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Losing my love for the sport

Hey guys.
I wanted some advice on what to do next. I have been riding for a couple years now and the last few weeks just hasn’t been the same. At the beginning of show season I was so confident and doing great I was getting champ and reserve champ every show. I don’t know what happened but I don’t enjoy riding like I used to, I have no confidence and I don’t believe in myself. Nothing has changed to make me lose my confidence I don’t believe. The only 2 things that have happened in the past couple months is a bad fall off another horse that made me almost break my nose but I was fine after that and still enjoyed riding. The last show with the mare I lease went really bad we got disqualified every round for refusals. And I think we were both just having an off day, the mare I lease is 19 yrs old and the most seasoned horse at my barn.
I just hate riding now and because of having no confidence it’s causing my mare to stop in front of fences which has definitely just made my confidence worse lol.
I don’t want to lease anymore and I sent a message to my coach last night to let her know I’m ending my lease. Last nights lesson just consisted of her stopping at jumps and my coach telling me it’s all my fault and any horse would do this if I were riding it.

I’m really sorry you and mare have been having a bad time.

I’m not a trainer or a coach. But it seems to me that you’re burnt out.
It also seems that you need to take a step back and regroup and refocus.

Is showing and winning all you want out of your riding? I imagine not, because that is only such a tiny tiny aspect of horsemanship.
Is jumping all you and mare do in your time together? Do y’all ever hack out around the farm? Go on a trail ride? Just hang out together, maybe you giving mare a spa day? Do you have other friends at the barn you ride with for fun?

Why does your trainer believe “any horse” would stop with you? What suggestions did s/he make for you and horse regrouping together and refocusing?

Is there anything going on in your life away from the barn that is stressing you out?


There are entire horse cultures all around the world where no one ever jumps. Maybe, rather than giving up on horses and just binning the time you have invested in learning to ride, tryout a different discipline. Polo. Mounted archery. Working equitation. Dressage. All those many Western disciplines. Or even just go on a riding vacation where you can enjoy the company of the horse and look at the views from the saddle.

Falling off a horse can have a huge impact on one’s confidence. It will take time to rebuild. Actually, lacking confidence, feeling fear, is a very sound and reasonable response to falling of a horse.

Your lease horse is getting on in years: it might not be you but rather the horse saying “That’s enough, thank you. I’m done.”


Showing and winning is definitely not all I want I mean winning is a great feeling but what I really want is to have fun even if that means not placing well but having refusals is not fun. We went on hacks a lot in the summer but now it’s getting colder and the bugs are getting bad again. I’ll sometimes being her in the arena to just play around I almost feel like she doesn’t trust me. With her other leaser she will follow her around in the arena but she doesn’t do that with me. I don’t understand because I treat this horse like gold and have never done anything to make her not trust me. She also runs away in the paddock with me and walks up to her other leaser(but she has been known to do this in the past)

My coach says I’m too gentle of a rider and I’m just letting her stop and go around the jumps however I feel I’m not because I’m not giving her a bad approach to jumps and when i rode lesson horses when my mare was off I rode them the same and they would go over the jumps no problem so I don’t really understand what my coach is saying.

The advice from @Rackonteur is very good.

I’m going to assume from your post you are a junior, perhaps a younger junior.

Something we learn from repeat experience is that in any sport or hobby, we have periods of fast improvements and learning and then we have periods of plateau, where it feels like we are not improving or even declining.

Don’t discount the long term effects of a bad fall. This is a kind of PTSD that can make you start to suck back or hang on the horse at speed or approaching a jump.

It sounds to me like you are in a very narrowly focused h/j program where riders are channeled into competing before they can really ride that well. If you have only been riding a couple of years, believe me there are plenty of holes in your skillset and you may have reached the point where these are having an impact on your progress. You may be sucking back at jumps because you know in your heart that your seat isn’t safe over fences. I can almost guarantee without even seeing a video that your seat isn’t as secure as it needs to be.

Childhood bravado is a great way to ride through position flaws but at a certain point you get a bit older and have more awareness of yourself. Whether you’ve gone from 11 to 13 or 13 to 15 or 15 to 18 during your riding career, these are all periods where we become more self aware and more conscious of consequences.

