Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fear of My Own Horse?

In the photo above I am riding my aunt's mare for the first time. I have seen this mare be great on the trails, but have seen her go fast in the arena which made me just slightly apprehensive. But once on her back and heading down the trail, I was fine.

I left a comment on HorseCentric's blog recently about trail riding and fear. I had a scary incident on My Boy last August on a trail ride. It was an awful ride, actually. To this day I am still shocked I didn't dismount and lead him the 2 hours home rather than stay on his very unsafe back. I attribute the bad ride to faulty equipment because I have not had those issues on a trail ride since. Regardless, every time I go out I am a little on edge.... will that behavior resurface?

I was telling Ranch Boy the other day that I actually feel safer riding ranch horses, or riding horses I don't know. Why is this? I will try to explain it. My Boy is my horse. Any behavior problems or changes are mine, to find the cause of and deal with. If My Boy starts tossing me on the trails, I have to sort out why, get on his back again, or find a trainer to help me. It is a huge responsibility, and it is mine. Let me clarify that I am not afraid to ride my horse and I don't sit up there an anxious mess!

When I am riding other people's horses, I am putting faith in that they are saying the horse is safe and won't hurt me. And if I have a great ride, then great. If I were to have an awful ride and get tossed or scared? Well, I never have to ride that horse again, right? I can say thank you very much for the ride, but I didn't like that horse and I'll pass on that one next time.

Ranch Boy and I on a trail ride in California. You will notice on this blog that RB and I are wearing helmets 99.5% of the time we ride. It is his story to tell by RB sustained a serious head injury from a fall from a horse when he was a teenager so a helmet is a necessity. For me, it's just a personal choice to save my brain. By the way, check out the mane on RB's horse! Woo-ee! It was a windy day!

I'm not saying every little thing a horse might do out of the norm scares me. For example, I will ride a horse again if once in a while he spooks at a deer on the trails. I'm talking about a horse that exhibits dangerous behavior such as bucking, bolting, rearing, or just being completely unresponsive and generally out of control.

I'm riding a large variety of horses these days and I am learning a lot about myself and horses in general. Fear is a funny thing, isn't it? Some people seem to crave that adrenaline, that edge of fear. They want to ride all the challenging horses, the crazy ones. I recently read in a journal I kept as a teenager that my pony was being prancy and jiggy on the trails and that "I loved it." Nowadays, I don't love that behavior.

It's just not my thing. I've always played it a bit safe. I like my bones, I've yet to break one. I'm okay not being a huge risk-taker when it comes to horses. I still have fun. I enjoy my moments in the saddle. I challenge myself and constantly learn, such as when I took saddleseat lessons two years ago on high-stepping Saddlebreds in a very flat saddle. And even playing it safe, there are no guarantees that something won't happen with any horse I ride. I am not unrealistic.

I am going to try to find a mobile instructor to give me some lessons this summer, and I'm saving up to participate in a clinic. I think I will benefit from some professional advice on my own horse, and someone to really push me and help me grow in my confidence.

What kind of rider are you and how does fear play into your experience with horses?

Ranch Girl


Kara said...

I never had fear when I was younger and didn't know as much about training as I do now. Now, I would never ride someone else's horse unless I trusted the person to tell me how the horse is. And it scares me to have someone else ride my animals, even though they are generally fantastic...because other people don't necessarily ride like me and I've seen too many people get all uptight and pull straight back with high hands when they get nervous. My horses don't understand that. They are low gentle hands horses and that freaks them out. I guess I should work on desensitizing them to kind of riding too. Anyway, I've got a little more fear now than I ever have before because of my long break from riding, but my fear is greater when I'm at home thinking about riding and thinking about all that could possibly go wrong (darn imagination). But when I actually get out there and saddle up a horse, my confidence all comes back as my horse calmly waits to be saddled and respectfully responds to everything I ask. I think that lessons and clinics are a great way to boost your confidence and they are a fun learning experience with other horsey people.

Anonymous said...

I'm a lot more cautious now that I'm (a lot) older. When I was young, I would ride anything anywhere and almost always rode bareback. And I had a lot of falls, but none of that ever slowed me down.

If I'm fearful now, it tends to be about specific things - I had a horse kick me in the jaw a couple of years ago while I was picking feet, so I'm more careful/cautious when doing that.

