Thursday, April 24, 2008

Dear God, let me just stay on this thing!

I wrote the following post on my other blog, Fugly Horse of the Day, and received an incredible amount of feedback from other woman who - after years of riding psychotic OTTB's, hot potato speed horses, Arabs who hadn't been handled in 8 years, and explosive warmbloods - had suddenly lost their nerve and now found themselves frustrated beyond belief with a head full of valuable training knowledge soaked in fear. Many of them commented that they thought they were the only one dealing with this. So I've decided to do this separate blog. It will chronicle the training of my Very Large Colt (16.2 and not even turning 3 for several more weeks), but what I really want to talk about here is the fear. We all want to ride. We all want to feel the way we used to on a horse. Many of us have horses sitting in the backyard that desperately need for us to march our butts out there and just do it. So ladies, here is your support group. Let's talk about our progress, our setbacks, our fears. Maybe we can even network people together locally to be ground people and cheerleaders for those of you who are usually stuck riding alone? There's no such thing as a fear that cannot be overcome...let's figure this one out.

My original post of March 22, 2008:


When I was a cocky teenager who would ride anything, me and my cocky teenager friends would sneer haughtily at this middle-aged lady at our barn as only cocky teenagers can. We couldn't figure out what was wrong with her - she was afraid to ride her own horse. Oh, once in a while she'd get on and do a little walk-trot but mostly she paid someone else to ride him. And he wasn't a tough horse. A little hot, maybe, but in retrospect I don't think he ever got turned out and given the circumstances, the horse was a saint.



The thing that baffled us is that we all remembered when we were little kids at the barn and we remembered her riding the toughest horses there without a second thought. Did this mean we were going to get old and chicken shit too? Perish the thought. We were sure it wasn't going to happen to us.


Until I was about 27, I rode six days a week, no fewer than three horses a day, and often as many as ten. Many of them green, many of them horses with "issues." It took a lot to scare me. I won't say there aren't horses I turned down riding back then, but they had real problems - rearing, brain-turned-off-bolting, flipping. (I still (knock on wood) haven't been flipped with and I really do intend to try to avoid that experience)


Then, life happened. I finished college, I broke up with the horsey guy and married a non-horsey guy, I moved a couple of times. I sold off everything but two horses and I pretty much just stopped riding. Oh, I rode here and there - I put some training rides on a friend's greenie after she unexpectedly got pregnant, I hopped on my old gray mare and rode her around the field a few times - but for the most part, I quit. I lost my riding muscles, I lost my balance, and I gained thirty pounds.


In 2003, I got the urge to start riding again - and was quickly in for a shock. Where was my balance? Where was my flexibility? Where the hell were my guts? I got scared easily. I got off and walked horses back to the barn if they acted barn-sour. I could hardly post halfway around the arena without my stirrups. WTF?


First, I blamed my weight. Surely it was just the thirty extra pounds that had turned me into a bad rider, so I starved it off over the course of a winter and wound up thinner than I had been in my 20s. I ran every morning before work and weight trained, convinced that fitness was the answer. You know, it helped - but it didn't help enough. I was still gutless. My balance felt off. If a horse did the spook-spin-bolt with me, I got dangerously off balance. It wasn't that I was coming off but I just didn't feel tight and secure like I used to. I would get dizzy if they did something too quickly. I remembered making fun of that lady when I was a cocky teenager and realized karma was kicking me in the ass!


I went on a campaign to FIX THIS. I took longe lessons with no reins and no stirrups, doing endless transitions using only my seat and legs. The trainer told me I was perfectly fine, didn't suck, and it was all in my head. Did I need to quit the trainer and go to a shrink? Take a few shots of vodka before riding? Prozac? Zoloft? Hypnosis? What? I decided to stick an ipod in my ears, crank up the music and try to distract myself from any fears. It kind of worked.


Strangely enough, the thing that helped me was getting back into horse rescue. If you are going to help the horses, you have to get on them and evaluate them. You don't have history. The horse might be dangerous. You simply do not know until you get on, but someone has to get on and when you look around at your fellow rescuers, you realize that you're in the minority as someone who has started greenies and ridden a lot of OTTB's - even if it was many years ago. You find that, like it or not, you're the most qualified person to hop up there and find out what you've got. You're IT, sunshine. Being chickenshit isn't going to save a life, so just cut out the mental bullshit and get on the horse already! I started getting on the "unknown history" horses again, and at least so far, it hasn't bitten me in the ass. In fact, in honor of my 40th birthday last summer, I decided to volunteer to ride an extremely green Arabian mare owned by a rescue in a schooling show. Did I mention I didn't have any opportunity to ride her beforehand, and that she had been a totally unhandled 10 year old just five months earlier? She was green but nonviolent and while our show performance would have made for one hell of a funny Youtube video (you guys probably would have posted it here and gone "who is this yahoo, maybe she should have gotten the horse trained before the horse show?"), I had a good time and felt like at least I wasn't a total wimp in my old age. :-)


So now I am on to the next hurdle: Breaking out my gigantor 16.2 three year old. I love this horse and he has a great mind and is easily the best quality horse I've ever owned in my life. I have heard even more training horror stories than usual in the past years and am paranoid and trust no one (well, Mugwump or OFCOL or CutNJump but they are all too far away from me) so I have been doing ground work for weeks and contemplating putting the first ride on the very...very...Very Large Colt. Last night seemed to be a good time - no thunder, no lightning, no jack donkey braying continuously while locked in a trailer in the parking lot (that has happened before, and Very Large Colt doesn't care for it, to say the least). We tacked, we longed, we hand walked around the arena and practiced our "ho" and he was every bit as semi-catatonic as he usually is.


Then the internal conversation began - which I suspect will sound very familiar to many of my over-35 readers:


Left Brain: Just get on the damn horse. You have been getting on feedlot rescues for the past two years. This is a nice horse from a good home. This is actually easier.


