Us girls here at No Bucking Way have been through our fair share of confidence ups & downs. Having young horses really makes you take a step back from time to time and makes you think is this really worth it? Should I be putting myself at such risk day in, day out?
There are so many different types of horses with many different personalities, you may come across a horse that is an angel to ride but a nightmare in the stable or vise versa. but unfortunately you dont figure all this out until a few months in!
So we thought we would put together some tips we have learned from the ground and from the saddle to give you all some sort of guideline as to how we cope with our daily routines. We planned on doing a joint blog post about this topic, but as we started to note things down, the more info we had, so we will be doing confidence blog post based on Dante & Coco with what both of us have learned along the way!
Up first we Have Dante…. Have a read below, & be sure to let us know what you do on the daily to gain that confidence of your off days!
How to cope with a Rearing Nightttmare
For the love of god everyone, GET A NECK STRAP! I stupidly only got one 4 months ago, when in reality from the day I bought Dante I should of had one. Rearing was his way out of things, it was his go to tantrum so I have sat my fair few share. I wont lie, they are petrifying. Especially when you have a gigantic horse underneath you, one that has zero balance at that too. The first few months of owning Dante, this issue held me back a lot, it scared the shit out of me.
But the determination in me & with such stubbornness I had one choice, and that was to learn how to resolve the situation, so with that below are my three tips for dealing with a ‘Rearer’
- Give the contact and push forward. Once you keep those hind legs moving your horse will find it harder to go up, therefore impossible to rear.
- Pulling on the mouth is a major NO go, this will only encourage them to fight against you and continue to go up.
- Remaining calm, and as balanced as you can really is all you can do. Remember if your horse can sense uncertainty especially a young horse they will thrive off it.
Unfortunately rearing can shake the nerves out of most people, luckily enough for me I was too determined and some may say stupid so I sat out a few bad ones, Orla did take the blunt of it one day, how she lived to tell the tale is beyond me. To this day I don’t think either of us will ever forget the day Orla rode Dante for the first time, lets just say it took a few months for her to get back up on him again & I wouldn’t blame her, I was half afraid to ride him at times!
But Now, I have learned to avoid these situations. If Dante is having an off day the best thing for me to do is as much work possible without getting a rise from him. Looking for an argument with him is a massive no go zone, he will certainly try his best to give you one so avoiding it is best! Not giving Dante a rise is simply, VITAL!! Once he knows he is getting a reaction or an argument with you he thrives off it, so now when he tries, I simply ignore him or change the exercise I am doing constantly letting him now I am there by patting him on the neck and he relaxes back to his normal self.
I would recommend doing lessons with an instructor, having someone on the ground with you if your horse continues to rear. Checking teeth, saddle issues & their back also, and if your problem persists beyond this have a trained professional who specialises in working with young horses to sit up on your horse. Bold behaviour in youngsters is sometimes all it is and nipping it in the bud at its earliest convenience is the best way to go.
As for your own confidence, I will admit, it does take quite the hit. Staying relaxed and calm really is all you can do. If you are unsure of things, or if your horse is persistent in going up dont put yourself in a dangerous position, cut your riding session short and dismount. The last thing you want to do is injure yourself.
Building Confidence on a Hack or in an open field
Working in the field can go one of two ways. Dante was so used to doing arena work, that he used to get so excited going out into the field! It scared the shit out of me to begin with. but as we began working out there more the better it got.
At the beginning, he became quite nappy towards any other horses that were out riding with him, for instance if the horse moved or trotted in a different direction to Dante, he would begin to nap towards them by bunny hopping/rearing in their direction. It was a pain in the ass, and at times it was the safest option for me to just let him run with the other horse, as I have explained fighting with Dante is not ideal. All of This of course was not something I wanted him to do. As I continued to do work in the field, I took everything back to basics, starting of by taking things slow.
Tip: Don’t set your first work out in the field or hack to be a 2 hour trail ride up a mountain with a tone of obstacles in the way. Remember, if you have a young horse all these adventures & new places are huge to them. Taking them places outside their comfort zone is like throwing someone who cant swim into the sea and just expecting them to swim!
