Struggling to regain confidence after fall

Joined
24 March 2021
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20
To give a bit of background - I have been riding weekly for nearly a year now, my progression has been slow (I can only walk and trot) but I still absolutely love it and want to keep progressing.

At the start of September I had my first fall - it wasn't bad in terms of injuries, however, it affected my confidence awfully. The horse bolted off with me when I fell, and so now I am halting when I don't mean to (and don't know I am most the time) out of fear of another bolt. I have real trouble trusting horses.

Since September I have been riding a lovely horse called Pie and he has helped me so much to regain my confidence. But I had a lesson today on a different horse, he is an OTTB and I found him much harder to steer and ride. I wasn't doing very well getting into trot as I was unintentionally halting as I told him to trot on. My instructor started to use a whip to encourage him to go forward - I am ashamed to say I burst out crying because I was so terrified he might bolt off in response to the big whip. I feel extremely embarrassed and annoyed at myself for feeling so overwhelmed in fear. The horse done absolutely nothing wrong, I was just scared because he was new and I didn't have any trust with him yet.

I am now wondering if I have come into riding too late (aged 23) and so don't have the nerve that I might of had if I was learning as a child. Or if my personality is too soft and I am not brave enough for the sport.

So really I am looking for any advice or positive stories about people who have regained their braveness they used to have after a fall, as I really don't want to quit and hope to overcome this.

(My instructor has said she will make sure Pie is available for my lesson next week, but I realise that it is not a normal or reasonable response to cry out of fear when given a different horse.)
 
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Skib

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You are not too late. I was 61 years old.
First thing to say is that in the 1940s my mother told me that falling off was unavoidable when learning to ride. So wear a good hat and a body protector even in a school. We had no good protection in those days.
Next thing is that many adults are, like you, upset if another person uses their whip to control the horse they are riding. That happened to me when I took a w. t. and c test at my current yard. The lovely YM really thought I did not know how to canter by myself. So she drove the horse on and I pulled him up before the next corner. I was scared.
Adults need to take control themselves.
As for trying canter on a diferent horse - the first canter on any horse is a bit nerve wracking. One doesnt know how the horse will move or whether there will be brakes.
As for the crying and fear. The best skill one learns when learning to ride is to know when a horse feels too difficult for one to be able to control and one then for this reason declines to ride it.
If you dont want to canter yet, canter is not compulsory. But it is something some of us learn to do (as I did) out hacking, or in a lunge lesson.
But if you like walk and trot and feel happy on a horse, give things at least 2 years and dont feel fretted about needing to canter.
 

Winters100

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You are not too old, but I think you should question whether you really do enjoy it, as being in so much fear that you cry does sounds a bit unusual. Some people just like to be around horses, and maybe this is what you want, riding is not compulsory in order to spend time with them. If the answer is that you really do want to ride then I would say just relax and do what you find fun. It really does not matter if you improve or not, the only thing you are doing it for is enjoyment. If this means that you just walk and trot fine, do that, and after some time you will probably find that you feel more confident and want to try canter again.

I would also say do try to keep your composure when around horses. If the instructor does something that you do not like try to ask them calmly to stop, I know that fear is difficult to overcome, but they are sensitive animals, so we need to respect this.
 

stangs

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When I was young, I had a similar fall. Horse shot off in canter, swerved, shoved his head down, and I came down with an ankle injury that didn't heal for a few months. Not being able to ride for those few months was awful and resulted in my brain just regurgitating the feeling of the fall and making me feel worse. By the time I got back on, I was riding the laziest horse I could find, an absolute saint of a gelding, but I could barely summon the guts to ask him to trot more forward with my leg let alone use a whip.

I've cried on various horses out of irrational fear - repeatedly. I disagree with Winters100 that it's an extreme response; some of us just aren't born confident riders.

