Ebb and flow of confidence.

Recently I came off a horse I was working with. He’s un-broke but I was TOLD he had some training on him. After the incident I really wanted to ask the people who bred him what they considered training. Turns out he has no foundation. So I ended up going very quickly thru the steps and he seemed fine until I sat down in the saddle, the second I sat and went “ahhhh” which quickly turned to “Ahhhhhh CRAP!” because he shot off like a bullet. I don’t really know how fast we were going and I’m not sure what we actually did but the one thing I did know is we had NO bend, I slid my hand so far down the rope that I had the halter in my hand, pulling with all my might to bend this horse and he wasn’t having any of it…The people watching said I stayed on pretty long but I had no sense of time. The saddle started to slip sideways so I bailed. Luckily I knew even though I jumped to the side I was going down back first so I curled when I landed so I didn’t get hurt badly at all, problem was I landed somehow in front of the horse. In another very lucky millisecond I locked eyes with the horse as I was rolling on the ground and somehow knew right then and there that he was not going to run me over, he veered to the side the second after we looked at each other. 

I had to get up, dust myself off and get back on, I stayed on for a few seconds and got off. 

I was totally shaken up. I didn’t know it then but I lost a lot of my confidence. 

It took me a while to realize it too, I can ride my horse just fine but I know him, and feel like I know him very well, so riding him isn’t a problem. It was when I was offered to ride my friend Charlie’s 24 year old TB rescue. I’d never worked with her before and although we did ground work for an hour and Charlie told me he rides her on trails and she’s pretty bomb proof…I knew it was a different situation entirely but I was standing on the mounting block, bouncing up and down and leaning on her back to see if she was okay. She was…totally, but I could NOT physically make myself get on that horse. I was blocked, I thought, this must be what a deer in headlights felt like because I wanted to move forward but just couldn’t do it! 

I went home feeling like a complete failure. 

My friend recently said she wished she wasn’t such a coward, to which I laughed and said she’s nothing of the sort or else she would have never gotten a wild colt, trained it successfully and certainly wouldn’t have the balls to be trail riding him already but she is. So that word Coward was stuck in my head. Fate stepped in and she called me later this same day and I told her what I was going thru and I was so embarrassed at the moment this was happening to me, I couldn’t tell her or my friend Charlie even though they were right there and they would have been supportive. I literally stuffed myself into a mental box. She stopped all my agony by saying this one thing. 

“Welcome to the world of good horsemanship-we all go thru this, even our trainers still talk about this- learning to be a good horseman is the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to learn in my life.” She said a bit more about how I can’t be a coward because with my short time and experience with horses I have more guts to do stuff than some people she’s known that have had horses for over 20 years etc. She’s really great at telling people when they are overreacting. 

So I decided she’s right (she’s not wrong very often!) I will just have to dig myself out of this rut the good ol fashioned way of trying harder and getting out of my comfort zone. 

Today was my next opportunity to do so. I’ve always been afraid of doing a long trail ride bareback because my horse Kiko will spook occasionally and will want to just GO sometimes. I decided to just do it. My stomach dropped a little bit when my buddy Patrice said oh, lets go thru the woods too and see where we can cut some trails…I’ve never been back in those woods before but I stopped the images of me getting hit in the head with a tree branch while my horse is running wildly back to the pasture just as quickly as they hit me. 

So we went…I just didn’t over think it and we ended up riding for over 2 hours, thru the little trails and down the road to a friends horse rescue and back. It was awesome! We had a little spook, Kiko suddenly decided to jump down a bank, shot off into a trot, even started a canter and the whole time I stayed on and even felt still connected to him in those DUH moments we had. It was great and a fantastic confidence booster. I drove home smiling the whole way. I’m still a little high from how well things went. 

So now that my confidence is in a flow, I’m planning on going out very soon and working with the 24 year old horse- hopefully soon after that, working with the horse that I came off of too. I’ve got to get a foundation on him and ride that pony before I talk myself back out of it. 

