"Stacy-After an accident I have lost my confidence, what do you suggest?"

“Dear Stacy-Recently I had a bad accident with my potential world contender horse. We had been showing for about a year and doing very well on the local circuit. She spooked at the last show I was competing in and went up. I fell off and she lost her balance and landed on me. I was in the hospital & rehab about 1 1/2 months. I am now trying to decide what to do with her as I am not comfortable riding her. She is a western pleasure mare with a great bloodline and a nice mover. She has lots of potential but of course I have lost my confidence. My trainer in Ocala wants her back and has offered to continue showing her. I feel she needs to start over from the ground up which is not what a lot of breed trainers do. What would you suggest?” -Beverly M

We all know that accidents can happen with horses, the decision you need to make is whether this was a freak accident or if there are holes in this horses training. There are a few ways to make that decision. First you need to review mentally everything that happened during the accident. For example, did a dog run under your horse suddenly which caused the horse to rear?…or…Did the horse spook, and when you collected or redirected her, then over react by rearing? There is a big difference.

What reason do you have to believe the outcome will be different next time?

What reason do you have to believe the outcome will be different next time?

In order to build more confidence I would need more answers. I would need a reason to believe that this was not going to happen again. Again, I would examine the situation that lead up to the accident. If the horse spooked because someone tripped and fell down the bleachers then I would recreate a loud noise to see if I could trigger the same response while doing groundwork. If I thought that the horse reacted to the riders hands than I would do some ground driving to help determine if the horse is being reactive to the bridle.

You are correct when you say that many breed trainers would not consider starting over. It is common for ‘show’ horses to lack the same foundation that a non-show horse would have. The mindset seems to be that the focus should be on the specialty and as long as the horse is good at that…then they are willing to live with the rest. Many don’t see the point in training a horse for life outside the pen when they could be spending that time on the sport specific needs.

I recommend training for both. Showing in a specific class is great but I also want them trained like someone might do crazy stuff with them like ride them through a kiddie pool or wrap them up in a tarp. The irony is that it makes them better show horses in the end because they have a broad view of life and have learned to handle stress in various situations.

I hope you heal up well. The mental part for you will be big because you need a reason to believe things have changed.  It is also fair to discuss with the trainer what they think happened and to ask them to demonstrate what has been done to correct the situation. There is a quote that says, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” You know your horses history, you are asking great questions and you seem to have your horses best interest in mind. Remember that as the owner you have the final say and you should listen to your gut.

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  1. […] wrote a blog titled, “After an accident I have lost my confidence, what do you suggest?” that discusses a similar topic from a slightly different angle; you are interested in getting […]

  2. mtabas on December 11, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    I think that the problem is in fear. She needs to build trust again and win with fear. Horse will feel it when she’s afraid and nervous. I had similar accident, and got terrible fear for lope. My horse was feeling it. It took me a few years to win with it and now its yet not over but i love my horse and just have to be more confident. I think that she should listen ehat her intuition says, learn to be with that horse,to find this joy again-sometimes its hidden in small things like walk bareback, having goid work in walk like circles,sidepasses etc. Little thing that day by day are done more confident way and on the next day it would be jog on the third lope bareback. Nothing has to be done under pressure. It is working for me 🙂

  3. Bonnie Braden on December 9, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    I has a real bad accident in 1998 I didn’t walk for a year, almost lost my leg. I had zero confidence and knew i was finished unless i got back on THE SAME HORSE. Thanks be to God for confident trainers who took my horse, trained him and me, I went on to show, have lots of fun, learn a lot about my horse, but most of all, I learned a lot about myself. That was 17 years ago. It was not easy and sometimes I still talk myself out of my confidence.

    • Bonnie Braden on December 9, 2014 at 2:11 pm

      I forgot to add that I have two huge plates and 14 screws…. My bionic peg leg, which at times adds to my insecurity because it doesn’t function quite like the real thing. I thank God for The trainers who helped me. It is good to seek out a professional.

  4. Lyndsey on December 9, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    I was in a bad accident about 4 years ago. I was jumping and the horse tripped and went down on his knees. I went over his head. I had a broken collar bone and had to have surgery to have it repaired.

