Taking a Step Back
Confessions of a Timid Rider,  Equestrian Life

Taking a Step Back

Confession of a Timid Rider:

I’m embarrassed to admit that I feel like I’ve taken a step backward in my riding.


Taking a Step Back


In August I had a bad fall off Delight. It resulted in bruised/ broken ribs and a bruised lung and about a month before I felt some semblance of myself again physically. Truly I was lucky though. As a mother my greatest fear was injury and the reason I term myself a “Timid Rider”. I don’t take chances because my kids depend on me. But all equestrians know you will fall off. It’s just a matter of time.


Logically I know what caused the fall, and it was a fluke. The fact is, I’ve never before been seriously injured horse riding. A few bumps and bruises over the years but nothing that had before ended in an Emergency Room visit. To my credit I wasn’t scared to get back on, or return to riding. In fact, I couldn’t wait.


And get back on the horse I did. But I was different. I was sore, I was tense, and I was unwilling to be as assertive with him as I needed to be. Without my realizing it, my confidence was struggling, and I was backing down.



Do you ever have two sides of your brain that war with each other? Share on X


My emotion and my logic conflicted. And yet, I both knew AND felt that I was out of sync with this horse. Still, I pushed past my comfort zone for the next few months.


And you know what? It didn’t work.


I’m embarrassed to admit it. I was not improving or pushing myself. Now to my credit, my rides were not necessarily bad. I had good days and bad days, but my riding was lackluster. My trainer sensed my frustration with myself.


Hint- I’m not subtle.


As a result my trainer decided I should ride a different horse so I could regain my confidence and be assertive. Confidence builders if you will.


I admit that this is exactly what I needed. Finding my voice again on horseback. Asking and receiving. Clear communication. I am the biggest obstacle in my way. Hands down. I’m still a work in progress as we all are, but I feel like I’m regaining my sense of self. It’s hard to regain your confidence when you are arguing with a teenage OTTB and frankly, losing. Not because of anything he was doing, but because of what I was doing.


I am the biggest obstacle in my way. Share on X


I miss Delight and the challenge he provides me. Logically I know that I rode him successfully for 2 years. Now, however, our relationship has changed and it’s creating some bad habits for us both. I’m doing both of us a disservice by not trying something different. 


Is it really taking a step back? I’m still learning. I’m pushing myself to become a better rider and focusing on what I’m doing wrong, not on what horse I’m riding. I know in my heart that sometimes love isn’t enough. Delight is my trainer’s horse and not the right fit long term for me and my family. I will keep moving forward no matter what horse I ride. 



Do you ever struggle between your heart and your head?


  • Pam at Well With Horses

    Love this post. After a few scary incidents with a couple of my horses over the course of a couple of years, I became a “timid rider”. Thanks to reading posts like this, and knowing I’m not alone, I’m getting better. I’d term myself a “sometimes jittery rider” now ;). One of the biggest turning points for me was when my coach put me on the most reliable, confidence-building school horse in the barn for a few lessons. It changed everything, and reminded me that I’m a “rider” (whether you add the “timid” tag or not, nothing can take that away from me). Everything in horses is one step forward, one step back, with the occasional, wonderful “two steps forward, one step back” moments where you gain a little ground. This is the sport we choose, and taking a step back is all a part of it, isn’t it? Thanks, by the way, for your honesty. It really helps the rest of us who are feeling exactly the same way. xx

    • Heather Wallace

      Pam, your words means so much to me, thank you for sharing your story. It’s lovely to know we aren’t alone in this. I’ve talked to riders at all levels and we ALL go through this at times. From one sometimes timid rider to another, let your passion be greater than your fear!

  • yaydogblog

    Yes, I have had the same issues and they definitely came up after I became a mom. I laugh at myself, because I had my daughter when I was 38, went back to regular riding lessons when she was 6 months and then when I was 40 bought myself a hot Arabian to do low level competitive trail and endurance. I can never laugh at men who buy sports cars!! Tut was a very sane and sensible horse, so we did OK though I struggled with the fear issues most of the time. I would give myself a hard time, and then make it worse. After Tut died years later, and I went through a bad time with an unsuitable horse, I finally quit giving myself a hard time. I did yoga like exercises to relax my breathing and went to positive self-talk. As Pam said, it really is the nature of the sport. Thanks for this post!

  • Shawn Gannon

    I hear this type of story all of the time. In my experience, if you’re not riding an untrained horse it is the rider who does not have complete balance and that is why they fall off at random times. It is not difficult to get your balance, but it is difficult using the standard Centered Riding position. This position has been accepted world wide but is it really the safest and best thing to do when riding? I have to say, NO it is not! I teach Balanced Riding on your 1st day and I do not have people fail to obtain balance. I rode out of balance for 13 years before I figured out what I now know and teach. Horseback riding is suppose to be fun and enjoyable, but if you’re riding in fear it can never be those things. Only your brain can really balance you and if your feet or hands are helping your brain shuts off. You are then bracing and using your stirrups and at some point those things fail and you fall off. My heart goes out to all the people that have struggles riding as I did for so long, but you can fix it and it only takes a little over an hour, Guaranteed! Shawn Gannon

    • Heather Wallace

      I agree balance is extremely important and often we find we are tense or gripping without realizing. In this instance, we were coming uphill at the canter. When he started to break I squeezed him but he is weak behind and had to kick to regain his balance and get underneath him. My center of gravity was off and I couldn’t sit the large kick. First time in two years it happened, but it only takes one time to get hurt. Good lesson about maintaining a center of balance over your horse!

      • Shawn Gannon

        What you explained as to how you fell off is exactly why balance from the brain and not your extremities is so important. Your brain is the fastest thing your body has and if it has been overruled too many times by the hands or especially the feet it shuts off. If it does not have that interference, the same type of interference that training wheels do to bike riders, then it will fire off the correct movement without thinking. Our brain is an amazing tool, but far too often it is smothered by fear when we ride a horse and our instincts rule our bodies. We are unable to correct our bodies using a thought process with fear 100% of the time, but if your brain is the only tool you constantly use, it will correct your body’s balance before you can think it. Watch a human in a medium earthquake, they look like they are dancing almost but that is the brain balancing them as the ground suddenly moves back and forth. That is the same thing your brain does if it is THE only thing balancing you. Get rid of your stirrups and never touch the saddle or neck mane, use the Law of Physics position and your Brain will do this for you and you will be riding FEARLESS! Shawn Gannon

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