In order to train yourself and your horse, you have to feel safe. If you don’t feel safe, your mind is not open to learning and you will tense up.
A lot of riders are secretly scared. They don’t dare to admit to their friends of even their instructor that they are afraid. Fear is a natural reaction to protect yourself from harm. Horses are big and strong and can move incredibly fast, they are quite capable of harming you badly. So don’t be ashamed about what you feel. If you trust someone knowledgeable, and you dare to tell you are afraid, he or she might be able to help you.
First you’ll have to find out what it is that scares you. Don’t you trust your horse? Do you find it hard to follow his movements? Are you worried that you might lose control over him?
Being out of control is what a lot of riders fear the most. As humans are ‘handy’, which means they are used to using hands, a lot of riders hold the reins really tight in a situation that feels like they don’t have or are about to lose control. To balance themselves and to hold the horse. It doesn’t work. In fact it makes matters worse. As a horse is a flight animal, his reaction to being blocked is to flee. And if he can’t he’ll fight to get free. Exactly what it is that fears you…
Therefore I don’t believe in drawreins as a training aid. If you are good enough to release them when needed, you don’t need them at all. If you use them to control the horse, you will get a lot more of what you don’t want, possibly harming the horses neck in the process. Or restricting him so much he turns into a state of learned helplessness. If you really need a device to get a horse rounder in the neck (which I hope you don’t after reading this whole series), use a Market Harborough.
If you can’t control him or you think you can’t, let someone train him who can. If the horse has learned to behave, let that rider start the session and get on board for the last fifteen minutes. Build that up until you have the confidence to do the whole training yourself. Don’t feel ashamed if you only feel safe in the indoor school. You can build up riding in the outdoor the same way, with help of an experienced rider.
It’s no point just to grit your teeth and try it on your own. Riding should be something to enjoy. And you can never hide your true feelings from a horse.
Don’t forget to work on your own ability, by having some lessons on a safe horse in the meantime. Find a place that has good schoolmaster horses. If you get more hours in the saddle, your own experience grows and you will be able to follow the movements more naturally, which will make you more confident. Try to ride as many different horses as you can. Each will teach you something.
I’m not scared on horses, but I’m cautious. Not 18 anymore and although I’m fit, I am not as supple as I was. Therefore I use something I picked up from William Fox Pitt, when I was at his place to interview him years ago. He was riding with a neck strap. When I questioned him about it, he said that anyone, even such an experienced rider as he is, can get out of balance. And he never wants to pull the reins to steady himself. So he uses a neck strap on all the horses he rides.
As of then, I do too. What’s good enough for William, is good enough for me. Since then it has saved me on numerous occasions. Jumps of joy The good thing is that even the knowledge it’s there, gives me the confidence to ride forward in a spooky situation. And if it’s wind force 10 and I ride in my outdoor, I hold it until I feel safe. Try it, it really helps.