Right Brain: Fuck, that is a long way down. Why did I want a 16.2 hander again?

Left Brain: Because the judges would laugh you out of the ring on your 14.3 hand mare, even if she does want to be a hunt seat horse. Remember?

Right Brain: Oh yeah.

Left Brain: Speaking of said 14.3 hand mare, you got on her not thinking she was broke AND she was violently cold backed AND you did it after only three days of ground work in a crowded arena in December.

Right Brain: Yeah, but I had to do that. Someone told me to just get on her and there were witnesses so I couldn't wuss out. I'm all alone here, nobody is gonna know if I chicken out but me. Hey, there's another good reason not to do this! Nobody is here. Guess it'll have to wait for another night!

headlights roll in

Left Brain: Try another excuse, Wimpy Wanda. Your friends are here and will be happy to call 911 if you eat dirt. After they stop laughing, of course.

Right Brain: Maybe I'm rushing things. He's kind of girthy and stuff...he probably needs more ground work.

Left Brain: *snort* Oh yeah there ya go. Why don't you just put the horse away and go in the house and go online and order the Parelli videos now? You too can be one of those middle aged ladies doing perpetual ground work with her horse that walks all over her! Hey, maybe he can wear a tarp on his head. I'm sure they've got a class for that at AQHA World!

Right Brain: Shut UP left brain. You know, if I got hurt and couldn't work, how could I support all of these horses? I would have to put myself on my own blog as one of these losers who can't afford hay. Check it out everybody, this stupid 40 year old woman with eight horses to support got the genius idea to break out her first greenie from scratch since about 1994. Of course she wound up putting herself in traction and now she's on the Internet begging for someone to take care of her 30-something mush eating mare for her. Pathetic! Wouldn't it have made more sense to spend the lousy $500 and have someone else who can actually still ride do it?

Left Brain: OMG I'm ashamed to share a head with you. For fuck's sake, the horse doesn't even buck when he's turned out. His idea of being a bad ass is to put his head down and shake it a few times. Are you gonna fall off if he does that? Go roll yourself in feathers if you're going to be that chicken. BWAAAAWK BWAAAAWK BWAAAAK! *flaps arms*





















Left Brain won. I got on the Very Large Colt (pictured above, several weeks earlier, and yes, there IS a fence in the middle of the indoor that I am kneeling on in this picture...old converted dairy barn). As I predicted, the worst thing he did was back up a little bit in confusion. He quickly figured out forward motion, stopping, turning, etc. The "ho" command worked just as well from the saddle as it did from the ground. He reacted to the sudden appearance of the little gray barn cat by following said barn cat along the fence line and sticking his nose on the barn cat and snarfling all over it. (Now, we all know that the real challenge is ride three or four...but I'm gonna pretend if nothing happened the first time, nothing is going to...)



All right, the rest of you - as COTH calls them "re-riders" - or just admitted middle aged wimps, tell me your stories! I know I am not the only one struggling with this issue. We can all feel stupid together, woo hoo!

39 comments:

YeeHaw Pam said...

I started riding again at 49 -- hadn't ridden in 35 years (other than a few animatronic trail rides). And, as a kid in Los Angeles, I saved my babysitting money to ride at the local riding stable (never had my own horse).

Fortunately, at 49, I found a lady who did pony club and she taught me everything about horses from how to go get them out of the pasture to grooming and tacking up to warming up to cantering. I leased a QH for a few months and after a really scarey illness bought my first horse -- a 13 year old, highly opinionated (and, as it turned out, fairly green) Morgan mare.

For the first 3 years after I started riding again, every time I got on a horse was an act of personal courage. The center of gravity had shifted (geez, I wish it was only 30 lbs -- let's say more like 60!). And, it was a really, really long way down and I don't bounce anymore, and who's going to support us if I get hurt, and, and, and...

I did finally fall off the QH -- in the warm up arena at team penning (no, I wasn't there to pen, the people I was leasing him from had him there). And, I came up laughing -- met my greatest fear and survived!

Not interested in doing it again -- despite nosy parties who say idiotic things like "you're not a real horsewoman until you've fallen off x number of times". Yeah, right.

Anyway, I'm happy to say that after 3 years, opinionated mare still doesn't know that people can actually fall off of horses (and that would be dangerous information for her!). And, I can actually think about latest work disaster while my body rides. Well, maybe that's not so great, but at least mare and I rub along together well.

Based on my experiences getting started riding again, my friend and I started The YeeHaw Sisterhood and give workshops re-introducing women to horses. We make just enough to help out with the barn bills, but it's mostly a chance for us to meet great women and have some fun. And I'm hoping my horse will become tax deductible -- right???!!!

Robyn Weisman said...

I am so glad you have started this blog. I am in my early 40s, and started riding again a few years ago -- but during a lesson at the L.A. Equestrian Center, I got bucked off a horse and went so high in the air that I had time to see the freeway and think about how I would land. The instructor thought I had been killed, and when she realized I was for the most part not injured, she mentioned that this horse had thrown some kids as well.

Anyway, I haven't been the same since. I even have a horse now and got a saddle a month ago, but it's still in its box. If nothing else, I appreciate reading that I'm not the only one who's chickenshit about it (although I may be an extreme case).

Also, if anyone knows of good riding instructors in Los Angeles who might help me out of this state of mind, I'd appreciate it! Thanks.

wolfbitch said...

Thank you, VLC. You know I'm one of the chickenshit middle-aged wannabe re-riders who's just too scared to GET ON THE DAMN HORSE!!! (lol)

I don't own a horse but I'm looking into taking up riding again as I used to. But the fear is so bad that even thinking about actively taking steps to ride gives me stomach cramps.

And I never even got injured on, or by, a horse. So I'm looking forward to everything in this blog, and it'll be bookmarked in its own special place!

winnie said...

