back - check your notice period - one month?- and give them that but don't keep it longer than you have to. Apart from anything else, I'd think the owner would want the horse back before the behaviour gets any worse.

Do you work? To be honest I think you'd be better off on a different yard if you can afford livery - preferably one with other owners similar to you. Sharing a yard with a confident eventer might be a huge confidence boost, or it might destroy all confidence even at the best of times!
 

honetpot

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You sound like you have a lot of people around you thinking about what they want/think is right and not caring about you. You could get hurt! Once again you're in a dodgy situation.

Your sister in law - for an instructor sounds incredibly stupid or selfish and only able to see things from her angle. If I knew someone was scared and getting bucked off regularly I wouldn't be making them feel bad. It was the same when you were left with the yard.

Your OH - can he not see the situations you keep being put in are too much for you? Can he not see his sister is using you/not treating you well? Does he not care?

The horse's owner - do they know what is happening since the saddle was taken? Do they not care about their horse? Are they not worried about you getting hurt? Also, if you loan a horse out there is a chance it will come back mid winter. As long as you give reasonable notice it's not your problem. She sounded quite happy to change arrangements when she took the saddle back. Again, it's all her way..

As an instructor I would say send the horse back after a months notice. Then walk away from your sister in law's yard too (again give her a months notice). Find a good riding school and get your confidence repaired. If you decide to get another horse stable it at a decent livery yard where people won't talk down to you and where you can have an instructor that suits you. Some people relate to harsh, no nonsense instructors like your SIL, others relate to softer teaching.. You just have to find what suits you.

This is your hobby. It should be fun and shouldn't be a chore or frightening. And if your boyfriend can't understand or support you I'd be rethinking him too!
Very well put, agree completely
 

FestiveFuzz

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Ok so I'm not going to jump on the SiL bandwagon as clearly you think this is a good opportunity for you as ultimately you're gaining a free ride and qualifications in return for helping her out and furthering your experience with horses, although perhaps her handling of your loss of confidence isn't ideal. Before anyone suggests otherwise I have also read the christmas thread and felt there was fault on both parts in terms of OP not being more assertive when initially asked to hold fort, but that's by the by.

I echo those that say get her back checked, it seems far too much of a coincidence that the bucking started after her original saddle was taken back and would imagine the ill-fitting interim saddle may have caused some sore points. Once you've ruled out any physical causes you can then crack on with gaining your confidence back.

Whilst there are exceptions to the rule, many horses will test nervous or less confident handlers/riders so there's no guarantee that sending the mare back and getting something else won't just bring more undesirable behaviour so in incidences of learned behaviour I much prefer the approach of getting someone experienced out to help address the issue. That way you will better equipped to deal with such issues in future, thus furthering your education at the same time.

I disagree with the poster who said with confidence issues it's not as simple as just getting on with it. Speaking from experience I think the best approach is to "feel the fear and do it anyway" as the less time spent dwelling on these things the less chance you have to work yourself up. I learnt a long time ago the version of events in my head is usually a lot worse than reality. You do however need to break it down into bite sized chunks. So start with just getting on and off her and then gradually increase it to getting on and walking a lap of the school on both reins. Force yourself to get on board daily until it no longer has the fear factor. Setting yourself small achievable goals should also help boost your confidence.

I noticed your mare's registered name and wondered how old she is? I appreciate Game of Thrones originated as a book but figured it only gained mass appeal as a TV show so she's quite possibly a youngster so there may be an element of testing boundaries or a lack of confidence to contend with too.

Finally if you really can't see a way forward with this mare please do return her to the owner. Whilst receiving her back in the middle of winter is far from ideal I'm sure it's preferable to returning a horse with behavioural issues at the end of the contract. At least it would be if she were my horse!
 

gnubee

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You are thinking a lot about what other people need /want /expect, and not a lot about your own needs/wants.

