How do you get over a fear of horses?

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by Cara, Aug 11, 2008.

  1. Cara

    Cara Songster

    Aug 30, 2007
    Well I admit it, they scare the living daylights out of me and i'm not tough [​IMG] I used to love riding, and wasn't particularly afraid, until I had a bad fall that could have been terrible. My horse slipped over on an asphalt road, falling on top of me as a vehicle was passing us. Nobody was hurt, I just had a bruise to show for it. It was a 'convenient' time to quit though. I was going off to college, the riding school was closing down, and my horse was going to retire.

    Six years later I find myself living on a ranch, and find out I have developed a real fear of horses. It doesn't help matters that I grew up riding English, and can only ride Western here. The horses aren't your typical lesson horse, and I don't feel like I have any control if i'm sitting 'wrong' and my reins are hanging loose. It really is starting to seem like the horses are out to get me. They have me sized up before i've even got on, and the slightest argument with them makes me want to get off and walk home [​IMG] I know I have to win these small battles before they turn into anything bigger, but I don't feel like I know what i'm doing or when it's me doing wrong and when it's the horse. They are all pretty much barn-sour out by themselves, and will do anything from not travelling in a straight line and constantly trying to turn back, to head-shaking, running off, and threatening to rear.

    I am not nearly as scared when i'm actually doing something on a horse, like helping gather cattle. The horses don't seem to give me nearly as much trouble either, perhaps because they are bored in the arena and picking on me is entertaining. My husband says I have to 'cowboy up' and convince them i'm not scared, but I usually end up physically shaking i'm that afraid. On the ground if they make a sudden move I find i've run off before I even knew I was going to! I just wish I could get pleasure from something I used to love doing. I thought about taking a couple of English riding lessons to get used to being around horses and having fun again, but I don't know if that would help. Have any of you conquered a fear of horses?
  2. AngelzFyre

    AngelzFyre Songster

    Sep 18, 2007
    Pell City, Alabama
    Since most of them are Western riding horses, why not find a barn close by that offers Western lessons on their horses that you can ride in a controlled environment until you get your confidence back, or if you have a friend that can ride with you on some plain old fashioned trail rides where you can just walk the horses slowly and relax?
    The only thing that can help you get over your fear is for you to get back on a horse you trust and just ride. The fear will lessen as you get more experience and relax. Spend time just grooming and even walking them around with a lead rope on trails if necessary until you trust again to ride.
    Good luck!
  3. texasreb

    texasreb Songster

    May 18, 2008
    A little bit of fear is healthy and it will help keep you safe. A lot of fear is paralyzing and can cause dangerous "knee-jerk" reactions from you.

    I suggest you take some riding lessons from an instructor experienced in dealing with fear. If that sounds too un-nerving to you or there is no one in your area who is qualified to instruct you, maybe you should consider a therapist. I'm not a therapist and I'm in no way trying to diagnose you, but maybe you have some sort of post traumatic stress syndrome that you can't get past.

    Here's a sad-funny little story. I had a friend who was a psychiatrist. He was working with a very fearful teenage girl who witnessed her father kill her mother and grandfather when she was about six. This child was obviously severely traumatized. Part of her treatment included taking some riding lessons, which she was up for and excited about. So, here I am with this girl, the psych and my horse. It was the third or fourth lesson, but her first aback. She was more nervous than either of us realized and she puked all over my horse and saddle. We immediately got her off the horse cleaned everything up and got her back on (her choice). She did very well and eventually we all had a good laugh about it.
  4. sred98

    sred98 Songster

    Jan 18, 2008
    One thing you might want to think about is getting an Australian saddle. I ride western, but my DH is a big guy with long legs and it is more comfortable to him. It might help make you feel more secure, since it is "sort of" like an English saddle. He gets a lot of flack from the cowboys and rodeoers around here, but he doesn't care. It's what he likes. He goes on trail rides all over with it. Also, you might want to get a tie-down for their head. That way they can't toss their head around or rear back as easily.

    Are any of these "your" horses, or are they borrowed horses? You might not have made a connection with any of them, and that makes a difference, too. Maybe you need to take the time to find a horse that you like and can work with. Since you say you do ok when you have a job to do, find different jobs you can do from horseback, like checking the perimeter fencing, or something like that. That would require a lot of riding, but would give you something to focus on.

    I hope you find something you're comfortable with.

