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Dealing with Nerves

Discussion in 'New Riders' started by New Rider Nic, Mar 30, 2015.

  1. New Rider Nic

    New Rider Nic Active Member

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    I’ve been having private lessons for a while now and am learning to canter.

    I was sooo scared before cantering for the 1st time, to the extent I had sleepless nights. Of course, once I did it, I realised it wasn’t as scary as I’d imagined & immediately wanted to do it again

    But I still experience terrible attacks of nerves. I’m always nervous before I get on and I still have the fear of falling off in every lesson, but I’m LOVING learning to ride.

    The problem is that every now and again I find myself thinking about how dangerous it is and all the things that could go wrong and then of course, I get all anxious and keyed up. I’m going through an anxious stage just now – probably because I’ve signed up for an extra group class that starts tomorrow – and I’m driving myself a bit mad with worrying about it. It means riding in the outside school, which I haven't done (cue visions of me falling off onto the big stone wall that surrounds it) I've never ridden in a group (cue visions of another horse kicking mine etc. etc.) :oops:

    I know it’s pointless and probably slightly mental, and worrying isn’t going to prevent me from landing on my head! I also keep telling myself that being nervous just makes riding more difficult, but I can’t seem to stop myself fretting….Probably doesn’t help that I saw a friend at the weekend who I haven’t seen since taking up riding. Practically the 1st thing she said was “I’d just be thinking about what happened to Christopher Reeve – and he was an experienced horseman” :eek::mad:

    Anyone been through this? Any tips from you lovely people on conquering the nerves? Am I just being completely neurotic? if so, feel free to give me a virtual kick in the bum ;)
     
  2. Trewsers

    Trewsers Well-Known Member

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    I did go through a stage of worrying but then I enjoyed each lesson so much, I decided it was better to take the risk, live dangerously and all that than sit at home thinking about what if's. It is normal to be a bit apprehensive but try not to let it spoil your fun. Outdoor schools are great! You will be fine. I had some memorable first lessons in an outdoor school:D
     
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  3. Jessey

    Jessey Well-Known Member

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    Rational fear is a perfectly acceptable thing (in fact I would go so far as to say if you have no fears you have no place around horses, its fear that keeps us safe after all) its when it becomes irrational or out of control its not a good thing. If you constantly visualize bad situations your re-affirm the fear so each time you think of falling, make a new story up in your head where you are able to manage the situation and save the day, as much as it sounds silly it will help you be more confidant. Do you think about someone famous having a serious injury each time you get in a car/on a bike/cross the street? it happens but we have enough positive experiences to not dwell on it :)

    For your group lesson there are a few rules, I'm sure others who ride in company will think of more or correct me if I have them wrong, its been a long time since I had to remember them;
    Always pass left to left if going the same speed,
    If going different speeds the faster person gets the track, the slower one goes inside,
    Always allow at least 1 horses length between horses,
    Don't over-take another horse unless you are certain it won't upset the other horse,
    Don't use another horse to stop your own (some people will let them run up the back of the ride)
    And most importantly, just smile and have fun :D
     
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  5. New Rider Nic

    New Rider Nic Active Member

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    This is exactly what I keep telling myself. When I have my nervy moments I ask myself "What are my options?" and the only real options are either give up riding or just get on with it & get over my nerves with time - And there's absolutely no way I'd ever want to stop riding!

    Good point! If I overthought everything else the way I do with my riding I'd never leave the house! Thanks for all the pointers about group lessons too.

    This is what I need to remember most isn't it? It amazes me how I'm so in love with something that scares me. But I am in love with it. And you're so right about visualising positive stuff instead of thinking up worst case scenarios. I need to try and think about how well my lessons have all gone previously and that I've coped fine with a few wobbly moments so far.

