So I can delusion myself all I want but in the end whether I realize it concisely or not, I am still a nervous rider.

Why am I nervous? The same irrational reason I was before,  something to do with heights and something to do with the animal. I can't figure out what it is with the animal but it's something that I was afraid of when I was little. I don't know what it is but it still effects me.

I know part of the reason now is my instructor, who is really strict. That's a good thing...when your not nervous. I do appreciate that she tries to get me to do everything properly but because I'm nervous I end up either "not listening" aka I can't concentrate properly so I don't remember to maybe change the direction till I'm passed it or fool up a pattern because my mind is going haywire. Or not doing something properly, and when she has to continuously correct me we both end up fustrated.  Her because I'm not listening, me because I try but can't seem to do it right because I get worse and worse, I try harder but still get worse. (This week was extremely bad because I also have some things going on in my personal life, and the lesson just broke me)

I couldn't figure out what was wrong with me till my mother picked me up, I had had a mental breakdown in the middle of my group lesson (of 3) and was just bad. I went to moms car after calming down a bit and basically ended up crying again, because I didn't know what was wrong. Mom, knowing me better then I know myself told me what she thought after I told her what was going on, and how I thought there was something wrong with me.

So I am going to talk to my instructor, and god knows I might be switched around lessons again(my first instructor went on maternity leave) but other then that I need help from someone else that has gone there something like this. What are somethings I can do to keep my nerves, that I don't even register most of the time in check?

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I have just been reading all the replies about coping with nervousness. Geoffrey just said something that I've never heard an instructor say, "The nervous rider is often the most challenging problem faced by coaches and it takes alot of skill and patience" & "Fear is not a rational thing--find a sympathetic coach that has the skills to help you through it" Great words of wisdom.
If a person does not deal with fear themselves and never has they do not understand what goes on in a persons mind and body when they are trying to learn in 'fear mode' --the idea of the mind going 'haywire'. I know that feeling well and empathize with's quite horrible and frustrating. I have been trying to work with this for 6 years now. I have put in the time as I spend several hours most days at the barn. Things I've found helpful are to spend time with my horse doing other things with him besides riding (grazing by hand, sitting with him when he eats, groundwork and play and riding games, grooming not tied-loose in the arena, just walking loose together in an enclosed area)
I had asked a couple of instructors to show me some of the things they taught in pony clubs or 4H but that just didn't happen. Now I have found a lady that does give lessons to kids and adults and teaches therapeutic riding. She would never loose her patience or speak in a scolding unkind way but none of my teachers has really ever done that to me and they wouldn't do it twice. I'd be long gone. But she had me do some things that finally helped reduce the nerves. I want to say here too that my three other instructors did help me in different ways but with the nervousness still there I was not feeling good about things. I wanted to be able to ride my horse outside of an arena and to not have that haywire brain/emotional feeling. We focused on breathing, exhaling, scanning body to see where I was tight, & sitting balanced ~~Those were my check points~~Always looking ahead, where I wanted to go but with a loose eye that was aware of our surroundings. Then we played with barrels and cones in various patterns so I and my horse had something to focus on and we completed a task that we could feel good about rather then constantly going in circles and varying kinds of circles. My horse will do this but he doesn't like it. We needed some objects. We used treats part of the time so my horse got more enthusiastic knowing there was something in it for his enjoyment. Gradually he's gotten so he doesn't need the treats...he'll probably always enjoy them. One day when we were outside and it had just rained and the footing was all smooth my trainer had us write a word or draw something in the sand while in saddle. My horse seemed to sense I was trying to do 'something' and really worked with me. Small adjustments, back-ups, side-passes etc. and I could just feel the tension lessening in both of us. Another thing we did was kinda like the game 'pic-up sticks' only we didn't pic them up. We scattered them - criss-crossed over each other kinda as they fell - and then weaved around thru them in different ways. The close focus seemed to occupy my brain so I wasn't thinking about or feeling the nerves as much and started to relax and as I relaxed so did my horse. Whew!!!! When we are tense, how are they suppose to know that there isn't something to be concerned about...all they feel is the tension. Right?
We were soon moving along much better and are now going down the farm lanes (lead till that felt comfortable and then rode) He's still uneasy by brush areas so I'm leading him past the woods but that's getting better too. We've only just begun!
I don't know if any of this will help you get comfortable so you can advance to whatever things you want to do but they helped me a lot and I feel like we are moving forward again.
When we used to do lots of arena rail riding, my guy would spook at nothing or ridiculous things too often. That has improved immensely. I think he was doing alot of the spooking to spice things up. or maybe I had him so bored he was feeling like 'pins and needles' which makes anyone jumpy.
When I first started my lessons I was literally shaking alot! and telling myself all the way to the barn "I am brave" over and over and now we are getting on the lanes and even going to the state trail riding parks (not on his back there yet). When I arrive at our barn and call him he usually either mossies up to me or runs full speed ahead to me. I love it! For me the relationship comes first and then the skills. Whatever we do it will be as partners not cause I can make him do it. So far he's moved along with anything I've felt brave enough to try. I started riding him at 3 and he's now 9 and I was 50 when we started this journey.
I think I better stop now. Please let me know how you progress and what things help you, maybe they'll help me or someone else with similar issues.
Hey Emily,

I was just like you when I had my first fall. But now I have 2 horses and is soo confident know (But I can't ride them cause of some problems ), But when I got my first horse I wasn't really nervous but then I did start to for some silly reason. And me and my mum would fight all the time because she would tell me that I am doing something wrong then I get confused cause I was nervous and not consintratin. But since I have started Pony Club I have been more confident in my self and more trust with my horse and even more bond. So maybe if you would like just try Pony Club for a day and see if you and your horse like it.