Do you want to try to fix your problem with this horse? If you really believe its not fixable then it won't be. With confidence issues that is self - fulfilling. In that case there is no reason for you to continue to spend time, money, effort on this relationship. Appolgise to owner, give fair notice and return. If i was the owner i would rather it came back than stayed in a deteriorating situation. No one will be happy, except in the long run you, and you should be your first priority.

if you want another go at fixing it you need help. If there is help SIL could give you need to decide what that is and then see if she is willing to give it. In your situation I would want someone experienced riding the horse successfully on a regular basis before I got on again. I would then need them to go right back to basics with me -just walking round the school, on the lunge if it gives you more confidence, until I was ready to try more advanced stuff again.

If you don't think SIL can give what you need, get a trainer who can. She has lost right to be offended about this by not acknowledging the issue or helping you make a plan to address this already.

Take it slowly and don't worry about getting back to the level you were at before the loan ends. It might happen, but even if not you will learn a lot about riding, training and managing your own confidence if you can happily walk this horse around in the school.

p.s. my youngster has clip off reins so if she has a tantrum and I dont think it is productive to get back on straight away i can immediately make her run until she is listening again. I do usually try to get back on after that and do a bit more for my confidence, but even if not it means she never gets the idea that me getting off before I want to is an easy option. I don't think it's the way professionals would deal with her issues, but it works for me.
 

Fruitcake

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I disagree with the poster who said with confidence issues it's not as simple as just getting on with it... You do however need to break it down into bite sized chunks. So start with just getting on and off her and then gradually increase it to getting on and walking a lap of the school on both reins. Force yourself to get on board daily until it no longer has the fear factor. Setting yourself small achievable goals should also help boost your confidence.
To be fair, it seems that your advice for dealing with the situation seems very similar to mine and doesn't involve, "just getting on and getting on with it" either. You suggested a plan, building up confidence in sensible steps: completely different to the OPs SILs insistence that she just got on and carried on as before which was the attitude that I was referring to in my post.

As an aside, I'm also speaking from past personal experience of confidence issues and when I lost my confidence, there was no way I could have just gritted my teeth and acted as if everything was OK. It took a wonderfully patient instructor and small steps to get me back on track! Perhaps different people deal with it differently.
 

Tally-lah

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Ok so I'm not going to jump on the SiL bandwagon as clearly you think this is a good opportunity for you as ultimately you're gaining a free ride and qualifications in return for helping her out and furthering your experience with horses, although perhaps her handling of your loss of confidence isn't ideal. Before anyone suggests otherwise I have also read the christmas thread and felt there was fault on both parts in terms of OP not being more assertive when initially asked to hold fort, but that's by the by.

I echo those that say get her back checked, it seems far too much of a coincidence that the bucking started after her original saddle was taken back and would imagine the ill-fitting interim saddle may have caused some sore points. Once you've ruled out any physical causes you can then crack on with gaining your confidence back.

Whilst there are exceptions to the rule, many horses will test nervous or less confident handlers/riders so there's no guarantee that sending the mare back and getting something else won't just bring more undesirable behaviour so in incidences of learned behaviour I much prefer the approach of getting someone experienced out to help address the issue. That way you will better equipped to deal with such issues in future, thus furthering your education at the same time.

I disagree with the poster who said with confidence issues it's not as simple as just getting on with it. Speaking from experience I think the best approach is to "feel the fear and do it anyway" as the less time spent dwelling on these things the less chance you have to work yourself up. I learnt a long time ago the version of events in my head is usually a lot worse than reality. You do however need to break it down into bite sized chunks. So start with just getting on and off her and then gradually increase it to getting on and walking a lap of the school on both reins. Force yourself to get on board daily until it no longer has the fear factor. Setting yourself small achievable goals should also help boost your confidence.

I noticed your mare's registered name and wondered how old she is? I appreciate Game of Thrones originated as a book but figured it only gained mass appeal as a TV show so she's quite possibly a youngster so there may be an element of testing boundaries or a lack of confidence to contend with too.

Finally if you really can't see a way forward with this mare please do return her to the owner. Whilst receiving her back in the middle of winter is far from ideal I'm sure it's preferable to returning a horse with behavioural issues at the end of the contract. At least it would be if she were my horse!
Exactly this!
 
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