Confessions of a Timid Rider,  Equestrian Life

When You Are At Odds with Your Horse

Confession of a Timid Rider: Delight and I are out of sync since my injury.

Hmmm. I know I only took about three weeks off riding but boy did I backslide. I never realized just how much my physical fitness affected my communication with my horse. We’re completely out of sync.

Sadly not me, although I do love grays. I photographed dressage at Jersey Fresh International last May. This horse was not in the mood.

My first ride back was great with the exception of my being ridiculously out of shape and unable to lift my saddle onto Delight’s back easily. But I did it. My second and third rides? A mess. Delight regressed into an adolescent little brat. I would try to transition from walk to trot and he would stop, pinning his ears, cow kicking, and just generally acting like a fool. Over and over again until I was frustrated with him and myself. Because I didn’t want to push him too much and get bucked again.

I didn’t want to push him too much and get bucked again. Share on X

To be fair, when I fell off him previously he wasn’t doing anything mean. It was a series of unfortunate events that led to me being unbalanced and unable to sit a big kick that I normally would have been fine riding through.

We were just not communicating well. I dismounted and my trainer got on him. Even knowing the difference he still acted up until she pushed him into a full tantrum and made him M-O-V-E. On the ground I saw how stiff he was. After she went through a series of exercises I remounted and kept after him. He still pushed me to see how far he could go.

The ride after that I experienced the same thing. His hesitancy to move forward off my leg. I know that I was tense, and anticipating his refusal. He felt incredibly stiff again and my trainer noticed two large lumps on the side of his neck. Looking down from my vantage point, I was shocked I hadn’t noticed it before. I dismounted for the second lesson in a row. This time to perform concentrated sports massage and acupressure on his neck, poll, and front of shoulder. Poor thing must really have been in pain.

Robin mounted and rode Delight on a long rein at the trot and canter to stretch him out. He felt a lot better after that and I remounted again. I hate that I am not 100% yet but when you have severely contused ribs/ possible hairline fractures, it’s smart to take baby steps back.

We had a nice extended trot once his neck and shoulder were released, and even worked on our transitions from walk to trot. Success! I was finally able to get him to listen to me and the most he did was a little hop before moving off my leg.

I still struggle with my fitness level coming back from injury, and am determined to get my butt into better shape than before. I’m wondering now though, if the reason he kicked so hard a few weeks ago was because he was off physically. Looking at him now, with a few weeks off and full of muscle spasms, I think perhaps he had a pulled muscle or impacted nerve. Either way we are just completely out of sync.

The recipe for success? Keep riding and get my strength back. Delight received massage from me and acupuncture from our friend and colleague, Dr. Michelle Morges. 

Patience with myself and my horse. Share on X

I’ve ridden three different horses in the last week and a half, and have begun gaining my confidence and fitness back in the canter before I get back on Delight. I miss him and his attitude but I know this is the right move for the long term.

I’m not giving up and I refuse to go backward. Steady on, girl. No Equestrian Handbook of Excuses needed here today.

Have you ever felt like you had to step back?



  • A Work In Progress

    I have Inflammatory Bowel Disease, a chronic auto-immune disease that’s slowly destroying my joints as well as my intestines, so I definitely have to take steps back frequently. I find ground work to be best when I just physically can’t climb up on a horse. Sometimes it’s nothing more than just getting them out and leading them around the property, and sometimes I can muster up the energy to long line. Either way, it helps. Good ground work translates into good under saddle work.

    • Heather Wallace

      I couldn’t agree more that good ground work relates to good saddle work. Chronic health issues certainly can mean slow or impeded progress- I tweaked my back two days ago (for no reason other than I’m turning 40 and getting older). Just when I feel like I’m making progress I take two steps back. I agree with you that always moving forward, on the ground or in the saddle, is what we need. Thank you for commenting!

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