I am 43 and a scaredy-cat. I used to be bolder but getting older has put paid to that I'm afraid. That, and buying an unbroken 3 yr-old pony a few years back. I still have the pony, and I have only come off him twice (the last time really hurt) but I am struggling to feel confident when I'm riding him. I don't think it's just the pony that's making me feel anxious, I think I am generally more anxious about lots of other things.
I've recently been taking some lessons with a very good instructor who has the ability to push me just far enough to increase my confidence a little, without scaring me rigid. I feel these lessons are my lifeline and they are making me think that maybe I can do this after all.
At least my pony is only 13.2, I don't envy you starting that huge colt!

Truthseeker said...

Now a 'seasoned citizen' I have less fear than I ever had before. What slows me down now is...what happened to my desire to COMPETE and to WIN? That 'fire in the belly' just isn't there anymore.

austriancurls said...

I got back into riding in 2003 about 20 years after not being able to ride due to allergies. In 2003 I was thrown four times (I was 42 at the time). I learned that I can still fall correctly. One mare though threw me from a standstill when I squeezed asking for forward movement. She did a 45 degree toss, and I went ass over teakettle. I had a helmet (which I never ever wear) and a security vest on. I think the vest saved me from some broken ribs on my landing.

Bringing horses under saddle I did with a trainer, we worked daily 6 months of the year, then I would take a break and repeat. I've worked two stallions on my own, with his guidence once a week. I lost the trainer due his early demise.

I now have a big ass colt. He towers over me and is not even two yet, he will be next month. I feed him well, and he is very studdy already. In order to stop the constant mouthy fighting with me, I've started to roundpen him earlier than I planned (I usually teach them to lunge at two, and roundpen at three). Forget it, he gets it now before he becomes dangerous. He is now learning to lower his head and so on.

Reading the blog today I thought, jeez Fugs, you are doing the same thing you bitch about on the other blog. You are in a very dangerous situation and you need to accept the fact that that colt has to be sent to a trainer, one who works with stallions on a regular basis and will have him working well without danger to himself or him learning to do funky things.

Stallions (and this is my third now I'm working on, and I'd say I'm no expert but deal with them regularly for five years now) are not like other horses. You cannot just go and sit on them and let them wander about at random in the same way.

Stallions need about three times the work a mare or gelding does, and they can take it, they are hard ass mfers, and any sign of weakness like you are mentioning without the bond needed which would be developed over his lifetime if he lived with you since the a baby, you are at a serious disadvantage.

My advice to you is find a high level quality professional that keeps the horses health (both physical and mental) in mind, and send him there. It's the best thing you can do for a horse you want to show in the end. Forget the do-it-yourself nonsense. No matter how much you've done in the past, what you are writing here shows that it's time to admit that he needs a trainer that will be of benefit to him and his future.

My colt, you're damn right I won't be taking this one on myself.

Here will hopefully be going here:

http://www.zentaurus.at

Sorry, I really respect your blogs, I'm just shocked at seeing this do-it-yourself stuff here.

icnmary said...

I started riding again at the age of 40, started taking lessons and then bought my first horse. As a child, being the daughter and granddaughter of a farrier, I rode hell bent for leather and with no helmet.
I had no fear until I confused my horse by asking for canter and keeping a death grip on his face which he rewarded me for by bucking me off. There was a period of time for about a month that I had a serious mental issue with cantering after he launched me that first time. He knew it and my tension and nervousness transmitted straight down the reins. I became a nervous wreck about riding. I paid my riding instructor to ride him and tune him up for me and slowly worked my way back up. My 12 year old daughter now rides him in her lessons and he's turned out to be a very good horse.
Now my horse is a very tolerant animal. God bless him,he has for the most part, tolerated my incompetence and taught me a lot in the process. We've come a long way but there is still that nagging voice in the back of my head that says "what if".

Nagonmom said...

I cannot advise you about riding as you know much more than I, but even I can tell YOU GOT ON. (And rode.) Getting on is the worst. Except for, nevermind.

You can forget future negative impact on Colt's career of these pictures. He cannot take a bad picture. I'll bet he looks great wearing mud!!

jalin33 said...

Australian Curls Said:
"Reading the blog today I thought, jeez Fugs, you are doing the same thing you bitch about on the other blog. You are in a very dangerous situation and you need to accept the fact that that colt has to be sent to a trainer, one who works with stallions on a regular basis and will have him working well without danger to himself or him learning to do funky things."

I fail to see how what she is doing is different then what you are doing and she is doing it with significantly more experience then you. Furthermore, She is a seasoned professional, she does have a bond with this colt and what she is referring to in this blog, is the emotional state that comes with age and the knowledge of what can go wrong, after years of dealing with green horses and troubled horses, not a lack of ability or experience which would create an unsafe situation. Also, there is something to be said with regard to being a small person with short legs on a very large horse, you are at somewhat of a disadvantage and she simply has recognized that. BTW Fugs, I also do not where a helmet or other gear. After 35+ years without it, I feel off balance and uncomfortable, so I stick with my old way of doing things...whatever anyone else chooses to do is fine with me. I also want to say that I understand why you don't send bac out, it is the same reason I don't send big ass mare out. I don't want to have to fix anyone else f'ups particularly with this rescued, strongly opinionated, mare who has a memory like an elephant and definitely holds a grudge. I think this blog was a great idea and I for one appreciate your candor and your sense of humor...lets face it, with no sense of humor this isn't much fun!

crazyhorse said...