The big thing riding teaches you over time is to deal with frustration and failure in a constructive manner. And to take responsibility for yourself.

So my suggestion would be to start thinking differently about your situation. Right now you are beating yourself up because you can’t do things you did before your fall, and you can’t please your coach, and you can’t keep on being the Winning Star Student and you are humiliated and ashamed.

That’s in some degree because you are (like most teen girls) seeking outside praise for your sense of self.

Now that you’ve hit a roadblock where you can no longer reliably get that outside praise you feel useless and worthless and frustrated.

This is where you need to go inside yourself and think about what you need going forward. What do you need to feel happy and safe on a horse? Now I don’t know if this is possible in your program, but the ideal is what @Rackonteur said above. Stop jumping. Go for trail rides. Canter on the trails. Jump a log only if you feel like it. Get in tune with your horse. Do some ground work. Take the winter off. Figure out what your panic triggers are for jumping. Ride over poles not jumps.

Figure out how to get joy out of riding alone and communicating with your horse. Then if you go back into lessons the coach is just one part of the equation

You might also look into sport coaching to overcome the anxiety of the fall.


Ok, big holes in your skill set

Stop riding jumps and learn how to steer a horse through poles or obstacles. If the horse is running out that’s on you. You might find dressage lessons useful. You need to know how to keep a horse straight, how to keep them between hand and leg with impulsion, and how to use leg yield or shoulder fore to keep the horse on track. Running out is rider error, but very often because the rider lacks skills.

If you want to be more effective on the ground or at liberty do some ground work clinics. Horses follow people when they think there is going to be an interesting interaction. You might want to learn about clicker training and teach some tricks.

Horses like calm quiet people who are also engaged and have intent. They ignore calm quiet people who are shut down and have no purpose.

It sounds like both in the saddle and on the ground you are lacking in intent. That’s common enough in beginner riders who have been mostly in highly directive lesson programs. Those encourage you to give over to the coach but not build your own motivation.

So you need to increase your own self motivated intent. Indeed every action from when you get out of the car at the barn should have intent and focus on the horse. I even whistle at my horse when I drive in so she sees me from her paddock and nickers.

If you go into a paddock and do some simple but clear ground work, the horse will follow you after. You can try things at liberty like, how soft can my pressure be to make horse back up? Just wiggle a finger? Move the haunch? Can horse stand still when you ask, then come when you call? Praise, trest etc.

Many good old horses have been taught that nothing useful happens on the ground so they just zone out. Once you start groundwork with intent they realize there’s meaning in the interactions and they get interested in being with you.


I suspect the other lessor always has a pouch of treats

nevertheless, as others suggested there are a LOT of different things a horse can will do other than jump over things.

Maybe I am just used to doing many, many disciplines with same horse as the horse will get bored to death repeatedly doing the same


Well your coach alone could be the reason you lack confidence?

Sometimes it can take a while for the trauma of a bad fall to take hold and it might just be there is a reason( other then you) that this 19 year old mare is refusing suddenly to jump. Has the vet been out to evaluate for issues?

Is riding for enjoyment alone ( trails or just hacking-- no pressure) for a while an option?


I’m really sorry you’re feeling down about your riding, and I hope you won’t give up on the sport entirely. We all go through bad patches with our riding, it’s a totally normal but frustrating part of the process. Usually it means you’re really digging in on new skills and if you can make it through the other side you’ll be a better rider for it. All of my biggest breakthroughs have come after weeks or months of wondering if I’m actually a terrible rider. It totally sucks going through it though.

Honestly your coach doesn’t sound very good, she should be giving you constructive feedback and exercises to help you, not just telling you that you’re doing things wrong or riding badly. She should be framing things in different ways or breaking it down for you to help you understand. I also expect a good coach to understand the mental side of things and know when constructive tough love is in order or when someone just needs encouragement and a confidence boost to get them out of a rough patch. No one performs their best when they feel criticized and unsupported.

Since you’ve already ended your lease this sounds like a great opportunity to switch barns or try a new discipline or just mix it up and see if you can get back to having fun.