    I kind of just want to fast forward to tomorrow night, because deep down I know that I'll be fine. In fact, I'll likely be on here posting about how much I enjoyed it. Its always the anticipation of something new that gets me. No doubt I'll have these knots in my tummy until I'm on the horse, but once the first class is over, it'll be better *crosses fingers* :rolleyes:
     
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  6. Skib

    Skib Well-Known Member

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    O.P. You wrote: I’m always nervous before I get on and I still have the fear of falling off in every lesson, but I’m LOVING learning to ride.

    Maybe it would help you to divide the worries up and sort out what is normal and will contribute to your preservation, and what may be over-reaction?

    If you learned to ride for the first time as an adult, some of the things my RI said to me may apply to you. I had gone most of my life unable to ride. Even now if I see someone riding a horse, I dont believe that I can do what she is doing. It is only once I am sitting on a horse that I realise at once that I too can ride. Thus the period before we get to the yard and before we mount is a time when we are uncertain - and that uncertainty may never go away.

    Mark Rashid pointed out that the tension of mounting is felt by every single rider, no matter how experienced. We are mammals and the act of mounting means we no longer have our feet on firm ground and are at a greater height. So, however calm the horse, Rashid says there will be tension there - even if we are not wholly conscious of it - and we as riders need to allow time before moving off from the mounting block to breathe deep and relax and soften our hands on the reins. The horse then will also relax and we can move off with a soft contact on the bit.

    The next thing to make us adults nervous is the shere situation of returning to pupil status and being under the authority of a teacher who is not very well known to us and whose judgement may put us at risk. I cant help you with the lesson nerves and anxiety about achieving and pleasing the teacher - except that 10 years down the line I am no longer in total awe of the RIs who teach me, I am happy n my lessons, and when in the past I have worried about what an RI was telling me I must do (and also sometimes asked here on NR) , those worries were sometimes justified. In the end I think adults learning to ride have to be responsible for their own safety - and the BHS led me to understand that is the law too. No teacher can oblige a student to do anything that that adult student believes puts them at risk.

    However, even when you feel more in control of your lessons there are some unavoidable facts.

    Riding is dangerous and high risk - dont do it unless you really want to. If you do do it, you can reduce the risks, by careful choice of activity, horse and protective clothing.
    Falling off at some point is pretty much inevitable but in the vast majority of cases is not usually serious, especially in a sand school. Falling off does seem extra serious in the context of RS lessons, only because every fall has to be entered in the accident book.

    And then the last point is that learning to canter is about the most scarey thing anyone does when learning to ride and it is something you have to keep doing if you want to really get it so easy that you dont need to worry any more. If you are finding it hard to learn by one method, be cheered as there are plenty of alternatives. But the point at which one learns to canter was for me and for most people the most fraught and difficult period in my learning to ride. Sometimes it is just a question of choosing the right moment - dont force yourself. A year from now you will be cantering and you wont be having bad dreams any more.

    By the time you read this your class will probably be over and you will have met other riders and be feeling much happier about riding out of doors. But everything I typed above still applies.
     
  7. hormonalmare

    hormonalmare Active Member

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    Renaming your nerves in your mind as 'excitement' can really help. There's not many things as exciting as learning to ride horses as an adult, so feeling a bit giddy and shaky are perfectly normal and acceptable reactions.

    Someone once said to me that old ladies run the risk of falling in the bath or shower and suffering major bruising or a break. We can't protect ourselves from every accident, but if we're going to have one, far better to have it doing something we love... (Not suggesting that you are old BTW, just that accidents can happen later in life even if you've avoided risks)

    And I completely get the Christopher Reeve thing, but he was jumping - I think at quite a high level - and it really was a freak fall that had him land on his head and flip over. Every fall I've had I've been on the horse one minute and on the floor the next with very little concept of exactly what happened! Riding defensively actually makes you alter your centre of gravity making it more likely that you'll fall, so adopt the motto 'Ride like you'll never fall off'.
     
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  8. Flipo's Mum

    Flipo's Mum Heavy owner of a Heavy

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    I used to be awful for playing little movies in my head and they'd inevitably end very badly - with my horse spooking or getting out of control. It requires a level of conscious discipline to notice when you're playing these faulty movies in your head and stop them, replacing them with good movies!
    I found having my riding filmed and being able to watch these little videos on my phone really helped me see that things were ok and replace my bad imagined movies!
     