In your case, I would:
a) explain to the instructor about your nerves, and ask if they could refrain from using a whip for now
b) if you can, spend more time with this OTTB on the ground in a low pressure scenario, to build up a feeling of trust, or at least faith, in the horse.
c) don't put any pressure or expectations on yourself - that'll make the nerves worse

Also, a little coping mechanism I use: if I'm starting to overthink when I'm in the saddle (which is guaranteed to start causing anxiety), I pick a repetitive song to sing in my head to help myself focus on the rhythm of the trot and nothing else.
 

jkitten

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Stangs mentioned singing and I know that works great for many riders (and people with nerves in general). I saw one lady singing 'I'll be working on the railroad' out loud as she trotted round the arena to calm her nerves. None of us judged her or thought she was weird, on the contrary we admired her for getting up there even though she was obviously terrified.

In the longer term, I wonder if getting to know the horses on the ground would help at all? Most riding schools will present you with a fully tacked up horse ready to go, which doesn't give you much understanding of them as a whole. Getting to know them and their body language might help you rebuild trust. Since you have private lessons you could ask your instructor to do a few lessons on the ground.

Finally, as others have said, you are going to fall and that is something you'll have to make peace with. Perhaps you could invest in a body proctector, so that you can be confident that when you do fall, your vital bits will be protected?
 

JackFrost

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27 October 2020
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403
A body protector is good, so is a neck strap - it may not help you stay on but can make you feel better!
I never forget falls, but after a bad one, I slowly get more confident and feel less daunted.
There is so much you can do in walk and trot. You probably know of the Intro dressage tests. Getting quality and straightness in walk can be hard, as can good upward and downward transitions into trot, lateral work, correct bend etc etc.
Some horses will give you confidence, and others you just won't click with, and it isn't always about how forward they are.
At 23, you are at your athletic prime, and you have decades ahead to improve at your own pace.
Riding really is for everyone, you just have the find the aspects that you enjoy most.
 

numptynovice

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5 January 2015
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151
So I totally get how you feel having started to learn to ride (apart from odd lessons as a child) aged 36. I’ve now been riding 8 years as an adult and still feel very much a novice. I had a nasty fall about 5 years ago and it took my years to regain confidence from it, so don’t feel bad that you are still feeling worried.

What I find with a new horse that I’m struggling to get to grips with and I don’t feel confident, I just take it back a stage. I might be happy cantering in one horse, but find another horse difficult to steer. So I won’t go above walk with the new horse until I am happy I have got control of steering. Then we move up to trot and once I’m happy with trot we go up to canter (this can take several lessons). I would STILL do this with a new horse, even though I’ll happily gallop across the common on a horse I know well.

There is no shame in getting your confidence with a new horse in walk before you go up the paces.
 

Rumtytum

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I’ve been at a school for four years (with breaks), ridden many horses there and always felt nervous when getting on any new one for the first time. Doesn’t matter what the instructor said, they were unknown to me!
I now have ‘my’ horse at the yard, we spend lots of time together after our lesson, I adore him and most importantly I trust him!
I had a couple of falls (from someone’s private horse, not at the RS). The second one was a broken rib and bruised kidney, I came so close to losing my nerve, but I went back to the RS, got on ‘my’ horse and felt at home straight away. Can you ask to ride Pie?
As others have said, the most important thing is to go at your pace and do whatever you are comfortable with 😊
 
Joined
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Thanks for your reply, I completely know what you mean 😊 I am going back to riding Pie next week, he was only unavailable this week because he escaped into the wrong field and was acting bit off so they were giving him some time to settle down.
 

Hepsibah

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I had a horse (not mine) dump me on my head with a rear and then a headstand buck. It took a long time before I felt able to ride again. Once I did, I went back to riding school and had lots of lessons on a calm horse to re-educate my mind into realising it isn't going to happen with mine. It can be done. :)
 
Joined
29 November 2021
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7
To give a bit of background - I have been riding weekly for nearly a year now, my progression has been slow (I can only walk and trot) but I still absolutely love it and want to keep progressing.

At the start of September I had my first fall - it wasn't bad in terms of injuries, however, it affected my confidence awfully. The horse bolted off with me when I fell, and so now I am halting when I don't mean to (and don't know I am most the time) out of fear of another bolt. I have real trouble trusting horses.

