Can I do this?

Mary Poppins

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#1
I have always been a very nervous hacker. I have tried and tried and tried to overcome my nerves but to no avail. I have had NLP, been out with kind friends, been out with not so kind friends, tried to get off and lead, tried to push myself beyond my nerve, but none of this has ever worked. I have walked for miles and miles in-hand but this never makes riding easier. I become cripled with nerves to the point that my mind just cannot cope with it. I can ride on the huge open fields on my yard, but I cannot go out of the gate and into the big wide world.

I own the most sensible horse on the yard. I take him out somewhere on my own in my lorry every weekend, and I have no problem riding in strange arenas, in strange open fields etc. We attempt dressage, we jump (showjump and XC), we go showing, horse agility, TREC - we do it all. Everyone remarks on our great relationship and how sensible he is. Apart from one random spooking incident where I fell off last year (which happened after my NLP session on my first solo hack!), he hasn't put a foot wrong in the four years I have owned him.

I have got into TREC this year and Ben excels at the obstacles. On Monday I was riding round around one of our 20 acre fields with my yard manager and while we were walking round I was pracitising dropping my reins completely and riding from my seat (as I want to ride the obstacles with no reins and saddle at some point). I then found myself telling my yard manager how I really wanted to do the TREC orienteering phase and that sponsored rides and hunting actually sounded quite fun. She said 'right then, we need to get you hacking - if you can walk around a 20 acre field with no reins you can walk through the woods'. So, I have very tentatively agreed that every Monday will be our hacking day and as she exercises her livery horses she will take me out proper hacking at the same time. I absolute refuse to ride on the roads, but the routes she has in mind only involve directly crossing one main road and then it is all off road.

So do I do this, or do I learn from my lifetime of hacking failures that it just isn't for me? I don't know if I can put myself through the failure and the complete feeling of uselessness when I descend into a complete mess. I have never had a successful hack off my yard - why would this time be any different?
 

squidsin

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YES YOU CAN.
You really, really can. I was sh*tting myself about hacking this time last year. With the help of NLP, self-confidence hypnosis MP3, and bossy yet competent friends who made me hack out with them, my attitude has transformed and I am not scared. The fear has gone! I can hack out alone and have done two sponsored rides, and loved them. Roxy is a lot less saintly than Ben - although to be fair to her, as soon as I relaxed about hacking, she relaxed too, and we go past bin lorries and pheasants leaping out of bushes no problem. She might spin, but I give her a tap with my whip and push her on and we're fine. If I can do it, you can. It's a psychological block, not a real one, and you absolutely can get over it. Yes, sh*t can happen - but it's just as likely to happen on your yard, in the field or at a show as out hacking. You can ride well, you have a safe horse, and now you just have to trust yourself and him. When sh*t happens and you're not scared anyway, it's not a big issue and you just deal with it. It's only a big issue if you are panicking in the first place. So it's a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation but you can't get over a fear of something by not doing it. So to get over your fear of hacking, you need to hack. You will be fine.
 

Jessey

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#3
I have to say MP, in my eyes if you are hacking round 20 acres of fields you are already hacking, as in you are out of the confines of an arena/paddock and mooching around the countryside :) so its not really a question of forcing yourself to hack it just about expanding the horizons of where you do it :) I think if you stay positive and remember that you obviously can do it and enjoy it, then perhaps those next steps will be a little easier?
 

Mary Poppins

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#4
It is nice of you both to have faith in me. One minute I think "Yes I can do this, it will be so much fun" and the other minute I think "Don't be so stupid, you are completely nuts".

I would like to eventually do some sponsored rides, I am always jealous when I see updates of friends who have been out on facebook. Ben would love it but I just don't have any self belief when it comes to hacking. I don't want to make a fool of myself by either crying, having a huge panic attack or just getting off and refusing to get back on. It's embarrassing when I can't control my emotions but they completely overwhelm me and I can't fight it.
 

squidsin

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#5
It is nice of you both to have faith in me. One minute I think "Yes I can do this, it will be so much fun" and the other minute I think "Don't be so stupid, you are completely nuts".

I would like to eventually do some sponsored rides, I am always jealous when I see updates of friends who have been out on facebook. Ben would love it but I just don't have any self belief when it comes to hacking. I don't want to make a fool of myself by either crying, having a huge panic attack or just getting off and refusing to get back on. It's embarrassing when I can't control my emotions but they completely overwhelm me and I can't fight it.
I made a COMPLETE FOOL of myself this weekend falling off very publicly! I didn't cry although I did ask if they'd let me roll into a corner to die. Sometimes we all make fools of ourselves! Don't worry what anyone else thinks. Who cares? Screw 'em! This is about you and Ben. Like Jessey says, it's not a big deal at all, as you are already hacking, all you are looking to do is slightly expand your horizons. Maybe you can just add a new bit into your hacking round the fields? Walk down the road and back or something? Then build on that?
 

