It’s common knowledge that falling off is part of riding a horse. If you don’t want to fall, then don’t get on a horse. The majority of the time unplanned dismounts are minor with more injury to ego than body. When that is the case most riders get up, brush themselves off, and hop back on. But you can get seriously hurt riding horses and become fearful. How, then, do you regain your confidence?
Marianne Pingree was riding her horse in the field when it bolted uncontrollably. When he shot sideways, Marianne was launched head first into the fence. She suffered a skull fracture (even with a helmet) and had titanium plates and screws inserted and parts of her face reconstructed. “I knew I’d ride again,” she said. “The sooner it happened the better because I had to get the monkey off my back.” Against doctor’s advice Marianne started riding a different horse 3 weeks after her accident. It was, however, 4 months before she got back on her horse. When she did, it was on the lunge line, in an indoor arena and in a lesson. Things were as controlled as possible to increase the chances of having a positive experience for horse and rider.
Marianne offers this advice to riders. “It’s (falling off) the risk we take. 99% of the time it’s a fall on your butt. The sooner you get back on the better.”
Dressage trainer Duaa Anwar offers these tips for regaining your confidence after a riding accident.
- First do breathing exercises on the lunge to help release tension.
- Once you are back to riding, try to release your tension. When the horse feels you relax, he too will relax, which will help you be more content.
- Talk or sing to your horse. This will keep your mind away from nervous thoughts and keep your horse attentive to your voice.
- If you are fearful, do not pressure yourself into something that might go wrong. The objective is to view your ride as ‘easy to achieve’.
- Ride in company. Being around self-assured riders will help boost your own confidence.
- Spend time watching others ride. Seeing them advance might motivate you to take the next steps to getting back in the saddle.
- Pretend to be confident by sitting tall and smiling. This will fool your unconscious mind into believing that you are confident and will send the message to your conscious mind.
- Write down positive expressions and post them around your house or barn. Every time you see a note, speak the word. This allows your mind to ‘absorb’ the expression and store it unconsciously.
The most important thing is to respect your fear but don’t let it control you. Take your return at your own pace, but if you love horses and riding, you will get back in the saddle.