I’m Worried My Horse is Going to Take Off – and I’m frightened to hack out. Any suggestions?
“I’m worried all the time I ride my horse and I’m frightened to hack out. He spooks at one end of the school and the harder I try to stop him the worse he gets. I know I need to reax but I find that even harder! Can you help?!
The simple answer is I hope so! Knowing you’re nervous and trying to do something about it is a great start (So many people try to pretend that they’re really OK and that’s much harder to deal with.) Here are a few ideas and there are links to other posts at the bottom of this post that will help too.
I was a nervous rider years ago and I can genuinely sympathise with you. I was terrified that when I asked for canter I was going to get bucked off because it had happened three times in the past. And guess what?! Instructors pushed and
pushed me and I got really tense about it and the horse felt it and off I fell!
In the end I stopped having lessons and spent months doing many of the things I’ve suggested below. I find it helps more to solve nervous problems if you set your own realsitic goals – not be pushed towards them by someone else. Even the kindest instructor wil feel they should be making progress each time although you may not need to.
The first thing you need to do is stop trying too hard to tackle the things that scare you. If that means not hacking out and not using one end of the school for a bit so be it. You can ride circles at the other end and gradually ‘creep’ up to the spooky end when you feel more relaxed. Do some sessions in the school that are all in walk. Take the pressure off completely. There are 100s of things you can do in walk here When you do you’ll start to enjoy it because you’re not pressurising yourself to do better. Think about what you are happy to do. Focus on those things. Build up the relationship you have with your horse doing things you’re both happy with. Confidence grows when things don’t go wrong – not as so many people tell youwhen you push yourself through problems. Makes sense when you think about it! Imagine if you crashed the car every time you drove when you learned to drive?
You’d take the bus wouldn’t you?!!
If you think your horse is going to take off is it because it has already happened or are you worrying about it ‘just in case’? Strange as it may sound ‘holding back’ will make your horse go forward. It will shorten his back up, get
his hocks under his body and make him think you’re about to ask for a
transition! If you take your legs off at the same time he’s most likely to panic and think “What’s up?!” The more relaxed your hands are on your reins the more confidence your horse will get from you. I think staying in walk in the school
and working on riding between a contact, a long rein and a loose rein will really help you to let go. Try to keep your shoulders loose – that’s a great way to keep your hands and arms relaxed. If you can shrug your shoulders (to stop
them tightening up under your ears!) every time you pass a marker it will help you to stop your whole body tensing up.
When you do trot on work on riding circles and turns to keep your mind focused on something not on worrying. A great way to do that is to ride a transition, shape or change of rein as you pass every marker (even in half the school). it
makes your horse feel that you’re confident and ‘bossy’ even if you don’t think you are!
As far as hacking out is concerned when you do decide to ride out go with a friend that you trust 1000% Not someone who thinks you should toughen up – or that your horse is really safe and what are you worrying about! (I’m sure you’ve
heard that before?!) Ride behind them and again stay in walk or trot if you’re happy. Ride on the road as there’s far less chance of a horse thinking you’re going to canter.
Take your time – it’s supposed to be your hobby don’t forget! Do whatever it takes to help you enjoy it. Never put yourself down or feel bad for your horse because you think you’re making his life a misery – he’ll be quite happy to just see you happier every day trust me!
Confidence has a way of creeping up on you. If you take your time you’ll find you suddenly look back and remember how scared you used to be about doing things.
Good luck and don’t forget to enjoy yourself!
Links to nervous riding are here –