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After an accident with a horse how can I get over my fear? How can I make the process easier?

“Hi Stacy, I am in Australia and I have watched your videos and read some of your posts. I have also heard a lot about you from friends. I was wondering if you have any advice for a horse lover who is terrified of horses. When I was 12 I had an accident and fractured my skull and was in a coma. I was not permitted to get back on for a year. My mum was riding with me and broke her leg saving me. She was in hospital longer than me. We never rode for a long time, which is probably part of the problem. Mum rides sometimes now and is more confident than me. I have had some lessons but circumstances create big gaps between lessons. This means I start over all the time. I can’t remember the accident. I can now be near them it shake and feel sick when I lead them or ride them. How can I make this process easier?”-Kate A.

Overcoming fear is often like starting over again. Where would you start with a child and a horse?The first thing that popped into my mind was, “Start small, mini small.”

Then I read your question again and saw that even leading them causes you stress. I was reminded of how my boys, in a matter of days, dramatically increased in confidence after we got our mini’s. The interesting part was that the horses they had always handled were trained better than the minis…but the minis were small, less intimidating and made us laugh.

There are many ways that you could work through this. The biggest red-flag that I see in your question is that you have had circumstances that create big gaps between lessons. It isn’t ‘wrong’ but as you have already identified the lack of consistency will cause you to repeat more than if you were able to be consistent.

I wrote a blog titled, “After an accident I have lost my confidence, what do you suggest?” that discusses a similar topic from a slightly different angle; you are interested in getting confidence around any horse and she was interested in confidence around her specific horse. It is still worth reading as the answer is still what I would recommend to you.

Listen to this advice that was posted as a comment. She sums it up beautifully and offers great advice:

“Your confidence can be and – in my opinion – should be regained! It would be a tragedy if you allowed an adverse incident like this to set a pattern for you of avoiding anything that has scared or hurt you. I know what you’re going through, ’cause after the accident (my bicycle vs. pickup truck – bike loses, bigtime!) There’s nothing like lying in bed with the “tape” of the accident playing over and over in your head to scare the willies out of you….) I did three months in hospital and over a year in a rehab center! I was lucky; I had been a horse person since I was little and KNEW that when you fall off you get right back on before you get scared and lose something you love. Neither you nor I had that option, but I was riding a bike (nervously!) as soon as they put a knee joint in my cast; my horse (with stirrup removed on the cast side) as soon as I could swing my leg over his back.

If you are in an auto accident will you never ride in a car again? If you fall on your kitchen floor will you never enter that kitchen again? Or even never walk on a linoleum floor again?

Stacy is exactly right in saying that more groundwork and more exposure to strange happenings will lessen the chance of this occurring again with your horse – in whom you have a lot invested and I don’t mean money!) You might consider, also, a few sessions with a counselor to help you work on your fear, and a few lessons at the local riding academy on the horses they put the LITTLE kids on. You knew this kind of thing could happen before you started riding in the first place; horses are big, dumb prey animals with a very rapid flight response. You loved them anyway. You still do. Let your love – and your determination to be emotionally healthy! – rule your life.

With sympathy – and tough love, Annie G.”

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2015 in Inspiring, Life, Members Question, Thought provoking

 

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“Stacy-After an accident I have lost my confidence, what do you suggest?”

“Dear Stacy-Recently I had a bad accident with my potential world contender horse. We had been showing for about a year and doing very well on the local circuit. She spooked at the last show I was competing in and went up. I fell off and she lost her balance and landed on me. I was in the hospital & rehab about 1 1/2 months. I am now trying to decide what to do with her as I am not comfortable riding her. She is a western pleasure mare with a great bloodline and a nice mover. She has lots of potential but of course I have lost my confidence. My trainer in Ocala wants her back and has offered to continue showing her. I feel she needs to start over from the ground up which is not what a lot of breed trainers do. What would you suggest?” -Beverly M

We all know that accidents can happen with horses, the decision you need to make is whether this was a freak accident or if there are holes in this horses training. There are a few ways to make that decision. First you need to review mentally everything that happened during the accident. For example, did a dog run under your horse suddenly which caused the horse to rear?…or…Did the horse spook, and when you collected or redirected her, then over react by rearing? There is a big difference.

What reason do you have to believe the outcome will be different next time?

What reason do you have to believe the outcome will be different next time?