Good job for ending the lease. Go find an actual professional coach that can help rebuild your confidence.

Go ride some flat lessons, go trail riding, volunteer at a horse rescue.

Sometimes a break is good, but sometimes just trying different things helps us remember what and why we enjoyed riding to begin with.


I’ve part-leased a horse with another rider at a barn, and sometimes the dynamic can get really toxic, especially if the trainer has a favorite: “The horse never does that with his other rider.” It’s really hard to hear that constantly.

Other people have been giving you riding advice in this thread, but given we don’t see you ride, we can’t really know what’s going on specifically with this older horse or you. I agree that not doing the thing that’s bothering you the most (jumping/showing) can be helpful, and trying dressage or not showing for a bit may reset your enthusiasm. I think the message of “you’re ruining that horse” conveyed by your trainer can be hard to put aside when you walk out of the barn, ditto the memory of the fall.

Riding is a partnership, and will always have its ups and downs. It’s a lifelong sport, though, and there are many ways to enjoy it. Until you ride more horses and try different ways of riding, don’t close yourself off to it before you have to.


You have already given up your leased horse. Take time off to decompress and try out some new things. Maybe you’ll be ready someday to get back in the saddle, and maybe not.

I was an active Pony Club parent for several years, and have kept up with what the girls (and one boy) are doing. Out of the 15, only one is riding today, and even she stopped for college and law school before starting back with horses again.

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The few things come to mind from reading your post.

The most important one is to dial back a little bit from stating that you’ve lost your love for the sport. Please try to reframe this into a “I am having a blip”, Or I’m reevaluating how I want to interact/ride horses right now. I’m going to investigate other options/trainers/programs/disciplines.
When there’s a problem, Or many successes, it’s really easy for the reaction Dial to go all the way to one end or the other. For longevity in the sport, or life, you need to find a balance, and recognize that there are going to be some hard times along with the highs. That’s where the learning really happens. What you might be learning is that you need a new trainer if the best she can come up with as criticism that is not constructive.

In any case, it sounds like you’ve really lost sense of connecting with Horses in a joyful way. I am a trainer… I see this happen. My suggestion is that you find somebody who can help you with that, even if they aren’t in the discipline of your choice. Come at horses from a different angle. Find out about groundwork, clicker training, try some dressage, do some trail riding. I suspect that the fall that you experienced is having more of an effect than you may currently understand, but I encourage you to not quit. Find your way back to your joy.


In your few years of riding, how many different horses have you ridden? Not every horse and rider combo will have a good partnership, and just because it starts out good doesn’t mean it will necessarily stay that way. I’ve ridden horses that I loved for the first few rides but then the wheels kind of fell off. It happens. It sometimes made me feel like quitting, too. But once I moved on to a better match I enjoyed riding again. I’ve also ridden horses that I didn’t get along with in the beginning but then we figured each other out and they sometimes became favorites.

There’s no harm in taking a break, but sometimes you just need to shake things up to find the joy again. A different horse (and possibly a different trainer, as yours doesn’t sound very helpful or encouraging) and maybe even a different discipline could help to make things fresh and interesting again. Or you may need to take a few steps back - lower jumps or work on flatwork - and build up again to regain your confidence and make sure any holes in your own skill set are addressed. I’ve had to do this at least twice - back to crossrails and a super easy horse.


This says everything!


Did “coach” tell you specifically what you were doing that would make any horse stop and how to stop doing it or just belittle and humiliate you in front of others?

How many lessons a week does this 19 year old part leased mare give each week and how many other people ride her?

IMO you need to take a break from riding for a bit and decide if you really want to be involved with horses or just want to win as comes through in your posts, intended or not. Give it some thought.

No sport is easy and there will be periods of time when everything goes wrong as you are experiencing. Involving a horse that also has ups, downs and health issues makes this harder to deal with. The thing to do is to stop, take a break and think about your goals. Try other barns and trainers, maybe go trail riding. Also strongly suggest you talk to somebody about feeling worthless and hopeless. Not healthy and there is help for that feeling…which most of us have experienced at some point, work through it whether you return to horses or not. Turn yourself around and go forward.

