Nervous Rider: A Progression

This time last year, I was completely terrified of riding Copper. He was for sale, and had just started training with G. Over the next couple of weeks I would take lessons on a finished reining horse and watch Copper work to see his progress. I would decide that I should take a lesson on him before selling him, you know, just to see what I was going to be missing out on. It had been two years since I’d been on him at that point. I only rode him walk/trot the first few times (you know, because cantering is scary) and he was so soft. After the first lesson on him, I took him off the market. I figured if he became an ass again, I could always repost his ads, but once sold, it wouldn’t be likely that I could get him back.
A Soft Spot for Stars-Nervous Rider: A Progression

When I was on the way to G’s to take a lesson on Copper, my nerves would get so bad that I’d almost get sick to my stomach in anticipation. I genuinely didn’t trust my horse, despite deciding to keep him. I had to play music on the drive that I knew so that I could sing along in an effort to distract myself from worrying. After all, I’d observed him using all sorts of antics to avoid being ridden in the past, so why should I relax and trust him?

A Soft Spot for Stars-Nervous Rider: A Progression

One of his moves. Yes, he did this and many more things under saddle.

I wouldn’t have gotten over my fear without the lessons from G. I had zero confidence riding, and even less than that with Copper. The only thing that pulled me out of that rabbit hole was repetition and Copper’s continued good behavior. G let me go at my speed (which was intolerably slow for the reining trainer), so I didn’t canter Copper until A came in. (Can you tell how awesome she is?) I wanted someone to video me riding so that I would be able to see how things looked with me cantering him. This technique was very helpful. For my first time cantering in a few years, I felt like I was on a racehorse. On video? Not so much. We were cantering along at a reasonable speed, and didn’t look the slightest bit quick.
A Soft Spot for Stars-Nervous Rider: A Progression

After a few more walk/trot lessons, G said, “You know you’ll have to start loping him sometime.” I was so comfortable in my walk/trot bubble that I hadn’t cantered since A was there to watch. Despite what I’d seen on the video, it still felt so fast. G stood in the center of his outdoor and asked me to start loping circles around him. *Side note: I’m bad at making circular circles…and we’re thinking of trying dressage. Lolzzzz…* After G initiated cantering in that lesson, I cantered every time I rode him at G’s after that. I even started coming another day a week just to practice.

Now that we’ve spent the winter puttering around my small indoor being afraid to go outside, we haven’t cantered. I’m probably close to where I was confidence wise with my cantering when we left G’s. I even considered cantering him when we rode outside last week. Even after watching him pop up with A at the canter, I was considering cantering my horse outside in a field, and I didn’t feel like the bottom on my stomach would drop out. Who was this person? Had I learned to trust my horse? The mischievous Appaloosa who randomly performed fancy airs above the ground for kicks and giggles?

A Soft Spot for Stars-Nervous Rider: A Progression

Who are these relaxed goobers?!

Hopefully Copper and I will continue to develop this trust and work together. He is truly too nice to spend so much time being afraid of him. In the meantime, I do feel as though I should purchase a helmet if we’re to be getting so adventurous outside. Any recommendations for a low profile helmet for someone with a tiny head under $100? 🙂

Also, I wrote this on mobile…so hopefully it doesn’t look too crazy.