Mary Poppins

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#6
I made a COMPLETE FOOL of myself this weekend falling off very publicly! I didn't cry although I did ask if they'd let me roll into a corner to die. Sometimes we all make fools of ourselves! Don't worry what anyone else thinks. Who cares? Screw 'em! This is about you and Ben. Like Jessey says, it's not a big deal at all, as you are already hacking, all you are looking to do is slightly expand your horizons. Maybe you can just add a new bit into your hacking round the fields? Walk down the road and back or something? Then build on that?
But you are allowed to cry after falling off. I always have - plus swearing very loudly!

When I am hacking I have a habit of picking random objects and suddenly thinking they are scary. For example, if I see anything at all out of the ordinary - a plastic bag or a log on the floor, I will get into a mindset that I just cannot walk past it. This is ridiculous because we do horse agility and generally score top marks at all TREC obstacles involving bags and all other objects. The object of TREC is to find the ultimate hacking horse and it's ironic that we have won several TREC competitions (paces and obstacles) but we don't hack properly!

I also have a real thing about walkers, runners and dog walkers. Again, this is totally and completely irrational. Ben is not at all scared of dogs. While he used to be wary of men on the ground, he isn't anymore and he barely bats an eyelid. I used to be scared of people riding bikes, but at one competition in the summer we had to cross a road to get to the main arena, and 2 bikes came whizzing by. He didn't even register them.

I'm scared of other riders losing control and galloping off, but again I have been in many situations on grass (big warm up rings, xc courses) where all the other horses have gone in different directions at speed and we have stayed where we are because I haven't asked him to do anything different. We have cantered in huge open fields with other horses and he is completely non competitive - Ben would rather stand still than go fast.

In summary, I am scared of everything. I am scared of the unpredictability of it all and I can't relax. Ben doesn't care or worry about anything - all he thinks about is mouching along following the horse in front.
 

squidsin

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But you are projecting your worries onto Ben. Obviously, you yourself are not actually scared of plastic bags, runners, dog walkers, dogs etc. You don't go on a walk yourself and jump at any of those things, as you know they are not scary. Why should it be any different on a horse? You KNOW Ben isn't scared of any of those things - and even if he something does surprise or startle him, the most that will happen is that he'll do a little spook. He's not going to turn tail and gallop off up a main road as he isn't that kind of horse, even under the most trying circumstances.

I know you know all this. You just have to believe it! I am not a psychologist though so I don't know how to make you do that! All I can say is that I would recommend trying the self-hypnosis MP3s. That and the NLP really worked for me. The weird thing is, I didn't feel like I got anything out of the session with Jenni. During the session, when she asked me to ride up the road on Roxy, I was still really nervous. But a couple of days later, when a friend asked me to hack out, I felt OK about it and did, and since then I just haven't had the hacking nerves like I used to get. It feels like a cloud has lifted.

It was my goal to do a sponsored ride and I am still really thrilled that we achieved that, as it was completely unimaginable this time last year. I loved it! I am sure you would too, they really are awesome fun. The thing with sponsored rides is, you have loads of space to gallop about in without worrying about running into cars or roads, so I always think - if she goes, I can just wait it out! She'll get tired and stop so all I have to do is hang on and turn her! (I have a gallopy horse - this has actually happened!)
 
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Mary Poppins

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The thing is that I am not really projecting my fears onto my horse because he doesn't react to my nerves at all. If he does anything it will be to slow down because and makes sure I am OK. He would be an ideal RDA horse because he fundamentally just wants to look after his rider, I cannot fault him at all. That is what makes it so hard to explain and for people to understand. The problem is all in my head.

I have a degree in psychology and I have done the self hypnosis cds, I have read all the books, I have done all the exercises. The NLP did help me take away the emotion from the accident which made me like this in the first place which is positive - now when I think about the details of the accident all I can hear is the YMCA playing on loop. The therapist said that it was one of the most deep routed memories she had ever worked with and I think that because I have battled against this for so long, the associated behaviours are so ingrained that it is impossible to overcome them. It is the sheer panic I feel, nothing else has ever made me feel so scared. I am torn between wanting to give it another try and just accepting that I am never going to do these things. I thought that I had made the decision to not hack offsite and just enjoy the activities which we do (which are varied and fun) but I obviously haven't or I would be typing this now!
 

