Jenny first contacted me in January 2004 having read an article about my work in Your Horse magazine and read some discussion on an equestrian internet forum. Her story demonstrates that regaining confidence can sometimes take time and involve more of what I refer to as 'co-operative detective work' in which the rider and I work together to identify the elements involved in the problem. In Jenny's case she had other stress—amongst other things she was arranging her wedding which is generally regarded as an extremely high-stress activity! We also identified that some foods seemed to be increasing her anxiety levels.
This is Jenny's story.
I have been riding since I was a child, mostly in riding schools doing flatwork and jumping, hacking out and going on riding holidays. When I reached my mid 20’s I had the opportunity to co- loan a mare with a friend. She was very green and scared in traffic, we persevered but the owners had several horses and lots of expense and decided to sell so the loan came to an end after about 6 months.
It gave me enough of an insight to realise I definitely did want my dream of my own horse so once I had the funds we set about shopping! We bought a 7 year old mare on 1 months warranty and moved her to my instructors yard. I hacked her out, she was very friendly and placid, just what I wanted. However, she developed a cough and the vet diagnosed a bad chest infection which she had had for some time. We couldn’t bear to send her back so we treated it and she was rested. After her recuperation she was a different horse – she was very sharp and no longer the steady hack I had bought. We carried on hacking out but she was very nappy and would spend the whole time spinning for home. The problem escalated and I had a few nasty falls ending with falling into a stream and getting concussion.
My instructor schooled her for a few weeks and said she was sharp and green, I had a lesson on her but never felt I would be happy to hack her out again. My friend was looking for a small cob and took her on trial for a few weeks – she loved her – her antics didn’t phase her and I am happy to say 2 years on they are still doing brilliantly together.
In the meantime my instructor had a teen cob on her yard and offered her on loan to me – she hadn’t been ridden for 3 years but I was assured she was safe so I took her out and loved her – she was a real been there and seen that type – unflappable. Though we never had any problems I couldn’t get the fear of napping or bolting when out hacking out of my mind and I wasn’t enjoying the loan.
I had the opportunity to buy her but knew I had issues to sort out. I saw a post about TFT on the Horse and Hound forum and gave Jo a call. I explained my fear of hacking and of not being ‘in control’ and I rated the fear as 10 out of 10. Jo went through a sequence with me and after a couple of attempts I began to feel a bit calmer. After the session ended I felt physically drained like the weight had been literally lifted from my shoulders. The next morning I actually wanted to ride. I enjoyed it but still wasn’t 100% relaxed.
I spoke to Jo again and we delved more into the history of the mare I had sold and Jo asked me how I felt about selling her. At the time I went through with the sale and moved on. I didn’t think about it at all and remember my husband being upset and I was fine. After speaking to Jo I realised I felt I had failed the mare by selling her and that I should have kept her and worked through our issues – I felt that my lifetime dream of owning a horse had been ruined by me giving up. I know now I did the right thing and we have both ended up better off thankfully. It seemed to make sense that my riding fears actually ran much deeper into feelings of guilt.
Other interesting things that came out of the sessions were that I have real control issues! I was planning my wedding and always felt I had to be ‘in control’ rather than have faith and trust. Also I had a session with a colleague of Jo's as I was riding after breakfast and feeling very queasy which I put down to nerves but it turned out I reacted to dairy, oranges and bananas among other things which were just about my whole breakfast menu!
After 3 or 4 sessions with Jo focusing on the hacks I was having now with no problems I managed to start to enjoy my riding – I would still become nervous especially in traffic (and still do) but my mare is totally unaffected by that and we are happy to go out on our own for a leisurely wander – I can honestly say that although I cant explain TFT I know that without it I would not have bought my mare or be riding now.
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