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Wet Blankets
I’d been off my horse for a few weeks due to a badly bruised coccyx. I’m back in the saddle. I was finally able to hook up with the instructor I’d hoped to be with. She’s been a horse woman all her life. For the past 30 years she’s bred & showed Morgans. I feel privileged to have this lovely, accomplished woman teach me about riding and horses. I’m training on her 26 year old stallion, who just floored me with his striking and distinguished looks, this boy makes getting old look good. He’s very accomplished and continues to lead a full and active life for an older gentleman horse.

Although I ride Western, she is teaching me English. What a difference! I really used my body to stay in the saddle. I found out I have muscles along the outside of my calves and ankles I didn’t know about. And the muscles in my ankles were turning to jelly while I tried to learn how to post at a trot. Western, English … this lady can bring me along any way she thinks is best cause there’s plenty she can teach me about horses.

I’m still timid. Before I got on Ivan yesterday it was all I could do to keep my self from saying (to my husband) “I’m sorry but I can’t do this with you, it’s just not for me” and walking him (Ivan) back to the barn. Instead I put my foot in the stirrup and gazed into my husbands eyes with the look of one being sent to the gallows by the person she trusted the most! But I kept my words to myself and jumped on board. I had a lovely ride. Sigh…. so as one of the wise DE folks said “the best way to get over the fear is plenty of wet blankets”.
I sure know where you are coming from, Bethany. Sometimes it is very, very tough to make yourself get up there and "just do it." When everything goes well it is such a great feeling and then the next time maybe just a smidgen easier, or sometimes not! Lord knows I've had my share of problems with these critters, but I'm finally getting to the point where I am relaxing more. (Probably couldn't tell that from the DE Trail Ride stories, though!) When you're relaxed, things just come a lot easier, and it is so much more fun. It is really great that you have found someone to teach you that you admire and trust. I can't imagine how hard this would be to try to learn all on your own. In fact, I'm sure I would not have stuck with it this long had it not been for the help of my teacher.
Hang in there.... it will get better.
"You learn a thing a day, you store up smart" - Festus Haggen

"A man’s soul can’t be hidden,
From the creatures in his care." -
Hard Candy Cowboy by Debra Meyer

It helps to know that other people feel or felt the way I do and they've gotten over it. Sometimes I love the ride and sometimes it's like being on a carnival ride you can't wait to get off of. One of the things that worries me is sooner or later I'm bound to hit the ground. I feel very fortunate to find a teacher who I trust whole heartedly and .... she's 5 minutes from home! How long have you been riding Harv?
Originally posted by Bethany

How long have you been riding Harv?

Like fools, we just started doing this at the tender age of 50! So we've only been at it for about 5 years. In that short time I've managed to hit the ground 15 times, but who's counting? By the way, I think 50 is too old to start, but it's too late for that wisdom. And yes, they all told me also that sooner or later you will hit the ground. Well, I managed to make it sooner and often. The good news to that is, that usually it doesn't hurt THAT bad. In all those times I've only had a few that really hurt. Flooper (who, like me, started at age 50) and I discussed at the DE Ride the fact that it is very hard to learn new physical skills at this age, and we've had to resign ourselves to the notion that we will probably never be as good as those who started earlier in life. However, it can still be fun, and learning from a good instructor will help that happen.
Also, the part about getting over the fear.... it's a work in process.[Wink]
"You learn a thing a day, you store up smart" - Festus Haggen

"A man’s soul can’t be hidden,
From the creatures in his care." -
Hard Candy Cowboy by Debra Meyer

I'm 47. Too old not to know I could be injured [:O]. There's something to be said for ignorance (in truly not realizing all the risks) and learning new skills. I saw a ... God had to be no more than 7 year old on a 1,000 pound horse giving the alternate kick, kick to get the guy walking faster. She actually had tiny stirrups that seemed to hook onto the saddle as an add on. Talk about feeling like a ninny for being scared.

Well ... I'm happy to know chances are when I hit the ground it probably won't be too bad. I'm goin again today ... got to keep at it.

This DE ride - where does it take place?
Hi Bethany,

Hang in there. It does get better. I can't remember how many times I've been dumped. I'm guessing about 6-8 but I only broke bones the third time. Actually, I think coming off a few times since then, not breaking anything and being able to mount back up and continue has been helpful in rebuilding my confidence. I'm a clinic junkie because I tend to push myself a little harder when others are watching and doing the same things without difficulty. I've been amazed at things I just knew would turn my mare into a bronc that she took without batting an eye. Your lessons will help lots! I think we older people are a little more cognizant of losing our livelihood or permanent injury from an accident. It is smart to be cautious. If you feel too nervous to do something from your horses back, get off. The more nervous you are the more nervous your horse gets. Your horse needs a leader and if you can be a better leader for your horse from the ground the horse won't care.
I am glad you found a riding instructor you like and trust. That is an important part of the learning process. The other part is having a horse that you like and trust - that makes everything so much easier.