In order to build more confidence I would need more answers. I would need a reason to believe that this was not going to happen again. Again, I would examine the situation that lead up to the accident. If the horse spooked because someone tripped and fell down the bleachers then I would recreate a loud noise to see if I could trigger the same response while doing groundwork. If I thought that the horse reacted to the riders hands than I would do some ground driving to help determine if the horse is being reactive to the bridle.

You are correct when you say that many breed trainers would not consider starting over. It is common for ‘show’ horses to lack the same foundation that a non-show horse would have. The mindset seems to be that the focus should be on the specialty and as long as the horse is good at that…then they are willing to live with the rest. Many don’t see the point in training a horse for life outside the pen when they could be spending that time on the sport specific needs.

I recommend training for both. Showing in a specific class is great but I also want them trained like someone might do crazy stuff with them like ride them through a kiddie pool or wrap them up in a tarp. The irony is that it makes them better show horses in the end because they have a broad view of life and have learned to handle stress in various situations.

I hope you heal up well. The mental part for you will be big because you need a reason to believe things have changed.  It is also fair to discuss with the trainer what they think happened and to ask them to demonstrate what has been done to correct the situation. There is a quote that says, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” You know your horses history, you are asking great questions and you seem to have your horses best interest in mind. Remember that as the owner you have the final say and you should listen to your gut.

Check out these videos:

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2014 in Members Question, Training, Video

 

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How dangerous are horses? Injuries, accidents and ranking against other sports

Bruised leg from being kicked by a horse

What is the worst wreck you have been in or witnessed?

Injuries happen. At the last horse show I was at I saw a man in a cast and the first thing I asked was, “Horse related accident?” to which he responded, “No, I just tripped.” We both laughed and I told him he really needed a better story, or at least a better build up. But the incident got me thinking. Horses can be dangerous, but so can many other hobbies. This spring my 14 year old nephew broke his ankle/leg when he landed wrong during basketball. Another friend injured her knee in the same way. Several people I know hurt themselves simply walking, or rather, while simply walking.

Horses can be dangerous but there are ways that we can make them safer including educating both the horse and the rider and by simply being aware.

Here are some interesting statistics;

  • one in five injuries related to horses happens before mounting up
  • most dismounted injuries are more serious than mounted injuries
  • dismounted injuries tend to be kicks
  • mounted injuries tend to be falls

Total pro sports ranked horseback riding at #7 in comparison with other sports-

  1. Football
  2. Basketball
  3. Cycling
  4. Skateboarding
  5. Baseball
  6. Softball
  7. Horseback riding
  8. Ice hockey
  9. Lacrosse
  10. Golf
  11. Tennis

There are many interesting products out there to help reduce the chance of injury. Riding helmets are the most widely known and recommended piece of safety equipment. Others include safety vests and break away stirrups.

How dangerous do you consider horseback riding to be? What is the worst wreck you have been in or witnessed?

P.S.-Here is an interesting video on breakaway stirrups.

 
92 Comments

Posted by on July 26, 2014 in Life, Video

 

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When the lines between work and play get blurry.

The Master in the Art of Living, photo, Michener quote

 

Returning to Texas last night from my trip to Ohio I felt tired. I still do. But- I have done such a good job of embracing the Michener quote that I am left wondering if I was working or playing…or both.

Maybe it is the idea that ‘play’ shouldn’t be tiring. I just spent a long weekend at a horse show with friends who work ‘regular’ jobs and I watched them having fun and working hard…so play is often tiring.

Or maybe it is the idea that work should be hard. Driving horses from Texas to Ohio for a customer wasn’t so much hard as it was just long. Spending time with my son and paying for my trip to the show was a bonus too.

I think my mind still fights for a traditional work schedule at times. A schedule that says; Monday-Friday from 8-5, vacation days, etc. Why? Why does my brain do this to me? Is it for the security of knowing the plan ahead?

But who really knows the plan? People think they do up until the car accident, the cancer diagnosis, the pregnancy test results or the innumerable other moments that redirect the plans we have for ourselves.

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”…(James 4:13-15)

Maybe it is enough to pursue excellence in what I can see at this moment. Maybe it is enough to live now as if I may not have tomorrow. Or as if I had many more tomorrows. Maybe if the line is blurry it is a good thing.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2014 in Sunday, Video

 

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