|Kentucky 5 year old Rocky/Kentucky Mountain
with 3 years of professional training ridden with smooth chain or snaffle
wonder, mullen mouth short shank in flat cutback saddle with thick pad
in ring and pasture by intermediate level rider.
Question: My trainer, Sandy, can ride my horse just fine. Since I had my baby in April, I haven't been able to ride him much and have lost my assertiveness. The first few times I rode him after the baby, he did wonderfully. Sandy was riding him 5 days a week. Then all of the sudden he started throwing fits that really scared me.
Now when I ride him, I am affraid to spur him to make him listen to
me and he will just jog trot and I pull him to a stop. Sandy then gets
on him and he does fine. I have ridden and shown another less "hot"
horse since then and did just fine. Does he just "have my number" and know
that he can get away with it? Should I make him work at the trot
so that he won't think he can stop every time he does? He works well
on verbal cues and leg pressure for turning.
From Panelist Erica
I would definitely have to say that he has your number somewhat. He has been getting away with things because he has found holes in how you are working him. He can easily scare you out of working him hard - so he does. :-) Maybe have your trainer work YOU to work him the right way, and help regain your confidence.
From Panelist Liz
Get more lesson work maybe on another horse that does not intimidate you and see if you your self can get past this first.
From Panelist Stella
I think your evaluation of the causes for your problem is right on target,
since otherwise your trainer would have likely mentioned to you if there
was a problem in your riding skills or otherwise, causing the gait problems.
There's something about getting older and having a baby, situations where
you become more acutely aware of other responsibilities and
Of course, the problem with that is, when we lose assertiveness, it also robs us of true control of the horse, and therefore puts us in the very situation we fear - but that's something we do to ourselves!
Needless to say, in the absence of our control, the horse has little choice but to make decisions for themselves, if we abstain.....not necessarily so much taking advantage, but filling in the gap. In the hierarchy of horses, the more assertive horse needs an even more assertive rider than they are, to respect their leadership, its just part of the natural survival instinct. The one that seems more capable gets the job.
Of course, first and foremost is to change your own mindset, reframe
your thinking. Your own fears are getting the better of you even more so
than the horse. I know it sounds much easier than it really is! One thing
that would help would be to return to riding the
See if you can ride for several weeks regularly on this other horse,
while the trainer rides the other horse, so its also maintained in the
habit of control. Try observing the trainer carefully, in case there's
a few other differences in how she maintains control and elicits proper
gaits you may have previously missed. If possible, try the first few sessions
in the same day, and preferably not too long after riding the other horse
successfully, to help sustain "the good feelings" and visceral, as well
as pyschological memory, because the first few times you will have to force
or talk yourself into mimicing the exact same feelings and physical responsiveness
if you've just gotten done "practicing," doing "dress rehearsals" to
One thing you will discover in your practices is, that you are likely already "cluing the horse in" on your lack of assertiveness on what seems to be very minor and subtle little details-to us, but not the horse -long before actually asking for gait. Every little interaction counts, even on the ground, in how they "size us up," so dont forget to pay attention and learn the whole "part." You'll probably find yourself answering your own question about "making the horse go on" and just DO IT! With out the hesitation that is characteristic of lack of assertiveness.
Luckily for you, this hasn't been any dangerous misbehavior problem - yet. But if you dont solve it now, it can escalate to be one. For persons who've lost self-confidence and assertiveness from dangerous situations, this methodology of confidence-building and switching to practice on a horse where success is far more likely, regaining and rebuilding one's own self-confidence FIRST before tackling a bigger problem works well, too...it just may take longer.
Back to main page
Ask a Trainer