    I was unable to ride for 4 months. When I was able to ride again, I was unsure about jumping, but my trainer put me on a horse that would take care of me. I eventually did get my confidence back, but any time my horse takes a bad step I still get flashbacks.

    When I had my accident I was riding both english and western, and after the accident jumping didn’t have the same charm as before. I jumped after the accident to prove to myself that I could, but then I switched to primarily reining and cow work.

    I found it was helpful to get over the fear of falling by doing what caused the accident, and then re-evaluating whether you want to continue competing in that discipline.

  5. Becky Elliott on December 9, 2014 at 11:13 am

    I can sympathize because I had an accident where a horse spooked, bucked and then drug me with my foot caught in the stirrup. It’s been 10 years, I didn’t quit, but it didn’t get better overnight. You can’t get over it by sitting on the sidelines, but it does take baby steps. In my case though, I was riding the wrong horse for my skill level. Go back to basics and take lessons with a GOOD horse, and a competent trainer. Don’t quit!!!! I still have my moments, but the good outweighs the bad and I know I would regret never having pushed myself.

  6. Annie Gass on December 9, 2014 at 3:50 am

    Your confidence can be and – in my opinion – should be regained! It would be a tragedy if you allowed an adverse incident like this to set a pattern for you of avoiding anything that has scared or hurt you. I know what you’re going through, ’cause after the accident (my bicycle vs. pickup truck – bike loses, bigtime!) There’s nothing like lying in bed with the “tape” of the accident playing over and over in your head to scare the willies out of you….) I did three months in hospital and over a year in a rehab center! I was lucky; I had been a horse person since I was little and KNEW that when you fall off you get right back on before you get scared and lose something you love. Neither you nor I had that option, but I was riding a bike (nervously!) as soon as they put a knee joint in my cast; my horse (with stirrup removed on the cast side) as soon as I could swing my leg over his back.

    If you are in an auto accident will you never ride in a car again? If you fall on your kitchen floor will you never enter that kitchen again? Or even never walk on a linoleum floor again?

    Stacy is exactly right in saying that more groundwork and more exposure to strange happenings will lessen the chance of this occurring again with your horse – in whom you have a lot invested and I don’t mean money!) You might consider, also, a few sessions with a counselor to help you work on your fear, and a few lessons at the local riding academy on the horses they put the LITTLE kids on. You knew this kind of thing could happen before you started riding in the first place; horses are big, dumb prey animals with a very rapid flight response. You loved them anyway. You still do. Let your love – and your determination to be emotionally healthy! – rule your life.

    With sympathy – and tough love,


  7. ellajane130 on December 8, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    I think that if you go back and do ground work with the horse thoroughly and try to fill in the holes when you feel confident this is really good you can then decide if you are ready to ride or if you want to let your trainer ride her. Your whole confidence and outlook might have changed by then or if it hasn’t at least your horse will be all that much better for the trainer and more likely to have a brighter happier future.

  8. kitsunflower on December 8, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    Stacy I am responding to the post about confidence after an accident with a horse.I was judging a small reining class when the rider lost control of his horse and it ran me down and pushed me through the fence and then fell on me I was in the hospital with major injuries for 2 months and it took 2 years of rehab to get me riding and walking again.Getting confidence back after being injured is a long and hard road. Although this was not a horse I was riding ,my fear of being in a pen with a loose horse kept me from enjoying my own horses for a long time.I went to a psychologist and talked through it and then gradually got myself back into the show pen.
    I returned to judging and riding and now, 4 years later, I am feeling more comfortable.
    My advice to this person is to give herself some slack and let time do its part.
    I would argue that any horse would still give her a feeling of fear when she is in the ring competing.The human mind does not forget injury quickly.
    Perhaps this horse would be better off with another rider.
    Just a point of view from someone who has been there. Kathy

  9. Lynda Lafontaine on December 8, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    Great to hear that you are so positive about basic ground work being the foundation for whatever is to follow in the horses & riders futures. If only more trainers and coaches looked at this, less problems would arise. We should always be able to take a step (or two) backwards and maybe look in the mirror to see what little mistakes are being made and move forward again at a pace that is accomplishing our objectives. In doing this, it can help build our horses trust and our confidence. All the best .

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