Starting things of slowly, I began by ending my arena sessions with a 5-10 minute relaxed walk around the field (or as relaxed as I could make it). If your horse hasn’t done much field work, start by walking one lap of the field letting them take everything in, let your horse look around ,getting them to relax is vital. The aim is for them to gain trust in you guiding them around new places, not to become afraid of the experience.
And remember … REWARD REWARD REWARD!!
Let your horse know they are doing good, talk to them, pat them on the neck, most importantly don’t over do them. I will admit I have done this and it is a pain trying to reverse! Knowing your horse and their limit is huge in these situations.
To gain a bit more confidence in the field, I done a few lessons in the field with my instructor to begin with, luckily for myself the field I school Dante in has a number of XC fences, so it was perfect for a lesson.
Now, a few months down the line my confidence is beaming. This did take a lot of time as jumping XC fences was a no go zone for me, as for Dante it was something he had zero problems doing until my lack of confidence started to rub off on him. Working on my confidence to get us both on level took some work!
I will say though, take things slow my biggest fear out in the field was all the open space and the fear of not having any control. The more Dante & I worked together gaining each others trust, and then translating it into things together was huge! Slow & steady wins the race, that’s my go to motto these days!!
Anyone who has heard of me or Dante, actually let me rephrase, anyone who had seen me ride Dante from last October until June of this year would know that I pretty much had a fall from him on a weekly basis. Not something I am proud of, but something I am very surprised I walked away from un-harmed.
He was a very difficult horse to deal with at the beginning, there were times where I purposely fell off him (Drop & Roll technique) to save myself serious injury. He went through so many phases of barging around the arena uncontrollably, to simply being such a baby that had no co-ordination or balance that got us in a lot of trouble. We eventually had to re-break him he got so bad.
But instead of boring you with I do this, and Dante works well like that I am going to give you some pointers/ advice on what I do & how I get my confidence back together after a fall.
- Remain Calm.
- Take a breather, get your breathing back to normal before you start anything, sit on the mounting block for 5 minutes in the arena if you must.
- Before mounting up again after a fall, identify the reason for the fall, bold behaviour, a spook or simply your horse just not understanding what you want them to do, then assess if it is worth the risk to get back up on your horse. I used to bring Dante into the lunge arena if I felt unsafe to get back on him after a bad fall. This way you leave your session on a semi – good note rather than ending things drastically.
- Check your horse before you decide to get back up, incase they caused themselves any injuries.
- Don’t jump back into what you were doing that caused the fall in the first place, take things slow
- If your falling is consistent, recruit an instructor. Work with your trainer to solve your issues rather than trying to do it yourself which more than likely caused the fall to begin with, eyes on the ground are a massive plus to anyone riding a horse.
To summarise on everything, you know your horse best. If you don’t feel safe riding your horse I would recommend you start looking elsewhere. As horrible as that sounds, don’t put yourself at risk of any serious injury. I closely came to that decision I wont lie, but I stuck it out which wasn’t always a good idea.
Riding your horse should be fun, it should make you happy, not afraid every time you sit in the saddle. Incorporating fun into your riding will only avoid your horse turning sour or resentful towards proper work. Young horses do need their training days, but they also need their fun relaxing days where you bring them out of the arena to new places, to do work in a field or a simple walk down the road, something to clear their minds.
To be a confident rider, something I am still learning to be, you need skill but you also need to be positive. This does not come over night, it comes with time and patience. So my advice, Focus on enjoying your horse, stop focusing on the competition results, stop critising a bad rising session, stop striving for perfection. That will all come with time.
Remember you have a young horse or you may have an older green horse & they more than likely rely on you for guidance for everything, when you are both relaxed & enjoying experiences together the better your bond forms, and the more willing you will both be to do things & learn together. Gaining trust in your horse for me if vital and to be honest a year into owning Dante and its only now we are both beginning to trust each other.
So believe me when I say these things take time!