Jessey

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#9
You obviously understand all of it much better than most of us :) and in your mind you know all the facts but if its a physical reaction that can be hard to deal with, could you try exercising before a tiny hack to see if kicking your body into a chilled mode first helps, or perhaps a calmer for you :D
 

Mary Poppins

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You obviously understand all of it much better than most of us :) and in your mind you know all the facts but if its a physical reaction that can be hard to deal with, could you try exercising before a tiny hack to see if kicking your body into a chilled mode first helps, or perhaps a calmer for you :D
You know, I ride much, much better when I am ill or tired because my body doesn't have the energy to tense. You might be onto something with the running. I should have some time between dropping my kids off and meeting up with my yard manager for the hack. Maybe if I go for a good run and/or swim to make my body physically tired that may help. I haven't tried that before. I have tried rescue remedy but that just made me feel sick and did nothing for the nerves. If I didn't have to drive home I would have a few vodka shots!
 

sophie33

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#11
MP I feel for you so much, but I agree with the others - you already are hacking! This is just a question of going a bit further afield. Having said that I totally understand how difficult it can be to overcome irrational fear as I have it by the bucket load. I think going out with your yard manager sounds a good plan though. I am currently trying to overcome my own hacking nerves by riding out with Flicka's other sharer. She is great - a very experienced hacker and just a bit bossy in a very kind way. She is definitely good for me.
She has been getting me to trot with flicks for 15 minutes without stopping in the school before we set out. She is quite strict about it - timing me and everything - but the result is that by time we set out hacking I am a bit knackered and much more relaxed. So far it has worked. Oh and there is no shame in crying - I put so much emotional energy into riding that I have been known to cry for all kinds of stupid reasons. I even started crying after completely my first prelim dressage test the other month - which was very embarrassing as nothing had gone wrong!!
 

squidsin

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#12
You know, I ride much, much better when I am ill or tired because my body doesn't have the energy to tense. You might be onto something with the running. I should have some time between dropping my kids off and meeting up with my yard manager for the hack. Maybe if I go for a good run and/or swim to make my body physically tired that may help. I haven't tried that before. I have tried rescue remedy but that just made me feel sick and did nothing for the nerves. If I didn't have to drive home I would have a few vodka shots!
I was going to say - how about a big glass of wine before you hack out! I bet that would help! That's what I used to do before I got on my broncer! You'll have to get a taxi/lift to the yard and back but I would seriously try it. Once you've managed a successful, event-free couple of hacks, these worries you feel will start to evaporate. I don't think it helped that you fell off the first time you took Ben out after the NPL - if anything that probably reinforced the negative feelings. Even though under other circumstances, you wouldn't be so bothered about falling off, because it happened in the context of something that worries you, you may have mentally linked the two.

Irrational fears are horrible, but I strongly believe they can be overcome by anyone. You just have to keep plugging away at them and not let them beat you. Eventually you will win, if you want to enough.
 
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popularfurball

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#13
Have you looked at CBT MP? I found it helpful for identifying the cycle of behaviour - because I can now see the warning signs, the triggers, the changes in my body when I start to panic I can manage it much better.

I wonder whether going and doing a trec orienteering phase would register differently - there are people around "should the worst" happen - so it is much safer/more structured than hacking out alone.

I would perhaps look at the actual root fear - the fear isn't the dog walker, or the bike it is what will happen after (Ben runs off, you fall - though is it something big specific about the way you might fall? etc) and if you identify this root cause of fear and address that (put tags on bens saddle and bridle wth your name/phone number, make sure you both have hi viz on, body protector, hat etc etc to maximise yours/his safety and then work on increasing your "safe" zone. If it is related to falling, you also need to revisit the falls you have had from
Ben and start to identify them as positive experiences - ie he didn't stand on you, you learnt that it happened because of XYZ, he wasn't hurt, it wasn't malicious and he doesn't do it often and you have carried on riding... I have to work through 'bad' memories a lot to make me feel better about them - have positive associations - I often do it while I am driving.

Ps I put bad in speech not belittling your memories but because I know my memories aren't bad, it's just my brain telling me they are - I have a phobia of sick and someone being sick is my worst nightmare but rationally I know sick isn't going to hurt me and I can wash afterwards... But my irrational brain doesn't believe that - I just have to practice keeping my rational head on and kicking my irrational head out. I usually find music or similar helps me drown the panic in my head a little
 

Jane&Ziggy

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#14
You know enough about psychology to recommend a therapy for yourself if you want to, I am sure!

I am interested too why hacking around 20 acres of fields isn't "hacking" but going across the road is "hacking" and so is going on a sponsored ride. Do you do cross country? You do, I'm sure...What is the difference that you perceive between galloping and jumping around a cross country course, versus following the route of a sponsored ride and jumping the jumps?

I'm really curious about what your mind and body see as the difference in these situations that causes your resourcefulness when competing and resourcelessness (to invent a rather nice word) when "hacking".
 

Mary Poppins

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#15
It's so hard to explain, I'm not really scared of anything real -it's more the fear of being scared if that makes sense. Looking back over the years I can see that I have suffered from panic attacks whilst hacking and have lots all sense of control of myself. It's scary to go into blind panic, it's a horrible feeling where you lose all rationale thought and the ability to think or even see straight. I'm scared of feeling like that again, especially on my own yard with people who know me well. It's embarrassing and rather than make a fool of myself in front of people who know me well, I just avoid it.