IMO, sounds like this 19 year old ( at least) school horse might not be much of a match for you at best. Worst case she’s used up for jumping and/or saying no because she hurts.

Think everybody will agree with me that nobody should ever berate and humiliate you. Not ever. The fact you were paying for her to coach you on this old mare who started stopping and all she did was blame and humiliate you telling you any horse would stop with you is something you should not have experienced and should not have to experience again.

If you do decide to keep riding? Find another “coach”. Start there.


Thia applies to adults, too. I am struggling with it now


It sounds like you might need to either get a new coach or listen to your current coach and accept that when she’s telling you that you need to do something differently or with more purpose or whatever, that this isn’t her saying it’s “your fault” but rather her trying to teach you how to address the issue you’re having with the mare refusing jumps. You can’t just say, “But that’s how I always do it,” and not accept instruction from your coach, and then expect everything to sort itself out. You’ve had a jolt to your confidence due to the fall, and that has you hesitant when jumping which is causing refusals which is hurting your confidence more and it’s snowballing. Your coach is trying to snap you out of that snowball of doubt and get you to be the one who is proactive. YOU have to decide you want to get the horse over the jump. If you’re not really feeling it and don’t really want to go over the jump yourself, then there’s nothing your coach can do to fix the situation.

What you have to do is decide if you love riding enough to either push yourself through this rough patch and continue jumping, or pursue another discipline that might be more enjoyable for you. If the answer is no, there’s no shame in that. I grew up riding with a lot of girls who stopped riding once they got a bit older. I’ve been riding for 35 years, and have had a horse (or several) at all times during those 35 years. But not everyone has to be like me. Go do your thing if you no longer find joy in this. Life’s too short to spend it doing something you don’t enjoy.


If it’s competition with a horse that’s your feel-good, and you’re currently experiencing a low patch in jumping-involved events, find another area to compete in.

Take yourself outside of your discipline and look at all the others as if they have equal value and see what might feel like fun to try.

I think you’ll probably find that when you get into a different competive horse sport, people there think theirs is The Best also. Maybe their enthusiasm for their sport will rub-off on you.

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I agree with @RhythmNCruise — while what you may be hearing is “it’s all your fault,” what your trainer might actually be saying could be closer to “Your horse is stopping not because she’s ‘bad,’ but because you are doing/not doing X, Y, and Z.”

The wise @Jealoushe posted this terrific graphic last summer, when you were frustrated with how your previous lease horse kept cutting into the center during lessons:

Based on some of your earlier posts, it sounds like you’ve been riding for about 3 years. When someone is first learning, it feels like the milestones come quickly: I made my horse leave the rail and circle! I got to trot! I got to canter! I can steer over poles! I’m jumping!

What it takes much longer to learn is that ticking off a series of boxes doesn’t always mean you’ve actually mastered any one of those things. In fact, you could spend an entire lesson (or lifetime) and still never get it absolutely correct. I once went deep down the rabbit hole of “How perfect can I get a walk circle?” It was fascinating. And humbling. And uncomfortably hard. But if I had a different perspective, I could also say “Last week, my trainer wouldn’t let me do anything but walk.” Both descriptions of the session would be correct, but one focuses on my superficial feelings and one focuses on the intent and growth potential of the lesson.

Riding should always be fun, but there’s no guarantee that it will always be easy. Sometimes, in the moment, it won’t even be enjoyable. (Falling off hurts. Being dismissed from a class hurts too.) Focus on the things you and your parents can control: How much effort you put into your lessons. How amenable you are to listening and using your instructor’s comments. Whether you are on a horse/with an instructor/at a barn that will enable you to develop and enhance your skills, at a pace and in a structure that is appropriate to your age and ability.

I know you’ve had a variety of screen names. (Maybe trouble remembering your previous login credentials?) Each time you’ve posted, you’ve gotten some terrific advice. And you should totally be applauded for not getting upset or angry when those suggestions were offered — sometimes it’s really tough to hear comments you weren’t expecting! But one thing I’ve noticed is that each post has featured COTHers urging you to explore other barns and instructors, and I agree with them. I just don’t think your current setup has your long-term best interests at heart.