I am 52, nearing 53...I am struggling to maintain my horse "identity" and keep up with the training of my very stupid 4 yr old gelding...I love him dearly, but all I hear is how he is going to kill me...as he is trying to kill himself. He has had three accidents with cracking his head open, and just about cutting off his hind legs in two separate accidents...which is why he is over 4 yrs old and I am just getting around to being able to get him broke. My goal is to make him into the WINNING paint horse my other three horses are...the biggest problem is how people look at me and then look at him and say "Calamity about to happen..." Okay so being old, and being on this doofus have made me find ways to get around his doofus-ness and it is working...He hasnt hurt me and we are about to move our lope into an open field and from there we shall begin to show. Ye sit is a long way down but sitting on my ass all day wishing for what could have been is a short trip and I would rather take the scenic route...
For anyone dealing with horses as you age, and the 'young folk' making light of your ability to train and handle a horse, SCREW them!!!!!!!!!!! I would love to hear from you...I have a 19 yr old who thinks I am going to experience "death from Doofus" and I am going to prove her wrong...

jalin33 said...

You GO crazyhorse! I am 51 closing in on 52 and my mare is unridden due to my health issues compounded by hers...she is 7 and so far she has cut her leg to the bone (as a weanling before I rescued her) which is still healing, got strangles within 2 weeks of coming home, got lyme very severely, got struck by lightning which resulted in a large piece of wood being shot into her shoulder by said lightning and required a good year to heal because the saddle would hit it not to mention the internal burn, and got cast in her stall but had the sense to wait without struggling for me to come and save her, so she did not get injured. I get the same as you, my twenty-something son (who is a very talented rider) is SURE I am going to get clobbered when I ride this mare. I, like you, have gotten very, very creative in dealing with her um, individuality? lets call it? due to my lack of bounce and her big self...so far so good...we have rules and solid understanding....now on to the next riding step....I put up an arena just for the occasion...up til now I have worked and ground driven her in the wide open spaces, without problem.....

ALATT said...

I developed the fear in my late twenties.I swear it came from NO WHERE. My horse was an OTTB who never did a thing wrong.He was great. I showed all the time rode six days a week,worked on a farm with all kinds of OTTB's that were rescued(some crazy).RODE AT LEAST THREE A DAY.I never flinched at getting on anything or jumping. I remember watching one of the rescues running toward the gate at full speed I knew she couldn't stop in time and the gate was over 5 feet high. She cleared it with ease and cantered off. I thought to myself I can't wait to ride her. I hopped on her and by the end of our ride we jumped around a small course like she had done it her whole life. Then I was at a show one day not long after trying to qualify for Medal finals and after I jumped the course (with out any problems), I came out of the ring and was shaking so bad I thought I was going to fall right off. A friend who had always gone to shows to help me asked me "What is wrong you? You had a great ride." I said "I don't know" and I didn't.It got worse after that. I backed off riding as much and stopped riding all those different horses.I even stopped taking lessons with my trainer. A few years later I was really mad at myself for being so scared.I never told anyone I was scared. I would still go on trail rides with my friends and be behind them the whole time scared to death if we were cantering.I decided I was going to get over it. I got another OTTB and pushed my self to do one scary thing a day that I wouldn't do the day before. After I did that for a while I made an appointment to take a lesson on my older OTTB with my trainer. I kept dropping my poor horse right in front of the fence. My trainer said "What is wrong with you?" I finally told her I'm scared. "Scared of what?" Scared of falling on my head and breaking my neck. She said "Oh, well why didn't you tell me that?'" I was embarrassed. So we went back to baby steps and her constantly telling me after a jump you are fine, just trust him.I can't say I am totally over my fear. I wish I was as bold as I use to be over fences. It has been the hardest thing I have ever had to do to get over that fear.But I found saying it out loud helps and having a trainer that understands that makes a huge difference. I hear her voice in my head every time I have to jump or get on a greenie. "You are FINE, you know how to ride,don't forget that." I can honestly say now that I am thirty something it is still a struggle.I am relieved to see how many others have had the same excact problem and have the same right brain ,left brain discussion every time they ride.

HugAFug said...

I think a 15 hand horse is a long way down if you're heading for the ground head first! Two of my last three rides have ended badly, with me getting unceremoniously dumped on my ass. My gelding has been a pretty steady trail horse for years but last year he adopted the spin-and-run trick. My balance is not great, I admit and unfortunately his trick worked. Given that he had always been pretty decent to ride, I sensed something was amiss and had him evaluated by an equine chiro who said his back was a wreck. She did several adjustments and acupuncture, and I haven't ridden since. That was last June. I keep telling myself I am just making sure he's all better. Well close to a year later I think we all know that it's now because I've grown afraid. And not only afraid under saddle, my confidence with handling my horses in general seems to be shot too. The mare who pins her ears back makes me nervous now and that kind of crap never flustered me before. I'm losing my nerve and it's really pissing me off. I have 7 horses to take care of and want to enjoy it, not fear it. What's the deal, doc, am I crazy?

Liz said...

OK, I will join in on this one as I will eventually have TWO new fillies to start later this spring/summer. I am 41 and although I am not "scared" per se, I do get sore in places I never used to! It sucks. I will probably start my own blog to go along with my "journey" that is about to begin with the girls.

Sagebrusheq said...

Fugly;

I know I'm bringing coals to Newcastle here, you obviously have a lot of experience. But I'd be worried about that saddle horn too. It's what killed Reagan's Secretary of Commerce Malcom Baldrige- and more than a few other good hands. Why??? Just my preference but I like to use my jump saddle for getting young ones started. It also has the considerable advantage of sliding stirrup bars. I know that they don't always release as quickly as one might sometimes hope, but they usually do if you leave them open as one always should, and at least it gives loved ones the option of having an open casket funeral. Plus the 'English' style rigging can be girthed in a second, and of course you can tighten the girth without getting off. The only advantage I can see to starting a horse with a western rig is getting him used to flapping and slapping leather. Time enough for that without you be part of the process.

Sagebrush

jmcnally said...

I think I will come steal your Very Large Colt because I think he is absolutely adorable!

summerhorse said...

It's been 2-3 years since SOMETHING wasn't wrong with my big ass bucking mare and now I'm getting close to where I might actually be able to ride her again (albeit at a walk which is just FINE with me really...). I'm wondering how much I'll have to pay someone to come out and lead her around with me on top.