  9. New Rider Nic

    New Rider Nic Active Member

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    Really? This is so reassuring to read! It's strange, because on my first day arriving at the stables, I watched a group of girls cantering around the outdoor school and thought "THAT is what I want to be doing" and I am so, so keen to get there. But at the moment just staying on going round a corner feels like an achievement, and I'm so busy trying to stay on and keep the horse in canter and not lose my feet in the stirrups, that I don't even have time to properly think about technique! I think that as an adult, it's much more difficult to accept that you're back in a position where you're a complete novice and not in total control of what you're doing. And much more scary!

    TBH, my RI is a bit too laid back for my liking. Her advice when I was getting ready for my first canter and asked what I should be doing in the saddle was "just sit there" I did ask her about a lunge lesson and she seemed to think I was joking and then said the lunge was for kids. I'd thought it might help me to get a chance to really feel the canter without the inevitable stop/start/back to trot, wait for the next corner stuff. I feel like I'd progress so much faster if i couild get a feel for the canter without that.
    I actually get the feeling that she isn't that comfortable teaching an adult as she's fantastic with my young niece but keeps trying to get me to move to a class instead of my lessons with her & she never gives me much feedback.

    Thanks so much for your post Skib, it's like you're writing about me. I'm 41 and I know that being older is definitely why I worry the way I do.

    This makes so much sense, I've only had one near fall and managed to stop it, but it actually wasn't anywhere near as bad as I'd expected. if I had fallen, I could tell it would've been a slide off the side of the horse onto my well padded rear. I think I'm worrying more about a fall in the group as i have these images of another horse trampling me if I do!
    And I know I need to stop dwelling on the possibility of coming off because I can instantly feel how much harder it gets to ride when I tense up. I need to find a way of refocusing my thoughts so I'm not such a scaredy cat

    Thank you! I read this last night before bed and then spent 10 minutes looking at a little bit of footage my niece took of me doing my first ever canter. It reminded me of what I've managed so far and of how excited I was that day after doing it. it also helped me to sleep as I did start fretting and playing the disaster scenarios in my head, so i focused on the video I'd watched instead.

    I'm still really nervous about tonight. Especially as it's basically monsoon weather here at the moment! But, I'm more hopeful that I'll really enjoy it and wonder what I was so worried about!
     
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  10. Mary Poppins

    Mary Poppins Well-Known Member

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    I have been riding for 35 years and owned my own saintly horse for 3 and a half years, and I still often get nervous before I ride. I have learnt to cope with my nerves and they have almost become part of me. If I didn't feel slightly nervous before I got on, I would think that was something wrong.

    I was a weekly rider for many years and my lesson was on a Wednesday evening. I always loved it and came away feeling on top of the world. On Thursday and Friday I felt amazing, and then over the weekend the nerves about the next lesson would come in. By the following Tuesday I would be a bag of nerves at on the Wednesday morning before my lesson i used to feel sick with worry and couldn't really function very well. Then of course I had an amazing lesson and the cycle started again.

    I don't think that you should fight your nerves, just learn to accept them and try not to let them control you. I have 2 young children and several of the other mums enjoy telling me how dangerous horse riding is and how wrong it is of me to do it. But what they don't understand is how riding makes me feel alive and enlights a passion within me like absolutely nothing else does. Without horses my life would be incomplete. Yes I could have an accident, but I could have an accident doing anything. If you never took a risk your life would be very dull.

    I would say that the right instructor makes a huge difference. If you don't feel you click with this instructor is there another you could try?
     
