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Exercises to build confidence under saddle?

Discussion in 'Horse Chat' started by noreins, Apr 19, 2017 at 6:30 AM.

  1. noreins

    noreins Senior Member

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    This exactly. I can never put it into words. Thank you explaining it better :)
     
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  2. Peanut Palomino

    Peanut Palomino Senior Member

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    Fear and clinical anxiety are not the same thing. Skill does not overcome anxiety.
    The OP's question is about how to deal with anxiety when working with horses, not fear.


    OP, I also have anxiety. I get anxiety attacks mostly when driving. Freeways are especially triggering.
    Things that help me:
    -The 5 Senses. Find 5 things you can see, 4 you can touch, 3 you can hear, 2 you can smell, and 1 you can taste. It's a grounding exercise and is great when you need to refocus away from anxious thoughts.
    -Reminding myself that anxiety LIES. Do not believe what your brain is telling you. Find some sayings, or affirmations, that you can repeat to yourself such as, "I trust my horse, I trust myself." "I am safe, this is easy." They might not feel true, but it's important to focus on positive self-talk.
    -Remember to breathe deep from your belly. Put your hand on your stomach and feel the air fill it up, count to four, exhale. I know that when I get especially anxious, I breathe up high-- fast shallow breaths-- which tell my body that the "danger" is real. But forcing yourself to breathe low and slow tells your body that it is safe.
    -Exposure. The more you get out there and do it, the easier it will become. I like to think of it as collecting good memories and good experiences. The more good I have in my collection, the more proof I have that the experience is safe. It doesn't necessarily change my anxiety, but it gives me a little more courage to face it next time.

    ETA:
    Celebrate little victories!
    When you have a good ride, celebrate it! Celebrate yourself! Give yourself credit when you've shown courage.
    And on bad days, give yourself a break. There is always tomorrow.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2017 at 8:17 AM
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  3. Dona Worry

    Dona Worry Senior Member

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    :applaud:
     
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  4. noreins

    noreins Senior Member

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    Oh thank you! I'm going to try that today.

    It's hard to remember sometimes that any progress at all is good. When other people are around and watch me jump off a perfectly calm horse it's hard to explain lol. I can relate to the driving anxiety, mine is mostly bridges. I catch myself trying to hold my breath the entire time. I do the same in the saddle and tense up. Anxiety is a monster.
     
  5. D_BaldStockings

    D_BaldStockings Senior Member

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    I would try working from the concept that my body can actually help determine my mental state.

    Yoga, for instance. flexibility, balance and controlling your breathing can all be practiced off the horse.

    tumbling or somersaults can help with fear of the ground/falling off.

    You might want to look into Neuro Linguistic Programming, made popular by Tony Robbins back in the day: you can train your mind to replace bad associations with positive ones; also, by changing your posture and literally looking UP many people find it tones down anxiety and calms a person.
    You can develop routines and triggers to help change your mental state.

    google 'nlp overcome anxiety' and quite a lot will come up.

    I also feel physical explosive strength exercises like some of the football running drills, jumping rope or onto boxes, and core (abdominal) exercises like the 'torture twist'(all on youtube, etc.) -and swimming if you have access to a pool - will help you gain confidence in your physical abilities.

    I'm old, and what used to work is lately weak and slo-mo if I don't keep up and fight for it.

    Magnesium and b-vitamins are supposed to be calmative - I've used them for other reasons, but every little bit helps.

    Keep fighting!
     
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  6. D_BaldStockings

    D_BaldStockings Senior Member

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    I'd recommend riding a mechanical bull on slow until you are bored and tired, but they are hard to find nowadays!
     
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  7. mooselady

    mooselady Senior Member

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    Yes, yes and yes again
     
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  8. slc

    slc Senior Member

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    why do you think she doesn't understand how this works? I was up all night working so I need cue cards.
     
  9. Dona Worry

    Dona Worry Senior Member

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    Clinical anxiety and fear are two different things, and she seems to not understand how limiting it can be to stop doing everything you love because you have developed anxiety about them.
    Go get some rest, SLC, your body needs rest.
     
  10. slc

    slc Senior Member

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    I really believe that you can feel more secure on the horse by taking lessons. You get more of an action plan of what to do.

    Your horse tunes into you more and you tune more into what you need to do - your Inventories ('heels down? check. head up? check. equal weight in both stirrups? check) for example.

    LOL. As a volunteer I often get 'treated' to Things Relatives Say in these situations. Sometimes I think the definition of 'relative' or 'spouse' is 'clueless about what anxiety is really like'. Anxiety is biology's way of trying to convince you you're not in charge, LOL. In anxiety it's like a switch in the nerves gets tripped when it shouldn't. In fact, it's exactly like a horse that's trotting along pleasantly and suddenly zooms up to 45 mph. because it saw a dixie cup on the ground.

    Instead of a little worry about something, it zooms out of control to a high level of anxiety. I've actually seen neurology presentations that demonstrate how this happens. It's amazing. There seems to be a similar mechanism behind both anxiety and PTSD(which is why PTSD is classified as an 'anxiety disorder'). PTSD is a case of mistaken identity at the level of a molecule. The nerve cell actually gets fooled into going overboard.

    But actually there are some pretty amazing techniques out there for managing anxiety and many have developed around Sports Psychology. One is meditation, another is counted breathing, another is autogenic relaxation training, and there's guided visualization, you can see demos of these on youtube and elsewhere. These are easy to learn and do actually, biologically, interfere with the anxiety process, in the same way medications do.

    One thing you can try is guided visualization. This is so easy and so incredible. The US downhill skiing team was shown doing this at one Winter Olympics and it is so accurate that one of the skiers did a 'visualization' that was within hundredths of a second of his actual downhill run. It's amazing. A coach can take you through the first time and you can learn to do it yourself very quickly.

    Basically, what you do is imagine every detail of your ride, every sight, scent and feeling. You go through every motion (not literally, you imagine each motion) from putting on your helmet to swinging your leg over to mount up. And you go through what you would do if the horse bucked, if he shied, etc. And it works incredibly well. You'll find that if the horse misbehaves, you click into your action plan without even thinking about it. It can also be used to conquer bad riding habits that you're not aware of while doing them, like leaning off to one side or leaning forward.

    I've used it for dressage, and work out everything I need to do with legs, rein and seat and practice it. Especially with some of the figures that require a quick reaction it really helps. So I can ride a test and go through each figure one after the other.

    I actually saw a demo once where a lady with show anxiety went through a guided visualization where she imagined riding around in a grassy field, and the coach would have her turn toward the show ring, if she felt anxiety, she'd turn and ride back out to the grassy field, enjoy the blue sky, puffy clouds and breeze. It was stunning, actually. Her heart rate just went lower and lower til it was normal, and she just turned around, rode into the ring and rode her whole test without an error.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2017 at 11:02 AM

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