I can't ride her until she's up to 20 minutes of lunging first!! And she really only bucks at the canter but without that she may decide to buck ANY TIME AT ALL!

Smurfette said...

My name's Smurf, and I'm a re-rider. :) Although I never completely QUIT riding, I went from riding an average of 40+ hours a week from my early teens through my 20s, to riding a couple of times a week, at most. At 30 something, I decided I wanted to start riding seriously again, and Fugly is right, my balance was/is shot!!! Yeah, right, what happened to "hand it to Smurf, she'll ride it"?? Still wonder where that girl went. Then I managed to take a spill off a a horse that cracked a vertebra in my neck, and I've managed to feel weak in the knees with every new horse I've been on since then. OR EVEN trying to teach my VERY BROKE 17 year old gelding something new. I've had him for 9 years now, and he still won't change leads on cue, my balance just is not good enough to get it taught.

Life is what it is, if I ever get back to riding really regularily, like more than 4 times a week, I'll find this blog and tell you if the balance ever comes back. If you find my balance, please give me a shout, I miss it.

I think I would love to have a trainer/coach, (haven't had access to one since I was 12) I would love to officially take lessons again.

Smurfette said...

ROBYN.....I am sooo ticked off on your account. What kind of idiot instructor would put a new adult or a kid on a horse that bucks people off????? Somebody needs to sue the pants off of that idiot! I am sorry I am not on the west coast, I have had a lot of luck with fearful riders. Please keep looking around, there are a lot of good instructors out there who would never think of putting a student on a bucker. :) You can also do some work yourself, mentally picturing a GOOD ride.

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

>>Not interested in doing it again -- despite nosy parties who say idiotic things like "you're not a real horsewoman until you've fallen off x number of times". Yeah, right.<<

I have always thought that is THE most retarded comment ever. Sorry, but the goal is STAYING ON. When I taught lessons, the goal was STAYING ON. I taught for 13 years and no student ever broke a bone or had a concussion, NOT ONCE - because we took it slow and focused on building a secure seat and solid legs so that you could stay on when they did something unexpected!

Falling off truly is avoidable 90% of the time. Sure, once in a while they surprise you but using common sense (turning out before you ride, for example) and building a really solid foundation on the flat before you try to jump or do anything else will save your ass the vast majority of the time.

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

>>I know I'm bringing coals to Newcastle here, you obviously have a lot of experience. But I'd be worried about that saddle horn too. It's what killed Reagan's Secretary of Commerce Malcom Baldrige- and more than a few other good hands. Why??? Just my preference but I like to use my jump saddle for getting young ones started.<<

I am with you! It's just finding something that properly fits the VLC, who is very broad backed and has wide shoulders. The LAST thing I want to do is make him sore and give him a reason to act up. The silly purple cordura thing actually does fit him. I have a dressage saddle that I think will fit him also but I need to get a short girth for it. My polo saddle, unsurprisingly, does not fit him at all.

Robyn Weisman said...

Hi Smurfette,

Thanks for your kind words. I think learning that the horse had bucked off kids before me blew my mind, having nothing to do with my own fears. I mean why was that horse even being used?

I don't mind signing the liability release forms, but my experience could have been avoided big time. I do agree that visualization helps. I obviously could ride once before, and I'm in good physical shape. It's more about the fear than anything else.

crazyhorse said...

Thanks for the kind comments; I maybe be old but I am not dead...and just because I do not look like Cindy Crawford riding, doesnt mean I do not have a clue how to ride...
This is how it is; when you are 7-12, you bounce off the ground...owie owie momma kisses the boo-boos away and you get your ass BACK on that horse usually bareback. 15-21 when you come off, it is usually graceful, done with pomp and circumstance, and you most likely were jumping an 18 ft high fence anyhow...Bravo. Once you hit your 30's you usually notice some real pain, maybe it even involved a tear or two, and if you had a real thumping, a hospital visit,"just to be sure..."
Okay piss on it, after 40, the frickin' ground grows cement spikes. It also produces plastic Wal-Mart bags that scoot across the ground out of nowhere. Your horse has limitless glee and if for one second it thinks you are NOT paying attention, all hell can and will break loose...This time surgery could be involved...I was lucky; 2 yrs ago my big mare Cleo (16.2) dumped me at a Paint show onto cement spikes masquerading as soft dirt...I was airborne out an english saddle. I had witnesses, including an APHA judge, who consoled me with "gee you landed so dramatically! It looked really cool..." and a 10 yr old girl who said "That was PRETTY!" I was done for the weekend, my back was shot, my nerves were toast, and a friend lubed my misery with tequila and Yaegermeister...which almost makes me look forward to my next fiasco...er...no, forget it...I can do that without being dumped.
Hang in there girls...I foresee my Doofus being the 10 yr old dependable show ride I need and my only fear is that he is already 16 hands and has 2 yrs left to grow...

Sagebrusheq said...

A couple of additional thoughts on the subject: a little fear is a good thing if it engenders respect for things that can hurt you, but not if it gets in your way and prevents you from proceeding in a confident manner. I've been a carpenter for more than 35 years, a very dangerous job- ask any actuarial. I've always said to myself that if the day comes when I can't brush fear aside it's time to give up the game. For then you really are a danger to yourself and others.

More times than I can count I've been compelled to tell a cub, " That cut you just made was a really dangerous move. The chances that you would have been hurt are a thousand to one, which if you were a homeowner making a few cuts on the weekend wouldn't be such bad odds. But as a tradesman you'll be making 10,000 cuts a year on that table saw. How do those odds look now? over the next 20 years? Do the math." Not always, but usually the admonition is well taken because it is given with sincerity and good intent.

The same thing goes for horsemanship. Develop good work habits. I wouldn't say that the old saying 'It's always the old grey mare that gets you' is strictly true, but there is some truth in it. You're on your guard with the young ones. Good horses promote bad habits.