I take Ben out all the time completely on my own at a wide variety of venues. We do everything (xc, jumping, dressage, showing) on both arenas and open fields and I never feel overly anxious. I find it much easier to ride at places which are new to me and I think that this is because if it doesn't go to plan I can just get off, go home and not go there again. On my home ground it's different because the risks are higher. If I go into panic mode at home, I fear my relationship with Ben will suffer because I can't physically remove myself from the situation.

I can 'hack' on my yard because I don't see this as hacking as such. It's just riding over the fields. Yes they are big fields and I realise how lucky I am to have them to ride in (we have 250 acres in total). The yard is in the middle of the fields so I can always see 'home'.

I probably could do with some therapy reading this back!!! I really am not a crazy person, I'm just struggling with this aspect of my riding life. I know that it makes very little sense and is muddled - that is exactly how my brain feels.
 

ponylover88

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#16
I used to be completely terrified of hacking out. My first horse, and subsequent second horses both tried to kill me out hacking. First reared up and crushed me at the gate, the second threw me off in the path of a moving car, amongst other issues.

By the time I got Gem, I hacked her on a trial and spent the whole ride crying, shaking and heaving from nerves. The horse I was with didn't help me in the slightest as not only was I on a new horse, the rider kept allowing him to take off, before crashing into us a few times! I didn't hack past my comfort zone for months. Until one day I felt bored. I just got on Gem and went out. I've never looked back since.

Can I ask one thing though, how do you manage to do trec when you're scared of hacking? Or do you just do the indoor trecs? For the orienteering, you obviously have the added extra stress of not having a clue where they're sending you, and whether you're reading the map right on top of any hacking nerves. At the Sheffield trec, the L1 trec had many water crossings and some precarious paths. At Bulcote, there was a 'horse stile' ... It was about 60cm high! :eek: both myself and my pair dismounted for the first time over, the second time we rode it but it took some strong riding. I'm not trying to put you off, far from it, it's a fantastic sport and I love it, but it's not easy on the whole! They won't ask you to trec thru the undergrowth, or knowingly ask more of you than a novice trec rider should be able to cope with.
 
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Jane&Ziggy

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#17
I know exactly what you mean about being scared of being scared. That does make sense. I had a spell of blind panic on the back of Steve's motorbike the other day and it was horrid. I managed to get a hold of myself and forcibly stop myself from thinking as stupidly as I was, but I can see how that would not be possible,

I reckon though that if you could see a sponsored ride as like a long cross country course your brain might feel differently...
 
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squidsin

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#18
Box over to mine and I will hack out with you MP! Then you won't have to worry about what anyone in your yard thinks. It seems you're less nervous in unfamiliar environments because then you get your 'professional' head on and just deal with it. I am doing an orienteering thing on Sunday with Roxy and another friend - 15 miles with a map, luckily it's not far from my yard so I know the area and would struggle to get lost...although wouldn't put it past us.
 
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popularfurball

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#19
Yes I get that completely, my hearing goes, my vision and I've passed out - I have to lots of work around self calming and self reassurance to try and keep steady - just gradually exposing myself to it more - that said you can't plan when you will encounter sick!!

Perhaps a bit strange, but hacking is not necessarily about wandering about the place - how about preparing you and Ben that you might have to ride/walk home from somewhere? If the box broke down or he wouldn't load? Would having a purpose be better, goal orientated? You don't need to hack for miles, just to the point you are co didn't that it would be safe to get you both back. Similarly I would probably do a little each time you hack round the fields - go a little way towards leaving the yard, if you feel anxious turn around and come back or get off and lead him or just stop there for a few minutes and think it through - if you feel more in control, knowing you can turn back or get off at any point you can gradually build up the distance?
 
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Flipo's Mum

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#20
No words of wisdom, you know what its all about. Don't overface yourself, don't let anyone push you if you're not up for it one Monday, but are the next. Do what you can, but little and often is how I managed to overcome it. SJP1 was always so right about that. I found it so much easier if you just tackle it head on and persist day to day. I know you do lots of other activities, and maybe once every week will work for you, but maybe a couple of weeks of every day 'hackettes' becoming hacks, might help you build it up slowly, steadily and by the end of a month, you'll be as chilled with it as you are the other things.
I just fear that if you are going out hacking with the yo while she's exercising horses, she will want to ride further than you are comfortable with at the moment. But that might be just my thoughts on it.
Good luck. Its entirely possible. My degree was Psychology as well. I analysed the situation to death and had self defeating thoughts at every turn, but determination wins out. Go for it. You've got a better partnership with Ben than ever, and its good to push yourself out of your comfort zone, just be careful.