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  11. New Rider Nic

    New Rider Nic Active Member

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    Why is this always the first thing people say when they hear you ride? I get the same thing from a lot of friends! But they just don't get it do they? I've never done anything that makes me feel so happy and despite my nerves, being on a horse is the one thing I've found that makes everything else disappear from my head. it's just the best feeling in the world.

    it's good to know I'm not alone in the cycle of nerves to elation too :D

    I suppose I've gotten used to her. And she's the only instructor doing private lessons on a Saturday so I'm just viewing it as useful time in the saddle and doing lots of my own research by watching videos, reading and coming on here. The class I've joined is a different RI and I had one lesson with her when she covered for mine. She was great. I felt like I learned loads in one lesson with her so the group lesson with her should be good.
     
  12. Kite_Rider

    Kite_Rider Cantering cabbage!

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    I think it's a great shame that your RI doesn't seem to be interested in you having a lunge lesson. They are invaluable I think as like you said you can concentrate on yourself without having to think about what the horse is doing.
    I used to get the 'oh your doing what? that's a bit dangerous isn't it' when I had young children and took up motorcycling and kite buggying and yes it is annoying, but I kind of learned to not listen to folk who said it, as others have said life is full of risks and only you can assess your own situation, but 'far better to live one day as a tiger than your life as a sheep' don't know who said that but so true.
    I think most of us have nervous moments but that's normal if you have a fully functioning brain I think, your natural self preservation telling you something is dangerous is no bad thing, just a case of putting it all into perspective - easier said than done sometimes I know. The more you do the easier it will become though. Once you have mastered the canter you'll probably want to try jumping and your nerves may well kick in again, learning something new is scary at the end of the day and the fear of the unknown even worse. But isn't that what makes us feel alive and 'in the moment' as it were? Sorry I have rambled and not really helped but you will get there if you want to honest and your nerves will get less and less.
     
  13. New Rider Nic

    New Rider Nic Active Member

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    Thanks Kite_Rider. it's funny you saying that about jumping. I was chatting to my mum last night about how nervous I was feeling and she was trying to reassure me. She said that once I'd mastered the canter, then at least I wouldn't have to be nervous about learning anything new...until I told her I'd want to learn to jump after that :D
    I constantly surprise myself with the fact I haven't let the nerves make me give up.
    I just keep telling myself the same thing you've said - The more I do it, the more confident I'll become.

    And my friend who brought up Christopher Reeve and told me I was mad? She once broke her wrist slipping on a wet floor at the gym and then 6 months later took a fall on ice and broke her ankle. :eek: Life is indeed full of risks!
     
  14. tikkitti

    tikkitti Well-Known Member

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    Your not alone I was lucky to of grown up on a farm and have rode since being a child, however recently at 36 Ive had confidence issues, its a awful feeling but I'm slowly working through it cause I know riding confidently without anxiety is the best feeling in the world! Once you overcome your nerves there will be no stopping you:) x
     
  15. Skib

    Skib Well-Known Member

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    Actually the advice not to do anything when you learn canter is pretty good. I was bumping about with unsympathetic teachers and an RI who was spiteful to me noticed me in my lesson and remarked to her student that, if one didnt relax in canter, one would bounce about like a sack of coal. Breathing deep (if you ever did that in childbirth) and counting the one two three rhythm of canter will help with the relaxing.

    The balance round corners can be helped (this time it is advice from our classical RI) by remembering that your head is the heaviest part of you and needs to be central over the horse at all times. Having a lunge lesson or learning to canter out on a hack (which is what I did eventually) will get rid of the corners.
     
  16. Jane&Ziggy

    Jane&Ziggy Learning together!

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    I would say you should have a look for another RI. Someone who will treat you seriously and knows how to teach adults.
     
  17. New Rider Nic

    New Rider Nic Active Member

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    I really enjoyed the group lesson after all my nerves - I was a wreck up until i got on the horse and then came back and posted a long excited post in my diary about how good it was! The RI who takes it is brilliant. I felt as though I learned loads in the hour with her and that she 'gets' me. I'm keeping up my private lessons with the other RI too, but I feel as though the group lesson will help me be more assertive to get what I need in my half hour lesson, I'm using it as a chance to practice what I'm taught in group.
     
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