Hope you find something and get your worries away......But remember that it might take you awhile cause it took me 2 years to get my nerves away so just be patient ok :) You will make it :)
Well Emily I think we all agree ... you need a new coach. This coach you have now is abusive! Not acceptable. BTW a young coach can still be a good coach. I stayed with an abusive older coach for years. Believe me Patience and Empathy can be lacking at any age!!

If you want to wait until your original coach returns, consider volunteering with a horse rescue or disabled riding program. Working with horses will boost your confidence, and give you tons of horse saavy. Plus you'll get that horsey fix we all need!!

Or, if you just can't give up riding short term, start looking around for other barns. Once you start looking you might be amazed how many are around. KIJIJI seems to be the place where barns promote their services in my area. Maybe yours too?

When you stand up for yourself you are well on your way to being the kind of Leader your horse needs you to be :) Good luck Emily !!
I agree you need a different coach. I've had a few students who were very nervous or even scared after losing their confidence. I've been there myself - had my jumping confidence destroyed to the point I could not do the right thing in front of a fence. I jump again, at times with complete confidence, others with some nerves, but I did get past the crippling fear reactions. So I understand how my students feel, and because I have an analytical mindset I understand the process I went through to get my confidence back, as well as how fragile the rebuilding process really is.

It's not rational. It's coming from the subconcious and it is not possible to persuade the subconcious that "everything is okay". The analogy I like and use is to think of everything you do gets you a marble. When things go right you get white marbles, when they go badly you get black ones. So you have a jar of marbles representing your horse experiences. When you go to do something you are effectively drawing on your experience and pulling a marble out of the jar - get a white one and you're good, black, not so good. So ideally we want to increase your chances of drawing a white marble. Which means putting more white ones in. Which means working slowly to build more positive experiences.

Using the marble jar analogy, everytime your instructor yelled at you you put a black marble into the jar, and very shortly had a layer of them on top, which made you keep pulling out black marbles, which created more black marbles in situations. Not a good place for learning anything.

Building positive experiences can be a series of very small steps. Say you're afraid of hacking and one day your friend persuades you to walk round the hayfield with her. It's a beautiful day and you find yourself relaxing and enjoying yourself. Then your friend says "lets trot" and though you feel a little nervous you trot, and it's great! So your friend says "Let's canter to the corner!" and again you feel nervous, but it's going well and your horse is listening so you try it. And the horse bolts back to the barn. Your subconcious is going to be screaming "I told you HACKING was DANGEROUS!" as black marbles hit the jar. But (here's the trick) if you had just walked you'd have white marbles and your subconcious starts to go "Hacking isn't so bad". Another day you go out again and try a little trot and all goes well - more white marbles and a subconcious saying "Hacking is fun, trotting on a hack is okay." And then after a few more successful walk-trot hacks you dare a canter - and the horse bolts back to the barn, leaving your subconcious saying "Hacking is okay, trotting on a hack is okay, but CANTERING on a HACK is DANGEROUS." See how this works?

When you're afraid of or nervous about doing something, say so, loudly and often until your instructor understands that you really feel this way, it's not a cop out. IF it's a very small step forward from your comfort zone you can let yourself be pushed a bit, but if you are truly uncomfortable to the point of not being able to do it then your instructor needs to step up and break down the exercise into manageable chunks, or set it up with a different approach to make you more comfortable.

Just a thought - could your "something about the animal" be a lack of confidence in handling the horse and getting it to do what you want? On the ground does the horse push you, try to walk away, step into your space, refuse to move when you ask, etc...? Do you have to put a lot of effort into getting the horse to do what you want? Do you try just manage to do what you have to (ie tack up)? Perhaps a lack of understanding about how horses think and react to you? If you don't know what the horse is likely to do, or why/when it might do something that would scare you it's hard to be confident.
I am no longer afraid of working around horses on the ground. I used to be, but recently I have been able to catch and boss the most aggressive horse on the ground (turns into a doll under saddle) with no problem. Used to be terrified of him, and now I can handle him perfectly, he knows he can get away with nothing with me, that I'm boss.

In the saddle I'm still nervous. Probably due to the fact my muscles are still not that strong.

I like that marble analogy!

I just don't like giving good bye, switch me etc. without warning so I talked to my instructor last week and if she doesn't start to work with me then I am going to request to be switched to a different instructor. She was working more with me this week, but I was also on a horse I am used to, and am comfortable with in the saddle.
How has it been going, Emily?


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