Confidence in riding
As I sit here watching Randy Houser ride across the open plains in his "Like a Cowboy" video, I think. I used to do that. Past tense. When exactly did I lose my confidence? My boss at a horse farm here in Ohio used to brag to her clients that I was "fearless," and "Could ride any horse." That was a long time ago. Her clients used to come watch me ride these horses just to see if I were really as fearless as she said. I was. I will admit, it was stupid of me. I rode without a helmet all the time, I still do when I ride.
This horse I rode, Major. He was the cutest little Hafflinger pony. Sure he was short and fat, but he was the best. I would jump on him bareback in the pasture with nothing on. No halter, no bridle. Nothing. Fearless. I felt free. I hated riding with a saddle. I always felt closer to the horse bareback. Major always listened to me. I rode a few other horses there. Lena was one of them. She was a beautiful flea bitten gray. Her personality was to die for, and her ride, even better. This mare would float. She was my second favorite to ride.
Lean threw me one day. The landscapers were mowing and a rock hit the side of the covered arena. She went one way, and I went the other. I landed on my arm, breaking my wrist, smacking my head against the ground and probably cracking a rib or two. She trotted back over and helped me stand. I couldn't get back on, I was too afraid. I took care of her, turned her back out and cried in the tack room. That has to be it. I didn't get back on. Whenever you fall, you have to get back on. I didn't.
Getting it back.
During my small time at another riding stable, I rode this beautiful draft horse named Bounce. Bounce was a one of a kind horse. He was so gentle and caring, but when you pointed him to a jump, he was all serious. The first day I rode him, I was nervous. This 2100 pound animal could crush me at any given time. It had been the first time I had been on a draft horse, especially after the fall with Lena. Riding in the arena gave me some confidence back. What took it away was a dog. This dog came flying around the corner of the arena and Bounce spooked. Once again, I went one way, he went the other. The way I went, was into the arena wall. My trainer, Teresa, made me get back on. She wasn't going to let me go home till I did. So, I got back on. Bounce could tell I was nervous and never took another wrong step.
A month or so later, I started training this draft pony named Paddy. He was a cute little guy. I had my confidence back, and I was riding better than ever! Until the night he tossed me. I don't know what it is with gray horses and tossing me on my face, but it seems to be a curse. I couldn't catch my breath, my arm hurt and so did my head. I was more embarrassed than anything. My trainer caught Paddy as I ran to the tack room to cry. Once again, she made me get back on. This time, she walked next to me. I was so nervous, my hands wouldn't stop shaking. From then on, she made me ride Bounce until one day Nemo came in.
Now, Nemo v. Hiddum was a strange stud. He was a imported Freisian stallion who came in for winter tune ups. He never acted like a stud. Freisian's are my all time favorite horse. They are so beautiful. Teresa set one rule with him. I couldn't ride him till I got back on Paddy by myself. So I did. I did and it felt great. The next day, I rode Nemo. I rode him over jumps, I cantered him. I even galloped him. He was such a good horse.
Nemo taught me that I had to keep pushing. There was no reason for me to be afraid of riding. There are plenty of people who have had worse falls than I ever have, or ever will probably. Some of those people are Olympic riders! It will be okay. Sure, you're nervous. I'm still nervous every time I get on a horse. You have to get back on.
It's a horrible thing to lose your confidence. It's even worse when you don't tell anyone. I never told anyone I was scared. I always jumped up on whatever horse was given to me and rode like nothing was wrong. Of course, it would always back fire on me. After each ride, I threw up. Every single time. My blood pressure would drop when I got on a horse, then it would be even lower. I could tell. One day, the girl I ride with said that she could tell I was nervous. That night, we had a long talk about what was wrong. I felt so much better, I rode better.
Talk it out.
Even if the person knows nothing about horses, talk to someone. Tell someone your fears. People understand. Especially other horse people. They know what it's like to be afraid.
Ride through it.
If you can. Don't do something you cannot do. If you can't mentally force yourself through it, don't. Go back to step one.
I took riding lessons for years after I lost my confidence. I explained my issues to my trainers and they worked me through it. To this day, I pep talk myself before I get on a horse. Even for a quick ride through the woods.
Whatever you do, do it. You can't let your fears stand in between of you and something you love. If I had never climbed back on Paddy, I wouldn't be happy. I would have probably never rode another horse in my life. This summer, I have the chance to help train my aunts reining horses. My riding life is good. Don't let fear stop you.
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