Whether you’re experienced or not, as a rider, you’ve likely taken a fall from your horse at some stage. No matter if your horse bucked, tripped, refused, or spooked, falling can create confidence issues. Just remember, it’s only normal to feel a little anxiety about getting back in the saddle. However, the first thing you should know is that it’s ok to feel apprehension after a fall; it’s our self-preservation instinct in action. You don’t, however, have to let it consume you. In this article, you will find some steps to help you restore your confidence after falling from your horse.
Don’t blame yourself
It’s easy to blame yourself and picture a thousand things you could have done differently. However, try to be kind to yourself. There’s nothing you can do about a fall after the fact and there’s no use in beating yourself up over it. It can be complicated, sure – I’ve been there many times myself, as have many colleagues and friends. That’s why I changed my approach, and wanted to share it.
Instead of blaming yourself, use it as an opportunity to learn and improve. In this sport, you never stop learning, and that’s one of the most wonderful things about it.
Analyze why you fell
Take your time to analyze what may have caused the fall. This is a different approach than blaming yourself, rather taking the necessary steps to resume riding successfully.
Many reasons may have caused the fall, for example:
- Your horse bucked.
- Your horse refused to jump, and you jumped the obstacle yourself.
- Your horse tripped.
- Your gear failed. For example, a stirrup leather cracked as you were jumping.
- You lost balance.
If you take a closer look, you will notice that they have different root reasons. Therefore, the way to address them is pretty different. For example, if your horse bucked, you might want to consider the following:
Did he have a lot of energy due to being out of work?
You can try exercising your horse more often, and if you can’t, ask someone to ride him for you and/or lunge him before riding him.
Is he cold-backed or tight-backed?
Check your saddle and saddle pad, and check if something in your tack is what’s causing him to be cold-backed.
Is he in pain?
If this happens often, your horse may be in pain. Ask your trusted vet to check your horse for any symptoms that may be causing him pain. Sometimes bucking is our horses’ way of telling us they are not feeling well.
Did he spook?
If he spooks often, does he always spooks from the same things?
This analytical of thinking will help you create a plan to return to the saddle more confidently than ever.
Don’t blame your horse
As you shouldn’t blame yourself for falling, don’t either blame your horse. Leaving aside that horses are living creatures with their own thoughts, feelings, and instincts, remember your horse is your teammate and buddy. If we fail, they fail, and vice-versa. Blaming your horse for a mistake may lead you consciously or unconsciously to lose faith in them. Instead, consider other factors that might affect him, like health, tack, shoeing issues, and your riding. Don’t question your riding skills, instead ask if you are taking the right approach. Are you communicating effectively with your horse? Are they picking up on your cues? Address the situation with a positive and constructive attitude, and use the experience as an opportunity to learn and improve your communication and partnership.
Don’t rush things
No matter what discipline you practice or if you just ride for fun, remember that sometimes, the fastest way to move forward is to slow down. If you are competing at any level, forget about the showing schedule and take your time to go back to the basics. Take as long as you need to recover your trust in yourself and your horse. If you were jumping 1.20m fences, take some time to do some groundwork, and then start jumping small cross rails. If you are doing advanced dressage, take some time to improve your balance and practice your transitions. If you do trailing, go for a relaxing walk instead of galloping through the field. Don’t push yourself, and don’t rush; take baby steps. You will know when you are ready to move on.
Visualize your triumphant return
If you feel anxious after falling from your horse, visualize positive experiences. Remember breakthrough moments and positive experiences. Visualize that time you rode and everything went perfectly. Repeat that thought over and over, take deep breaths, relax. Take precautions but don’t overthink; move within your comfort zone, push it to the learning zone for a while, and return.
If you feel overwhelmed, lower your expectations until you feel right about what you are doing, and keep doing it until you are bored and ready for more.
In essence, don’t keep anything to yourself. Tell your riding instructor, coach, or friends how you feel after a fall. Don’t be shy to ask for help – talking your feelings out is one of the best ways to heal.