Horse Trauma: How to Avoid and How to Help

To begin with, it is normal to be afraid of a horse, even if it is as reliable as one of online casinos that fully pay out winnings. Remember that this is a large, on average, five hundred kilogram animal with teeth and hooves, which can react unexpectedly to a seemingly familiar situation at any moment. Regardless of their gender, age, skill, abilities, and riding discipline, each rider has to overcome this fear to some extent.  

On the other hand, post-traumatic fear develops after an accident that caused an injury: the rider relives the fall repeatedly, “scrolling” the traumatic event in the head. And it is more common for adult riders than children: they are no longer so naive, but, on the contrary, they are cautious and aware of all the possible negative consequences. In addition, their minds, as well as their joints, are not so flexible, so it is harder for them on both levels – mental and physical.  

How to Get Back in a Saddle and Avoid “History Repeating”?  

There is no definite answer to the question “how to get rid of fear after falling from a horse” however, the following recommendations may help you feel more confident in the saddle.  

1. After an accident, give yourself time to recover physically and mentally. Please do not rush to extremes: someone immediately hurries into battle, barely getting on their feet, someone decides to do away with horses forever. Instead, release the situation like a balloon, let everything take its course – no one has the right to rush you, force you to return to riding, or quit it. You do not have to make a decision immediately, once and for all.  

2. Define your “comfort zone” – what you enjoy doing with your horse. After a severe fall and injury, are you afraid to get into the saddle? Start with simple brushing, take care of the horse, and work on the hands. Do something every day that doesn’t make you feel afraid. After some time, try to expand the comfort zone gradually.  

3.  Accept the support of other people – a coach, club friends, familiar riders, spouses, etc. Athletes that have found themselves in similar situations more than once – can help with advice, share experiences, cheer and find the right words.   

4. Learn to distinguish between healthy risk and unhealthy risk. A healthy risk provides excellent opportunities for personal growth and development, and an unhealthy one is dangerous – it can lead to serious injuries and even death.  

5. Examine your body’s response to fear. You may have the following fear symptoms:  

  • rapid breathing,  
  • dry mouth,  
  • wet palms,  
  • nausea, 
  • trembling legs,  
  • shortness of breath,  
  • dizziness, 
  • inability to focus and concentrate,  
  • fear of death. 

When you are afraid, please pay attention to where and how anxiety manifests itself in the body. Sometimes purely mechanical exercises help control your condition – deep breaths and exhalations using the abdominal muscles.  

6. Wear a helmet, no matter what kind of equestrian sport you are. A helmet can save your life. In case of a severe fall, your head will be well protected, and you will have one less thing to worry about.  

7. Learn to think rationally. Irrational thinking is absolutist: you feel like you have to or need to do something, otherwise, you are a complete loser. Learn to identify and stop negative self-talk as soon as it occurs.  

8. Improve your riding skills. Most fearful riders benefit significantly from taking additional basic riding lessons from a knowledgeable, thoughtful coach who enjoys working with insecure adults. Training in the basics of riding mechanics and horse control, balance, and understanding of the horse’s movements will help the rider to relax and feel confident again. Ideally, these lessons should be done on a calm horse.  

9. Strengthen your muscles. Start with the abdominals and lock muscles, which control the body’s position in the saddle. Strong stomach and leg muscles will make you a better rider, and the overall development of strength, endurance, and flexibility will relieve the feeling of fear in the saddle.  

10. Behave and act like a confident rider, even if you don’t think you are. For example, a straight back, proudly turned shoulders, a chin up, and a smile signal to the brain that you feel confident and in control. Fake it till you make it, as they say.  

11. Take a critical look at the horse you ride: do you fit together? If you feel fear after a fall, take a step back – do not rush to the barrier again on an inexperienced, young, or dumb horse – ask for a calmer and more reliable horse.  

12. To or not to saddle the horse that caused you a severe injury? Only you can answer this question. There are cases when people, having fallen and received intense fractures, after recovering, returned to the club and bought out those very “traumatic” horses, hired an experienced handler, saddled their “four-legged offender,” and, under the guidance of a coach, having improved the skill of their own riding, horses proved “who’s in charge here.” If an accident happens, you can overcome the fear and sit on the same horse. If a horse is bad riding, with a difficult past, and mentally inadequate, it is better to refuse such a horse, which will manifest common sense, not weakness. Most importantly, remember that you do not have to prove anything to anyone, this is your own business. Always stay true to yourself and be healthy! 

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