I hope I'm not digging a hole for myself here but what's with the 'lost my balance' stuff? No one bounces like they used to. Everyone gets rusty without practice and physical adeptness does deteriorate with age but do women deteriorate faster than men? Unless you're willing to accept that premise it sounds like a mental thing to me. I don't believe it though, all my teachers have been from the distaff side and older and better horsemen than I.

I'm sure all you gals are much better, hence safer riders, than you were when you were young and dumb. The odds just never caught up with most of you then, but, as has been attested to, they do for some. Let reasonable fear or a healthy respect be a guide, it can be a good indicator when you're about to do some foolish thing- nothing wrong with that. But if things check out, relax, go about your business and climb on. Any other attitude is counterproductive and dangerous. And don't say your'e a man you wouldn't understand, rubbish and excuses. While its certainly true that there's much about women that I'll never understand, everyone fights fear and apprehension. What about women jockeys who work well into their forties?

In short, it makes no sense not to take heart. I won't say, 'take your heart, throw it over and follow it'- Lucy was young and dumb (and fictional). Plus, the real life Meltonians broke their necks a lot, but they did have a fondness for a rhyme which is appropriate here:

"Between the stirrup and the ground,
I mercy ask'd; I mercy found."

Cheers, Sagebrush

Sorry for the pep talk, hope it didn't generate too many grrrs. I'll leave quietly now.

Sagebrusheq said...

Regarding the very good observations about teaching children to ride that came up while I was scribbling my last post:

Confidence can be a fragile thing and it's not a rational thing any more than fear is. It comes from the gut and can be difficult to gain or in the case of fear to overcome. All the more reason, apart from real danger, that great care should be taken when mounting youngsters. I had a horse run off with me (I won't say run away) when I was about 6 and I've wondered lately if it didn't affect my riding, at least my attitude about some things, ever after. I like to run and jump and I give my horses their head, maybe more than I should, but poor brakes is the one thing that I have the most difficulty in keeping my temper about. Maybe there's a connection.

Whether children or adults are more susceptible to irrational fear I don't know but I do know adults, (as many men as women, though the men show it in different ways) who are fearful riders, whom I suspect got that way when they were very young. They almost never hit the ground because they're subconsciously afraid to do anything with their horses that might put them there. Their skill, as riders not horsemen, is limited therefore, despite a lifetime in the saddle. It's not always well received when I'm foolish enough to opine 'That little gal in the funny clothes can ride rings around you, my friend.'

As desirable as it is to stay on anyone who pushes the envelope eats a lot of dirt and staying calm in flight, while no guarantee of a happy landing, can be a factor in staying sound. My first real teacher used to say 'Don't worry about hitting the ground, it's down there and you'll find it.' I don't think this was glibness- quite the contrary as she was a self admitted control freak- but rather a way of making light of a bad thing in an effort to keep you relaxed while soaring out the window.

She could be devastatingly sarcastic too (snarkastic?) about things of which she didn't approve (reminds me of some people around here); like pushing youngsters, or any rider for that matter, along faster than their skills merited. I remember her looking over a program one day that one of my fellow students had brought to her from a local show . Her only comment was 'Ah, I see they had a 2 foot 6 open jumper class. What a treat that must have been to watch.' Don't we all have a special place in our heart for the first good one that got a hold of us?

Sagebrush

Sweetie'sMom said...

Yeehaw Pam -
Where are you?? Are you still in LA?? Would love to find out where you teach. I'm in LA too.

cliffrose said...

I am having a similar problem. I came off hard two summers ago and it didn't phase me mentally. A few months ago i got on a big navajo mare for a friend of mine. She was really good, I am sure she has a lot of riding experience under her belt, but after about 2 easy minutes, she dumped me. No warning. I can't seem to get it out of my head. even my older lesson horses, I picture them just going nuts.

My real problem in my daughter's horse. She is almost four, very gentle, was imprinted by Dr. Robert Miller himself. Great mare! I am terrified to let my little girl ride her! She has been on her 6 times, no problems. Always wears her helmet, we check her gear, never a bad step. But I swear that mare is about 18 hands tall when my daughter gets on her! (She is probably about 15.2HH) My kid is tall too, but i am a nervous wreck. I have never sent a horse to a trainer but I may have to send her away where I can't watch.

Mz M. said...

I never had formal lessons as a kid or a teen much as I wanted them. I was occasionally thrown on a friend's horse between the ages of 6 and 16 during which time I got to experience some truly stupid accidents -- all of which I 'bounced back from' because I was a kid.

Recently, at age 42 and 50 pounds overweight, I took some formal lessons for the first time. And discovered that I'm timid around horses (gee, maybe all that getting kicked and flying off them between 6 and 14 yrs old???).

Bottom line: I think age just makes us cautious. When you hit the ground now, there's more to lose.

Also, kids and teens seem to start out 'in their own heads' more than adults and so weirdly are able to ignore a horse's 'warning signs'.

Anyhow, you're certainly doing better than me.

And, yes, that is a very BIG colt ... and he's gorgeous.

YeeHaw Pam said...

Sweetie's Mom,

We're in the San Francisco bay area (Woodside) and don't give actual riding lessons, because we're not qualified (though we are totally not stupid enough to put ANYONE on a horse that bucks..).

We do more intro and touchy feely workshop things. Pam

YeeHaw Pam said...

I have to recount this totally hysterical story.

My friend has 5 older horses and she half leases them, mostly to older women returning to riding for one reason or another. This is how I met her -- I leased one of her horses before I bought my own.

She half-leased the oldest, grumpiest grandpa -- one of those horses that teaches by refusing to do, rather than doing too much -- to a woman in her mid-fifties.

This woman, Betty (fake name), had several years before, rescued a TB from a previous owner. The TB was nuts. Betty wasn't a good rider, but the TB "was soooo pretty". Betty spent 6 weeks in the hospital because of pretty TB, then gave TB to some other unsuspecting older woman.