  5. CountryMom

    CountryMom Songster

    Jun 21, 2008
    South Texas
    Having had a nearly disasterous fall 5 years ago, I have become that kind of instructor that helps people gain confidence and control fear on horses. I have been there done that so I know how it is. First and foremost, look for someone who is like this to give you riding lessons. You need an understanding, not pushy kind of instructor that will start back at the basics for you. Cowboy up is different than lack of trying in my book. Trying with fear and not knowing how to deal with it isn't going to be fixed by any Cowboy Up techniques. Number one thing I can tell you is to work on your breathing and relax that lower back. And do this in the bad situations you get in as well as the good ones. You are conveying your fear to your horse the minute you tense up and freeze that lower back. I also first and foremost put any new students on a dead broke horse who does not have any sour issues, head throwing, or behavioral problems. Maybe it is time to invest in a horse just for you. That will take some effort to find, but a horse like that is worth its weight in gold to get you over this. If you get into a bind and do not know how to handle yourself, tense up from fear, squeeze your horse harder trying to stay on... well that is going to be an accident waiting to happen. You need a horse to learn and get confident on before you deal with a horse with issues.
  6. CountryMom

    CountryMom Songster

    Jun 21, 2008
    South Texas
    Quote:I have to firmly disagree with the tie down. Everything else Shelly said is good. I have witnessed many a horse rear up with a tied down. One in particular got her leg through the tie down under it's neck and pinned her rider beneither her. Once other people were able to roll her up enough to slide the guy out she got up still tangled and went to bucking. Tied downs are good for horses that are use to riding in them - are roping and need the bracing - and for horses in training that are being riden by an experience handler. This poster needs to start with a basic horse without issues supervised by an experienced teacher. Safety first.
  7. justduckie

    justduckie In the Brooder

    Apr 30, 2007
    I got thrown from a horse about 12 years ago and broke some ribs. And I would literally have a panic attack if I even THOUGHT about getting on a horse. And like you, we have horses and everyone rides them and no one could understand why I was ok on the ground, but refused to ride. I always used to use my weight as an excuse......oh, I'm too fat to get on a horse, I might hurt them!.....[​IMG].........

    Well, finally I decided it was stupid and time to "cowboy up" as your DH puts it. We found an old quarter horse that was rock solid. His name was literally "Easy". My DH came with me and we slowly......very slowly.....saddled him up. By this time I'm hyperventilating and about to pass out. But my DH would make me stop, just stand there and get control and calm down. Then continue with what I was doing. Then as my son held the horse's head and my DH helping me slowy mount, I got up on him and just sat there. For about 5 minutes.

    Then I got off and that was it for the day. We did this every day until I could saddle and mount by myself with passing out. Then I started to just walk. Then slowly I would pick him up to a trot and then I just kept working with him until I felt comfortable again.

    It took a while and it took a very very very calm and trustworthy horse in a very controlled atmosphere.

    Now I have a rather hot mare that I endurance ride on and I have a blast! We were at a ride this weekend and she JUMPED a stream. I mean 3 feet off the ground! And I stayed with her and we kept on moving. It scared me for a second but then I thought, "huh! I did it! And I didn't fall off."

    But it did take a while. And just like another poster said, the horses pick up on your emotions. If you are nervous and scared, then they are going to be idiots. I guarantee it. So find yourself a horse that you can trust and slowly work up on and you'll be "back in the saddle" in no time.
  8. Cara

    Cara Songster

    Aug 30, 2007
    Thanks everyone for all of the advice. Luckily I haven't got to the throwing up point, but never say never! The horses I have been riding are all ranch horses, as mine is just a yearling. The problem is that there aren't many gentle ones; I got the gentlest two and I wouldn't describe them that way!

    Originally my husband gave me a 3 yr old when we got married, and he was a handful so we sent him away to be trained. His attitude didn't get any better though, and the two trainers he went to told us outright they didn't like him! When he came back he was too much for me to handle, and too small for my husband, so we've lent him to a friend to use. The sire of that colt broke my husband's ankle a couple of months ago, and the colt's 8 yr old brother is one of the horses i've been given to ride. He's not nearly as bad as his sire or brothers, but he will do anything he can to get out of working and knows how to make me back off. He will do his best to get the wrong side of the gate when you are shutting it so that he isn't 'trapped' in the arena, and will spook at everything going away from the gate but act just fine going back towards it. He'll do it every single trip around. He also refuses to turn and throws his head and backs up. My husband has been riding him a lot to try and get him to behave better, as he will act the same way with him.

