” I hack everywhere on my horse and ride in our arena — we have a lovely time — but only at walk and trot. Even thinking of canter makes me feel physically sick — I don’t know why, I can’t remember ever having anything bad happen to me. I used to ride as a child and did everything, but am now 40 and only got my horse a year ago. will I ever canter?”
This is a good question as there are several ways we can look at this.
It could be that the thought of the different movement of the canter, or the speed is providing a block for you
It could be that having only had your horse for a year you do not feel safe with her, and this is showing up in a reluctance to canter
It could be that a part of you knows your horse isn’t balanced and so it isn’t safe to ride her at canter yet (that would be your unconscious keeping you safe)
Or it could have nothing to do with cantering and everything to do with turning 40!
What is interesting is the extreme nature of your response to thinking about cantering – the fact you feel physically sick suggests to me that this is a situation which isn’t just about cantering.
For a lot of us, cantering is the pace at which we really start thinking about losing control – and this is what often causes us to be scared or feel physically ill – not the thought of cantering, but the idea of losing control.
If we had a horse who was really frightened of something – what would we do?
Would we force it to canter to “get over it”? probably not. And if we did try that the chances are the fear would blow up into a full scale phobia.
With a horse we would take the time it takes and do approach and retreat.
How do we do this when the thought of cantering makes us physically ill?
We do it in our HEAD
So lets break things down into small steps and then play retreat and approach on those steps until we are confident.
Right now, the thought of cantering puts you at a 10/10 for fear, so its no good thinking about that – lets find something that you can think about without going over a 5/10 for fear.
What if you think about watching someone ELSE cantering?
What about thinking about watching someone ELSE cantering on YOUR horse?
What about in groundwork, cantering your horse online?
If all these are below 5, that is a good start.
Then think about – how about seeing myself on a reliable schoolmaster, on the lunge – cantering a few strides then stopping. What number does that put you at? Maybe a 7 or 8?
Right, so lets work on bringing that down to a 5
I want you to visualise the riding school you will go to for your lunge lesson – find a really good one, used to teaching nervous riders – or think of having a seat lesson with me if that is easier as you know what I look like from my photos!
So imagine you are coming to me – think about getting in your car, driving to Oxford and coming to see me – as you visualise this, monitor your confidence score – if you get over a 5 – STOP AND GO HOME!!
What we are doing is playing approach and retreat IN YOUR MIND!
And this WORKS!
SO picture yourself in your car, meeting me – then meeting my horse….
Picture yourself on the horse, on a lunge line, learning some seat exercises at halt…..still below 5? Then how about at walk? Then trot???
WHEN you can visualise yourself getting on EVie (my horse, the one in the profile pic) and being on the lunge walking and trotting – when you can picture that and be at a 2 or 3 (and that might take some time) – now you are ready to move on to the next stage
Which is EITHER – come visit and actually do it! And we will work face to face on this
OR – carry on the visualisation remembering to STOP and go back whenever you go above a 5
First imagine ASKING me to ask Evie to canter – do this until you are below a 5.
Next step: imagine me asking Evie to move up into a canter…and repeat this until you can do this and be below a 5..
Next step: picture yourself riding Evie for 3 strides of canter..
Can you see how playing retreat and approach on YOURSELF in your mind – will then allow you to do it in real life – and will enable you to work through your fear while all the time proving to your unconscious that you can be trusted to listen to it.
Remember, the most important thing is to ONLY picture things that you can picture while at 5 or below on the confidence score – and if you go above 5 – RETREAT!
Good luck – let us know how it goes and if you need any help, send me an email!