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My Riding Confidence Post-Baby

It’s really hard to know where to start but I guess all the nitty gritty from the beginning is detailed in the books so I’ll briefly recap. 

A whistlestop tour

I was a bold and fearless child rider, I would ride ANYTHING and often had to as we had no money for horses or for that many lessons at the riding school. I was so desperate to ride that I really didn’t care about rearing, or being on a horse that was WAY too big for me or one that didn’t really want me on it’s back! I actually loved the naughty ones, that feeling of accomplishment gave me a huge buzz even then. 

I regularly jumped solid fences, I hunted a lot and never felt an ounce of fear. 

When I hit my mid twenties and a shady spot in my life thanks to an unhappy ending to my first marriage, I was left totally broken. My confidence in all areas of life was at an all time low.  The thought of taking my dustbin out terrified me. I was scared of leading my horse to the field let alone riding it and, worst of all, I couldn’t bring myself to admit it. 

Turning the tables

Having worked my arse off over the last 4 years, I have managed to get a handle on the fear most of the time.  I have had the odd blip but so many huge steps forward saw me back out eventing and hunting, galloping and jumping just like I used to.  

And I’ll tell you something else, I loved it more than ever.  I felt 12 years old again and this feeling, along with an amazing new man in my life, unlocked a happiness in me that I didn’t know I could feel. 

Daddy Carrot and I travelled all over the country eventing with my beloved horse Pat, and we have so many fond memories to cherish and look back on. I can’t think about these days without my eyes leaking. It was everything I could have ever dreamed of. 

The Pregnancy Break

Pat being quite a sharp and spooky horse, the day I found out I was pregnant was the last ride for us until the baby arrived. We didn’t have the most speedy of conceptions and our baby was so longed for that I had deemed riding him a risk too far. 

I had my other horse Pea (a MUCH more sane mount) to keep my active and in the saddle, and that she did with me riding up until 7 months pregnant.

Pat came back into lunge work in December having been off since the end of May.  I had, unbeknownst to us, actually done three events in April and May 2019 and fallen off him jumping at home all whilst pregnant! All the more reason to give him a break. 

Back to it

Now, this is not a big raspberry blow to anyone that has a hard delivery, nor is it advised, but I know my own body and its limitations. Rather oddly, as soon as I gave birth (and I’m talking hours afterwards) I didn’t feel as though I had even been pregnant let alone pushed a baby out my minky for the first time!

I got straight up the morning I had him, without any stitches or damage, I had a bath and washed my hair and felt right back to my old self… albeit a little podgier and swollen! 

After a short hospital stay of 4 days for checks on George as he was 4 weeks early, we came home and settled into our new lives. 

I got back on Pea 3 days after that. I felt totally normal, not unbalanced or sore, I felt like me again and I was so happy.

 

The maiden Pat voyage 

After 7 months off you’d think I’d have had the sense to do a bit more groundwork before climbing on board but something in me felt different. As I tacked him up and mounted I felt totally fearless and at ease with whatever may or may not happen. 

Our first 3 months of riding after his break were incredible, he felt confident, less spooky, just simply AWESOME and I couldn’t WAIT to get back out eventing with them both. 

Something changed

Only this week have I had a MASSIVE relapse in self confidence.  Lockdown in light of Corona virus has made me feel anxious and isolated in our little family unit.  I have become so comfortable in the little bubble of our house and the farm that I was actually too anxious to go into the post office today. It’s so hard to explain to people that haven’t felt it before but it’s the feeling I get whenever I make plans, that one that wishes you hadn’t and that eats you up inside. 

I felt it with Pat in particular. 

I gave him a few days off due to my lacking motivation with no events to go to, and when I came to get back on him, I felt exactly how I did four years ago. I felt lost, scared, nervous, upset, down right bloody awful. I cried on the way home. I had those awful thoughts of how feasible it would be to just sell him. 

Why? 

Why now, when I felt more invincible than I’ve ever felt, do I feel like this again? It’s so hard admitting it but it’s also not going to get any better unless I do and face up to it. 

What now? 

Well, this feeling happened 4 days ago and I haven’t ridden him since.  I composing myself I guess.  I’m regrouping, picking myself up and probably, ever so slightly, avoiding the inevitable!