    They gave me a 14.2hh 21 yr old instead, and i'm actually more afraid of him than the 16.1hh 8yr old. He's supposed to be the most gentle horse on the ranch, and is a lot smaller than the 8 yr old, but he gives me more trouble! The 8yr old is aggravating because you have to steer him straight the whole time or he will try to turn back home, but the 21 yr old tries to run off and has a head shaking fit if you try to stop him and keeps on going anyway. He has a look in his eye that I just don't trust either, although my husband says he was a kid horse when he was a kid!

    You're right in that I haven't connected with any of them. There is one horse that I trust but he is my FILs and will need to retire soon as he has shoulder issues. That and he's 17.3hh and i'm 5'1, which makes for a tall climb LOL

    One of the biggest problems with the horses here is that they are used to running in a herd from the time they are born, and are out in a large pasture unless they are being used that day. They're not used to doing anything by themselves.

    We're only allowed 2 personal horses, and we currently have three (although one is away on loan). I wish with this terrible horse market I could find an old, truly gentle horse to take on. I've started to look into riding instructors, unfortunately our nearest city is 200 miles away, but it would be worth the trip a couple of times if it improves my fear at all.
  9. Norman

    Norman In the Brooder

    Aug 10, 2008
    Definitely take a few lessons! It will build your confidence, and help with balance and the effectiveness of your aids. Another thing, english vs. western, basics are essentially the same. Western horses *should* be started in a snaffle bit and direct contact (like english) and are then "graduated" up to a curbed shank bit and single hand neck reining. You use your legs and body the same way in both disciplines. Sooo if you are more comfortable two handed in an english saddle...I say have at it. How long have you been riding? Are you comfortable at a walk/trot(jog)/canter(lope)? Hows your balance

    It sounds like your horses need a bit of schooling to make them more agreeable mounts. I know how miserable it can be to ride a horse that you have to fight with the entire time. Its impossible to build your confidence when there’s an argument every time you ask your horse to do something. Do you know of any trainers or an experienced horse person who can school either of the two horses? When I am riding a green or difficult horse the best way to progress is to make small attainable goal for every ride. It may be cheating, but pick battles you KNOW you can win. Start from the very basics...ground manners, lunging, mounting. Does he invade your space when leading? Does he walk off on you as you mount? Work on that. Does he overreact to aids (hands/legs/weight)? or ignore your aids? Does he move forward straight and balanced? or wobbles and wiggles under you? Does he bend for you around corners? Does he move laterally when asked?

    What you will find is if you works on small specific issues in the ring or out in the pasture/trail you will gain confidence in yourself and your horse. Trying to fix a problem as broad as "he doesn’t listen to me," is impossible unless you break it down and teach each thing separately so the horse understands what your asking. Email me if you want some help with your boys. I 've trained, and competed in both english and western disciplines, started babies, worked with buckers/rearers/bolters/spookers, ex-racehorses. If you have any specific questions or just want some pointers let me know.
  10. Florida chick

    Florida chick Songster

    Jan 19, 2008
    There are many good reasons to be weary of horses. They are huge dangerous animals. I grew up HUnter/Jumper and got into Western down south. (Everyone rides Western here.)
    4 Years ago I was working a very green rehab/rescue, she was a head case and had been beaten badly... I was working her in a large ring after months of ground training and bonding. I was teaching her to canter and she was doing great. A Dumptruck drove by the arena with a big blue tarp stuck half on the back and she lost her mind! She is a 16.2 h Percheron so 2000 lbs scared is really scary. She blew up and bucked and bucked and ran. When she did my foot got hung in the stirrup. I was still on, but stuck! I calmed her and walked her and then leaned far forward to get my boot UN-stuck. The darn truck was now coming back the other direction of the road. She blew again and my momentum was already half off. I hit the ground (luckliy before I ride I train them to stand if you fall) and to my suprised she stopped spooking and shook in place with my foot still attached. I could barely reach the stirrup and yanked my boot off. I had broken and dislocated my ankle badly. I crawled to the truck for my cell phone. I had a helmet on and was badly bruised and my ankle was screwed. That big old mare followed me step for step the entire arena and out the gates to my truck. The entire famr was fenced so I knew she couldn't get far. She just stayed with me. My point is Maggie is MY horse I trust her for everything now. She will ride anywhere and do any obsticle I ask of her. Horse accidents happen, BUT pick a horse and build a trust and get over your fear. Somewhere inside of you, you MUST still love horses. Work on ground work and respect and go slow. Remember horses know if your scared and will not trust you. Here is my 5 yr old riding her. She is totally safe for anyone here now and loves people. SHe is a far call from her striking scared crazy mare that no one wanted to try to touch. [​IMG] [​IMG] Do you mind I am eating here! [​IMG]

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