I had my first fall in almost 10 years in June - and I ride whenever I can and often more than one horse a day - and it was a doozy - severe concussion, broken collarbone and ribs and 5 days in the hospital. We think it was due to an undiagnosed cardiac arrhythmia (have a pacemaker now) but I'll never know for sure as I have no memory of the fall. I was riding alone at the time, and I expect I'll be more cautious about that in the future, although there's no general fear of riding. I'm slowly starting riding again - it took a long time for my balance and strength to get better - and I'm looking forward to it.

And your point about "owning" your own horse's problems is an interesting one.

Kudos to you for the helmets - mine was severely damaged in my fall and if I hadn't been wearing one the outcome would have been far worse - it may have saved my life.

fernvalley01 said...

I sure hear you on the loving prancy jiggy horses as a kid but NOT now. Funny how we change as we age, not sure what happend with your sweet appy boy , but hopefully your plans for lessons and expanding your horizons with other horses will help . I like a nice settled , resposive horse who is paying attention to me . no more wanting the speed demons or the really jiggy ones

Kiiks said...

Thanks for your post! I get scared to ride my own horses as well, even to the point where I lay in bed at night dreading the next time I have to ride them, planning and over-analyzing and imagining myself in every horrible scenario. I felt like because my horses were so connected to me and responsive they could sense my fear so much better and take advantage of me. I finalized realized I had to turn it around and use their understanding of me and get them to trust me even when I am afraid, and also learn not to push myself. If I'm afraid of something then my horse is probably going to be afraid of it too. I think it's also important to get on your horse each time with a positive mindset, expecting what you know you can expect from yourself and your horse and not pushing any further than what you can do. And sometime I have to remind myself to ignore my fear and just do it.

Brenda@ **Dragonflys and Stars** said...

I had a horse for a couple of years as a young adolescent. No one showed me how to saddle and bridle my horse so I would hop on bareback and use my hands on her neck to steer her. She was a cutting horse so neck reined well. I fell off once galloping across a hay field and dad found me on the knocked out on the ground and Molly standing over me with her nose in my face. That didn't slow me down. No fear--

Almost 30 years later I started riding again by taking riding lessons on an 18 year old mare I later bought. Then I bought 3 untrained 2 year olds and saddle trained them. I had major butterflies everytime I went out to the barn but didn't let that slow me down. Over the past 8 years I have learned alot. The worset thing that ever happened was when a trainer that was a friend of the barn owners had me try out a horse of his. He instructed me to do a lead change on the horse which lead to a full out bucking fit that left me with 3 broken ribs and major bruising. Last time I trusted a trainer I didn't know. I am now working with a great young trainer and have taken up reining. I am aware that there is always some risk with riding, but rarely am fearful anymore riding my horses. One, I have trained and know her inside and out and we trust each other. The other is a trained reining horse with a huge heart and even when she is crabby or spooky I never feel at risk on her because of her training and her personality. I am confident in my riding finally but still have some anxiety on horses I don't know.

Crystal said...

I think a little fear is what keeps us safe. I know my horses have problems that I am sure I have trained them to do (cause I didnt know better at the time) but now that I ride a lot more I am starting to enjoy riding only my own horses cause I know what they will do in pretty well every situation, even if they havent done it before.

The first thing I noticed in that pic was the mane of that horse, looks pretty crazy!

Sares said...

My fear of breaking something is probably what keeps me from getting on a horse. With no insurance it's just not worth the risk. I also just don't have that pull to ride the ponies. It just doesn't interest me. maybe when I turn 50 like the moms!

Shirley said...

Interesting insight about the difference between riding your own horse and someone else's. Never thought of it like that. I prefer, like Crystal, to ride my own because I know how they behave. I do have some trepidation with Chickory, because we are just starting out, and I don't know what she will do. I find that I'm really cautious with her, to the point where it has slowed down my training program with her. I don't think I'll ever start another horse that I didn't raise myself, because I know my breeding program and the kind of temperament my colts have.

Breathe said...

I actually have the same attitude. I'm not nervous riding other horses on the trail, but nervous with Smokey.

Granted, he's earned this having pulled a few melt downs. But actually he's pretty good. I think I need more time, thought and am not ready to brave the trails with him.

It'll come and hopefully he will get some miles with the trainer. Or we'll work up to it.