Remember that 7 year old, she was probably on someone's old retired show horse, that has been there, done that, seen everything and was particularly chosen for disposition and baby sitting abilities. Those type of horses are worth their weight in gold, they will actually move under a rider to keep them balanced in the saddle, and if a rider starts to get really unbalanced they just stop and wait.

If you are scared of falling I would have a talk with your instructor and have her teach you how to fall, and practise it on a good quiet - short - horse. Falling isn't fun - and I avoid it at all costs - but if I do fall, I know to push away, and let myself relax and let the ground catch me - and I wear my helmet!!! Normally the only thing that is hurt, is my pride!!!

The other thing that people don't realize is that riding is a very physical activity. A lot of people have the idea it is basically like sitting on a moving chair, and their chair sitting muscles are all that should be required. Make an effort to become physically fit, eat properly, and do exercises to get strong legs and core muscles. Your back and stomach muscles are what keep you balanced and centered in the saddle, and the inside your upper thighs are what keeps you sticking to the saddle.

Also, ride in the proper balanced position, with your ear, shoulder, hip and heel lined up. This isn't about being fancy, or show riding but that is the position where all your bones and muscles are lined up and can be used to the best advantage. Then, if your horse does spook, or jump you have a better chance of staying on than if you were out of balance to begin with.

Also, riding isn't just about getting on the horse, it is also about being able to read your horse before you ever get on. I am riding babies right now, and how they react to the tacking up process, determines how they are going to get handled that day. Some I just step on and ride, some may be longed, and some may be longed with side reins - it just depends. If someone is particularly obnoxious one day, they may only get longed and never ridden. They may be only longed for the next week, until their attitude has adjusted itself back to the rideable state again.

Good luck, horses and riding are great.

We just finished the 3rd DE ride. It was held at Mid West Trail Ride, in Norman Indiana.
Hi Bethany! Thanks for sharing your story, I'm right with you. I'm 38 and have ridden since I was three. I've owned, showned, driven, etc. various breeds, but when I was 30 I was badly hurt when I horse took off while I was mounting him. I took a five year hiatus from horses and have been back a couple of years. It's a slow process. I used to ride anything at any time and I have faced a lot, a LOT of fear since I began riding. I'm heavier, out of shape, and really don't know why my confidence has been so shaken. I add to that a really reactive, greener horse (but that I happen to adore), and well, wooohooo! I've come off twice, but both times got back on and soreness and complaining was the only result. I have days where the fear is practically overwhelming, but I push through and end up having a great time. Each successful ride makes me know more and more why I enjoy it and I celebrate the success. It absolutely gets easier and better. It sounds like you're getting some great instruction, too, which can't hurt. Welcome to reriders club!
*Riding smoothly with Spotted Saddle Horses "Thunder" and "Sugar"*
I think Mrs. Hook gave some great advice about reading your horse and adjusting the training/riding schedule accordingly. When I was growing up, the litany was that you had to "show the horse who was boss" and never back away from trying to get the horse to do what you wanted, so that it wouldn't "learn to get away with something."

Forty years and many riding accidents later, I've learned that this is not the way to proceed. At least, not for me. I do constantly work on getting my horses to be more responsive and better behaved, but when it is clear that the horse is not in the right frame of mind for the lesson to be successful, I won't push it, especially if doing so will create a dangerous situation. Simply put, I don't feel it is worth risking my life to prove I can force a horse to do something. Sometimes it is better to just end the session on as postive a note as you can, and get back to things when conditions are better.

Last month, I was observing a well-known trainer advising a lady who was having trouble with her trail horse. He asked her what she did when the horse had a problem on the trail. She told him that she sometimes got off and worked with the horse from the ground. At this point, he said he wouldn't tell her to never get off the horse if she felt she was in danger, but that if she DID get off the horse, then she was letting him win.

While I can understand his reasoning, I disagree with it. If getting off & working the horse on the ground improves things so that the ride can continue safely, then how is that letting the horse win? Or maybe I just have no pride, LOL! I have no scruples about getting off my horse to avoid a dangerous situation. Doesn't matter to me what anyone else thinks. Better to be cautious and to live to ride another day!

EZ; I think you phrased that very well. I think it depends on what you do once you get off the horse when he's misbehaving. If all you do is lead the horse back to the stable and put him up, then the horse has won. If you lead him through an obstacle on the trail and then get on the horse and continue the ride, yes, the horse has won, again. BUT if you can show the horse he can do what is asked of him from the ground and he & the rider are both safe, and this is done, again, from the saddle, then the horse has learned he can do what is asked of him and he hasn't been hurt. At this point, getting off the horse and working him from the ground is tremendously beneficial. And the horse will remember the lesson and the rider won't have to get off the next time... or at least after a few times from the ground, the horse will eventually do it on his own and probably will from that time forward.

It goes back to that saying about ground work... If the horse won't do it from the ground, what makes you think he'll do it from the saddle? If that time on the ground is training the horse in the right direction, that training is priceless and will stay with the horse, sometimes, for the rest of his life.

"God forbid that I should go to any heaven in which there are no horses"
--Robert Browning

Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend.
-- Author Unknown

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