I assume this is how it will always be. The ebb is doubt and I will always have things to doubt myself about especially if I continue on in this journey to learn more with my horsemanship. So the only thing I can do is find a way to better manage when my confidence ebbs away. 

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2 Responses to Ebb and flow of confidence.

  1. rontuaru says:

    Well, like everything I’m kinda coming into this back-a**words. I read your most recent post first and had to backtrack to see what happened. Been there, done that and I know how you felt. When I bought my current mare I was coming off a 23 year relationship with the same horse. My senior had recently died and I soon set out to find another mount. When I bought a young, fairly green Arab I sensed that I could use some extra guidance. I mean, I’m a long way from 35 these days! So instead of feeling cocky and confident in my skills I asked if I could ride with the mare’s trainer for 30 days. I thought that would really give me a kick start at learning first hand what makes this mare tick.

    Well it was late winter in New England. Not my favorite time to ride. Windy, icy, cold. That trainer was smart and instead of letting me use the indoor arena, he made me work in the outside round pen. I mean, he knew I got this horse to trail ride, so what good would it have been to do all my bomb-proofing in a setting that I’d never use? (I realized this with hindsight) Overall, things went VERY well. I took my horse home at the end of the month and gave her two weeks to settle in. During that time I ground worked her and hand walked her on the main trail that I planned to start her out on. She did well … a little spooky, but she was young and an Arab, so I expected that. I also spent a good amount of time working with her and even just hand grazing her in our arena. so she could get used to it.

    Finally it came time to get on her. I wasn’t nervous at all because I’d ridden her steadily for a month and she was very well behaved. Fortunately, I had the good sense to ask my husband to come with me … just in case I needed a hand with anything. I got on and we walked around. Again, she was a bit nervous, but nothing too crazy. After a good ten minutes or so of just walking around the ring I asked her for a nice calm transition into a jog … and all hell broke loose.

    I eventually came off and in the process I wrenched a knee badly. My husband grabbed the mare and walked her a bit to quiet her down while I basically tried to decide if I needed to go to the ER. He asked me if I wanted him to get on her and ride her and I said no. I knew I had to do it, but like you, I was scared witless and I didn’t even know if my leg would bear weight … little own bend to fit in the stirrup. Slowly I stood up and remounted. My husband led the mare around the arena several times, then let go. Naturally, she was fine. Due to the keen pain I was unable to try to trot, bu I don’t think I had the confidence anyway. We ended on a good note.

    The real problems didn’t start until after the horse was put up for the day. See, I’d lost my confidence. It had been YEARS since I’d been tossed and I was a lot younger back then. I immediately began asking myself what I’d been thinking when I bought a young, green Arabian? I was 32 the last time I was in that situation and I had the balls and physicality to get the job done. Now what? Ug! Fortunately, I found a trainer who was willing to come out to my farm and work with me. Meanwhile, I continued to do a lot of ground work and when I was healed enough to try riding again, I did a few short trail rides with my husband and his horse. That had a settling effect on the mare. I didn’t step into the ring again until I had the trainer with me. That helped a LOT. The mare didn’t pull any nonsense and gradually I started to rebuild my confidence.

    Now this isn’t to say that this mare doesn’t try to buck on occasion. She does, but mostly it’s a feeling her oats kinda thing. And two years and a LOT of miles later, I know this mare SO much better! And I also know MY limitations better. I’m older. I’m more cautious. I’m not willing to take a lot of risks just to prove I can. (And I wear a helmet now. EVERY ride!) Let’s just say that it’s going to be a cold day in hell before this mare catches me off guard and tosses me on my keester!

    Hang in there … you’ll find your way!

    • eduequine says:

      Thanks for that story! I totally understand that…getting more cautious because you realize you aren’t invincible is exactly where I am too. I’m happy you hung in there with her too, I’m sure the bond is stronger because of it!

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