What To Do After You've Fallen Off A Horse And Lost Your Confidence
Every Rider Falls
So you've taken a tumble off a horse and now you've lost you're confidence. Horse riding is a wonderful sport that can bring you much joy. Unfortunately it is a dangerous sport; if you ride it's only a matter of time until you fall off. Every rider knows that falling off is inevitable but that doesn't mean it doesn't shake your confidence when you do fall. Whether you only been riding a week or you've been riding for years, anyone can lose their confidence. Maybe it's the first time you've had a fall, or maybe you've fallen a hundred times and this time was just worse than all the rest. Whatever your reason loosing your confidence can be distressing, something you once enjoyed has become something scary. You can get your confidence back but it will take time so be patient. If you take it slow then you will eventually be back in the saddle.
How I Lost My Confidence
I've been riding horses since I was four years old, it's been something that I've always loved to do. I remember the first pony I ever rode was called Oakley, from the moment I first got on him I knew that it was something that I wanted to do for a long time. I spent my childhood riding around on pony's without even the slightest fear. As I got older I realized that I was invincible and I started to get a little more cautious.
When I was 17 I started to ride an Arabian ex-racehorse. Needless to say he was a little hard to handle. One day I decided to ride him bareback. All was going well but then he got a bee in his bonnet about something. He tried to break into a gallop and I reined in him, the last thing said was "don't fight me". Next thing I know I was flying through the air. I hit the ground so hard that it felt like all my bones were shaking. I had the wind knocked out of me and it took me a good minute until I could draw in a breath. When I finally could breathe it hurt my entire chest. I managed to get up and walk the horse back to the barn and put his stuff away. I coughed into my hand and when I pulled in back it was covered in blood.
My mother rushed me to the hospital, all the while I was coughing up blood. When we got to the hospital, a bunch of doctors and nurses were waiting for me. I was strapped to a back board and given a neck brace. I remember I was terrified as they were running down the corridor with me. I had visions of chest tubes and major surgery. I was quickly given x-rays and scans to check my spine and lungs. Luckily for me I wasn't terribly hurt. My lung had partially collapsed but had re-inflated by itself. I had also broken one of my vertebra, a millimetre more to the right and I would have been paralysed from the neck down. I couldn't ride for several months and my confidence was shattered. I was so scared of falling again. Even now my confidence is still shaky and it's been almost two years since I fell.
Take It Slow
The most important thing you can do when trying to get your confidence back is to take it slow. The worst thing you can do is to try and rush things. I know it may be tempting to jump right back on and start galloping away but that can do more harm than good. There are some things you can do to make the transition a little easier.
- Make sure are completely fit: If you were injured then make sure that you are 100% healed before you ride again. Check with your doctor to make sure that they give you the go ahead. If you ride before you're healed and you fall again then you run the risk of being permanently injured.
- Start from the beginning again: Pretend as though you've never ridden a horse before. You wouldn't start jumping and galloping the first time you get on a horse. Start with a walk and make sure you're fully comfortable before you move onto the trot, and continue in that way.
Taking things slow with insure that you're as comfortable as you can be. You may get impatient but rushing things might make you even more scared than you already are.
Have You Ever Lost Your Confidence?
Find A Good Trainer
Finding an understanding trainer is paramount to getting your confidence back. There's nothing worse than a trainer that pushes you to do things before you are ready. You need someone that will help you through your fears while not forcing you to do things that make you too scared. If you already have a trainer then talk to them about what happened and how you feel. Here's some things you can do to make it easier for you and your trainer.
- Work up a plan of how to get your confidence back: Sit down and talk with your trainer about what you can do. Give yourself a timeline of where you want to be in a certain amount of time. Make sure that you're both on the same page of what you want.
- Don't be afraid to tell them if they're doing something you don't like: You know what is best for you, and you know what you need. If your trainer is doing something that you don't like or is making you uncomfortable then talk to them. Be polite but firm with them. Tell them exactly what you'd like them to do.
Find The Right Horse
Finding the right horse is just as important as finding the right trainer. You don't want a horse that is going to make you even more scared than you already are. It might take you awhile to find a horse that makes you comfortable but don't settle for a horse that frightens you. Here are some things you can look for when trying to find the right horse.
- Make sure they are well trained: The last thing you want is to have a horse that doesn't listen to you or takes off at every small noise. Of course no horse is bomb proof but a horse that has been well trained is less likely to do something silly. Knowing that they will respond to your commands will put you at ease.
- Find a horse that is used to nervous people: We all know that horses can sense fear and that can make them jumpy. Try to find a horse that is used to first time riders or people who have lost their confidence. That way the horse will be less likely to be on edge when you ride them.
- Ride an older horse: I've found that older horses can be a lot calmer than younger horses. They seem to be less inclined to take off or throw a hissy fit over nothing.
These are just suggestions, you know what you need. If you'd prefer a younger, less trained horse then that is up to you. Do what you think it best for you.
Invest In Safety Gear
Of course you'll never be 100% safe when you ride a horse, but having good safety gear will greatly reduce your chances of being seriously hurt. Knowing that you've taken every precaution that you can to keep yourself safe will help put your mind at ease a little bit. There are three main pieces of safety gear that you can get to help keep you safe.
- A helmet: This one is obvious and you'd think that everyone would wear one, after all your head is quite important, but lots of people don't. No matter what discipline you do you should always wear a helmet. Even if you are just going for a quick ride, put your helmet on. If I hadn't been wearing a helmet when I fell then I would have had serious brain damage or I might even have died.
- A good pair of riding gloves: Riding gloves serve a double purpose of both protecting your hands and giving you a better grip on the reins.
- A protective vest: You can buy things like air vests that protect all those important organs that you have in your chest. Unfortunately they can be quite expensive but you can't put a price tag on your life.
Perks Of Different Safety Gear
Protects your head
Protects your hands from rope burn
Protects your chest and back
Many different styles and colours
Gives you a better grip on the reins
Can make a fall less painful
Come in a variety of prices
Many different styles and colours
Can look very stylish and fancy
Loosing your confidence is one of the most distressing thing a rider can go through. It can also be confusing because you love to ride but now you're scared of it as well. That fear may always be in the back of your mind and in a way that can be a good thing, because you're not unbreakable. Having a little fear will stop you from doing stupid things (like riding an Arabian ex-racer bareback).
Don't have too many expectations of yourself. Maybe you used to be a three-day eventer but now you find the fear too much, that's okay. If you can only manage to ride slowly on the trails then that's fine. Maybe even after trying everything you still can't bring yourself to ride, that's fine too. You can still be around horses without having to ride them.
It may take a long time but hopefully with the right support you will be back to riding like before you lost your confidence.