Since September I have been riding a lovely horse called Pie and he has helped me so much to regain my confidence. But I had a lesson today on a different horse, he is an OTTB and I found him much harder to steer and ride. I wasn't doing very well getting into trot as I was unintentionally halting as I told him to trot on. My instructor started to use a whip to encourage him to go forward - I am ashamed to say I burst out crying because I was so terrified he might bolt off in response to the big whip. I feel extremely embarrassed and annoyed at myself for feeling so overwhelmed in fear. The horse done absolutely nothing wrong, I was just scared because he was new and I didn't have any trust with him yet.

I am now wondering if I have come into riding too late (aged 23) and so don't have the nerve that I might of had if I was learning as a child. Or if my personality is too soft and I am not brave enough for the sport.

So really I am looking for any advice or positive stories about people who have regained their braveness they used to have after a fall, as I really don't want to quit and hope to overcome this.

(My instructor has said she will make sure Pie is available for my lesson next week, but I realise that it is not a normal or reasonable response to cry out of fear when given a different horse.)
I am so sorry about that! I totally understand, even a fall that isn't severe can really rattle you. My first fall was minor too, but I cried the rest of the night, not because of pain, but just being shaken. Confidence will come with time after the fall, but whenever you ride, try to remember the reason you started in the first place and that most horses aren't going to purposely do something to hurt you. Falling is unfortunately just part of riding, but eventually you will just get back up and laugh. It takes time, but I know you will recover. Good luck!
 

Bob notacob

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15 February 2018
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IMHO ,if your instructor did not understand your fear ,then they do not have sufficient experience to train ivy up a wall. At 23 you have a lifetime of wonderful riding experience ahead of you. Level with your instructor about your fears. Trust me on this , we all have those moments. Falling off is rather inevitable when you start . Hat ,gloves body protector and a good understanding instructress (using the female here to be equal opportunities) Make sure your instructor is BHS qualified ,which I am sure they are. To be honest, an instructor using a schooling whip to "encourage" a reluctant horse with a novice rider ,is fraught with danger and the instincts that upset you ,were good instincts, trust them . Don't cry next time ,just say ,back off, lets get through this another way.OMG I wish I was 23 again to explore the world of horses(and mules ,not to be left out) You are so lucky! mIa m pushing 66 and wish I could do it all again ,even the bad stuff.
 
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Widgeon

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Neck strap is a really good call, I always use one - whenever I get a bit nervous I hook two fingers through it and then I know that even if I do have to sit a high speed spook or a sudden spin, I won't be going anywhere and there's zero risk of me socking my horse in the mouth. I've never actually needed it, it's more of a psychological comfort blanket - but it's very effective so I always put it on!
 

Pinkvboots

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Your definitely not too old and I don't think your instructor should have chased the horse with a lunge whip, I have confidence issues after my horse fell on me and I have often burst into tears, so don't feel silly about that at all it's almost like an anxiety reaction, and tbh if someone did that to me I would probably cry as well.

I think you need to go back to riding the horse you know and explain to your instructor how you really feel, and let them know you really don't want the horse your riding to be chased with a whip.
 
Joined
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Great replies from others,

My advice would be to talk to your instructor about how you feel. Everyone goes through confidence knocks at one point another, even the best of riders! Going back to a horse you feel safe on is probably best until you regain the confidence to step out of your comfort zone.

Best of luck, keep us posted! 😊
 

Elno

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1 November 2020
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Oh hun you're not too old! I was 30 when I realised that I wasn't allergic to horses anymore and started riding 😊 I have taken a few nasty falls, gotten bolted off with, bitten and gotten fractures in the foot after being stomped on not to mention the times I sat on a horse bawling my eyes out, shaking wondering why am I doing all this when I'm scared ****less. And still here I am several years later owning a horse and not being able to imagine a life without them.

When I had times when I was scared I always asked either a friend I trusted or my fiancee to be around when I rode sometimes even leading the horse while I sat on. I used to joke "Okay, if I fall, will you drive me to the hospital? 😉" and somehow that made me feel better in case something would happen- which it didn't.
 
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