So, present day. Betty is getting her confidence back by making old grandpa do stuff. And, she's thinking of getting a horse of her own. All of us have horses over 12 years old because we no longer bounce. Betty says yes, good idea.

Two weeks later, Betty's new horse is on a transport. She has found the most beautiful Tennessee Walker in Kentucky. She saw pictures of this mare on the internet and the mare was "sooo pretty". So, she asked a woman she MET OVER THE INTERNET to go and check this mare out. Woman says great horse. So, mare is now being shipped to San Francisco via Cousin Jim's Hillbilly Wagon.

The mare is THREE YEARS OLD.

Cousin Jim finally shows up 2 days late and a dazed 3 year old TW in keg shoes slides down the ramp. Fortunately, a very experienced horsewoman was able to wrangle very young, very freaked out mare into the arena. There, she screamed and ran around, bouncing off the piperails.

The dust finally clears and experienced horsewoman (not Betty) gets mare into stall. We finally get a chance to look at the long blond hair, the dark outlined eyes, the straight neck and skinny chest and shoulders and high heels and dub her "Paris Hilton".

Betty tries to lead Paris down to the arena, but Paris pulls back and scares Betty. So Betty hires Fearless Female to ride Betty on a regular basis. Betty will play my pretty pony and feed Paris cookies, but she's not going any further than the wash rack with her.

Eventually, Paris goes away to Horsey Boot Camp. Betty leaves our barn and doesn't answer emails, etc.

So, sometimes fear is a GOOD thing.

gorillakeeper said...

I was a fearless hunter/jumper kid. I took a long break from riding, then took in an OTTB from a friend who bought him on impulse. As I was getting my seat/confidence back, he tossed me pretty good, nothing broken, but I did end up in the ER. Now, my confidence is shot. He is also very large (solid 17hh). I'm in the LA area, near the LA EQ Center. Maybe we can have a regional support group?

BTW Fugly, VLC is gorgeous!

April said...

I am 48, and a chicken-shit. When I was a fab teen...I used to jet around on my friend's arabian stallion all the time. No fear. There wasn't a thing that horse did or could do that I couldn't handle.

I was severely injured in a horse accident on Feb. 14, 2000..3 broken ribs, collapsed lung, torn ligaments in my knee, a minor concussion and a severely sprained wrist. I was in the hospital, on oxygen(and lots of Demerol!), for 5days.

I call it the $22,000 trail ride. That was just the bill for the hospital stay. The therapy, ER, guy who re-inflated my lung and the custom fitted knee brace were another $10,000.

The horse I loved, a short little appy gelding with an amazing, floating hand gallop, that I rode 2x a week(granted, he was a rent-a- rocket)that I thought I had some kind of bond with..did it. He was barn sour, and wanted to run back to the barn. I told him no. He bucked once, I stayed on. He bucked again, and whilst I was in the air, he took off out from under me. I landed hard on the frozen solid, crushed-limestone trail.

What I felt and still feel is embarassment and absolute betrayal.

I feel like an ass. I feel like a fool for trusting this animal.

DH is encouraging me to take riding lessons with him, but frankly, I just don't trust horses any more. I love them, I just can't trust them.

Wish I could get over it, I sure miss them. But I am one nervous rider. I have been riding since..I rode again as soon as I got the okay from my doctor, 3 months later. But it's never been the same. I've even fallen off since then, and it was no big deal, I slid off the near side, I came up laughing.

But it's never been the same. Makes me sad. I take a lesson now and again..but when we canter...my instructor has to remind me to breathe. April

demonQH said...

I'm a 50 year old woman who started riding about 25 years ago. I'm pre-Title IX, so athletics were never pushed. I'm also about 60 lbs overweight. I'm a dressage/trail rider, and have taken years of lessons. I'm a pretty good rider. I keep my horses on my property.
That said, I have no illusions about what my capabilities on a horse. I am NOT capable of starting or training a horse. I do not want to put myself on a horse who is more than I can comfortably handle. Those of you lacking an extensive background in breaking a training horses - DON'T. What do you have to prove and to whom? Ask yourself why you are doing this - is it to have fun? (What a concept.) If you are starting back up after not riding for a while, anthing under 10 is too young. And you want something trained, period. You'd be surprised how absolutely little you know until you ride a horse than can teach you. If you are afraid, find something that will allow you to regain your confidence. Do not, under any circumstances, ride green horses. You are asking to get hurt or ruin the horse. Why on earth would you ride something that scares you? You don't have to ride the schoolmaster forever, just long enough to figure out what you are doing. THEN you can decide where you want to go. But overfacing yourself is a sure ticket to being afraid and buying Parelli videos.

demonQH said...

I'm a 50 year old woman who started riding about 25 years ago. I'm pre-Title IX, so athletics were never pushed. I'm also about 60 lbs overweight. I'm a dressage/trail rider, and have taken years of lessons. I'm a pretty good rider. I keep my horses on my property.
That said, I have no illusions about what my capabilities on a horse. I am NOT capable of starting or training a horse. I do not want to put myself on a horse who is more than I can comfortably handle. Those of you lacking an extensive background in breaking a training horses - DON'T. What do you have to prove and to whom? Ask yourself why you are doing this - is it to have fun? (What a concept.) If you are starting back up after not riding for a while, anthing under 10 is too young. And you want something trained, period. You'd be surprised how absolutely little you know until you ride a horse than can teach you. If you are afraid, find something that will allow you to regain your confidence. Do not, under any circumstances, ride green horses. You are asking to get hurt or ruin the horse. Why on earth would you ride something that scares you? You don't have to ride the schoolmaster forever, just long enough to figure out what you are doing. THEN you can decide where you want to go. But overfacing yourself is a sure ticket to being afraid and buying Parelli videos.

B said...

I'm another. 46. Used to be bulletproof, now feel like FHOTD. Only about 25 pounds from what I weighed in my 20's, but it's enough. I know I'm mortal, I'm scared of being hurt. Shit. It is not a fun feeling. Never really stopped riding totally, but mostly rode my old reliable mare, now 28, that I owned since she was an unbroken 3 year old. I'm fine with her but I'm scared to death of strange horses. Only possible thing for me beside old and mortal was that I was the sole eyewitness and first responder to a bad wreck about 4 years ago where a girl feLl off of a runaway horse and wound up with a concussion. She was fine in the long run, but the fall knocked her unconscious and she seizured when she came to, all before the EMTs arrived. Scared the beejesus out of me, I'd had basic CPR and stuff years ago, but never had dealt with a real wreck by myself before. Since then, strange horses scare me and I am ultra cautious.

And I have a new 4 year old to break. Should have started her last year. Nerves.

Well, glad to know I'm not alone, and thanks for starting this blog!

Rococo said...

So glad to find this "new" blog- and yes, I'm with you. I'm a card carrying member of the "circle of chickenshit", and unless I suddenly regain the nerve I had as a teenager, every one I start is going to give me that nervous, weak in the knees feeling until a) I chill waaay out and realize the horse is waiting for me to just get going or b)the horse makes himself part of my self-fulfilling prophecy, thus starting the cycle of fear all over again.

It of course doesn't help that the horse I started this year was perhaps the easiest, most accepting and well adjusted horse I'd ever started... I'm still convinced he's a total fluke, and that this time next year his hellion of a little sister is going to try and kill me...

I'm with you- some Vodka and maybe a Valium, and maybe I could get this all done in a more efficient manner... until then- happy riding!

Rococo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Smurfette said...

SAGEBRUSH: your comment "'It's always the old grey mare that gets you'" made me LOL. True story: In our rather shortlived attempt to turn a life long love of working with horses into a paying job, we aquired a stallion (NOT fugly, met ALL the criteria for a breeding horse)and several brood mares (probably could have done better here). One day, I preparing to breed one of them, and was talking to the stall cleaner while wrapping the mare's tail...I was telling her "Now, I won't even TRY to do this to Madge who will kick the fire out of you if you get past her girth area" when, you guessed it "the old grey mare" WHAM planted one on my upper thigh. AFTER I picked myself up off of the ground, and reminded them that this was a great example of never say "this one won't kick" I found a horse hoof shaped bruise that I toted around about a month.

Two breeding seasone, and one NICE colt later, I now have a WONDERFUL gelding (my old breeding stallion) who carts my young daughter around at 4-H shows.

Michelle said...

I didn't have a lot of riding experience as a kid, but I never thought about it. I jumped on any horse I could manage to con someone to let me ride. And it was usually bareback and double, racing down the trails as fast as we could go. We jumped picnic tables, tied them in the parking lot at the diner while we had a burger and shake. I even slung a bridle over my shoulder and headed off down the street to some horses living in a field. I had no idea whose they were, or if they were even broke, but we went and jumped on them. How stupid is that?

Fast-forward to finally being an adult and having my own home. I swore one day I would have a horseof my own, like I've wanted since I was 5 years old. So one day, when I was 31 years old with a one year old daughter, my husband insisted on buying this expensive truck that he didn't need, just because it was the last year Ford would have that color that he wanted, so I told him that I was going to buy the horse I always wanted. He thought I was nuts, until I told him that he better start putting the fence posts in, because board was $250/month on the horse I just bought.

That was my beloved Turbo, and he was an awesome horse. The first time I got on him, he ran back into his stall and refused to move. I called an add for a trainer in a local nag mag to come out and help me, because it became quickly apparently that I didn't have a clue. I was very lucky finding her, and she came weekly and helped me with ole Turbo for years and taught me (and him) so much. It turned out he had some abuse in his background and some issues that would cause him to cower shaking in the corner. I have bought quite a few horses since Turbo, as companions or rescues, or just a "gotta have" horse.

Once, during a lesson, we were working on getting Turbo to canter, which he was very reluctant to do, and just as I uged him for more, a big gust of wind came up behind him. I was riding bareback, and he did a little spook which unbalanced me. Just as I got my seat back, he did a beautiful sliding stop (due to my being unbalanced) which launched me over his head. I was fine, and Turbo was wondering how I managed to end up on the ground in front of his face. A few months later, again urging him to canter, my instructor slapped the ground with the lunge whip, and this caused Turbo to have a flashback of some sort. He bolted, raced up to the barn, back down, around the yard, in an all-out freaked out panic. This was so uncharacteristic of him. All my tricks failed, one-rein stop, relaxing, head-down cues, nothing stopped him. That totally shook my confidence and about a month later I found out I was pregnant, and was having some vertigo.I decided I shouldn't ride while pregant due to all of this.

Two years later, I was ready to ride again, and Turbo got cancer and had to be put down. That was 3 years ago, so now its 5 years since I've ridden, and I'm 42 years old with two kids, and a body that doesn't listen to my brain anymore.

The "gotta have" horse that I bought 5 years ago was a 7 year old unhandled broodmare. I have started her myself, she is very quiet, and such a good girl. I sent her out 2 years ago for a month, and she hated it, and came back with nothing more than I sent her away with. I sent her to another trainer last summer for a month, with the same results. She hates going away for training, and has really bonded with me. She will do anything I ask of her on the ground, but when I get on her, she is unconfident anywhere but in the roundpen.

So there you have it. A 42 year old limited-experience backyard trail-rider with my own brood-mare body and a middle-aged green mare for a mount. Confidence? Whats that?

I ahve started taking formal lessons this spring, I have 4 under my belt so far. No wonder I confuse my mare, I am so crooked and unbalanced, she stands and swivels her ears all over asking me "wtf are you trying to say, stupid human!"