Here’s the plan though… 

I’ve taken him off every scrap of hard feed. He’s already on 24/7 turnout so I’m continuing that. I’m going to lunge and long rein him this week EVERY day and then chose a day to get on when I feel ready. He needs a job to do to stay sane and I need a sane Pat to not feel a failure. When he gets bored, he starts jumping out the field and becoming quite hard to catch/change his rugs/put his fly mask on which also makes things quite hard and actually quite upsetting.

That being said, when I get on I find I’m much happier doing it alone. I know if I’m alone I don’t put pressure on myself to hurry or feel a fool if I chicken out. So I’ll text Daddy Carrot and let him know and then again when I’ve got off safely. I’ll lunge him a bit and make sure I’ve got a pocket full of treats at the ready. 

I promise to check in next week with a little progress report, but for now, just know that if you’re going through this too that you are definitely not alone and that I know exactly what it feels like to think you’re a rotting sack of goat testicles.  You won’t always feel this way though and nor will I… and that IS a fact! 

Love as always 

Vic xxx

10 thoughts on “My Riding Confidence Post-Baby

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  1. Thank you for sharing this post. I really do hope you realise how much you help others with these. You make people feel like they are not the only ones that go through something and how they feel is normal. Thank you for all your help.

  2. I am not surprised our brain plays mad tricks on us and when you start thinking back to coming off whilst pregnant you subconsciously realise that you are now a mum and that little boy depends on you for everything, don’t eat yourself up ! You will get back on pat but don’t push too hard ! Put your air jacket on it will give you a safety blanket x

  3. Vic, you’ve got this mate. Trust yourself, stick with your plan and know that this too will pass!
    Hang on in there gal x

  4. Thank you for sharing this, confidence is a funny old thing! One minute you can feel invincible and like Mary King, and the next, the mere thought of putting a foot in the stirrup has you heading for the hills. Small steps in your own time, and I’m sure you’ll be right back up there! X

  5. Hi. Sorry to hear your struggling. Your horses were your babies before your son and it’s to be expected you wanna start bk where you left off. I too had and still have this inner dialogue and drive myself mad, my daughter’s 4.5yrs now and it’s only as time has gone on, things have happened that I’m more accepting of my ‘new’ mother role, and it’s priority to my solo life with horsey hobbies. It did really got me down at times. I’d morn my previous life, jokingly buy deep down part of me was talking out my feelings.
    I have followed you since your wimpy eventer early days and enjoyed your books. Your a very astute, clever and I’d imagine, your sharp analytical brain is maybe overthinking. I’m terrible for it and for generating feelings of worthlessness and sabotaging my self worth and confidence. There’s nothing wrong with reassessing what’s do-able with your changing home life now and you should not feel guilty for changes you need to make for you & your lovely now. It is a Balancing act juggling kids n horses and your blessed to have such a supportive hubby too.
    I had a couple of mc’s b4 my daughter so she’s a miracle. I was an older mother too, as enjoyed my social life.
    I had a poxy pregnancy but all’s well that ends well and baby arrives by C-section.
    I had my exracer 9 years when I got pregnant with my daughter, high risk pregnancy so he was was turned out on my folks farm. He was a hot sharp nappy exracer. I still have him, he doesn’t do as much work as he did before I became a mum and I get to him when I can. Last year I even took on a second TB filly. Don’t get me wrong my priority is my daughter and hubby. I have to tell myself at times, that this is the pecking order but horses make my soul happy, my horse has been my therapy in times of depression when I physically couldn’t speak to a person I’d hug him & cry (Few bad bouts depression esp after mc’s). I had post natal depression then and my hubby went thru bad health scare after my daughter was born but we got thru it. Horse had to just be a horse then, graze and chill. My feelings of family (human and equine) are always on my mind, there’s a strong sense of duty all round and my thoughts are all in competition with each other and it can be mentally exhausting thinking when to fit riding in when child asleep. I feel I have some experience of what your going through, trying to be all things to all people (and animals) & what we feel we need to be doing for us as women, new mothers etc. All I ca say is don’t commit to anything for the moment, covid has the world slowed down and so much is cancelled, though we do need to focus on our families including animals. I have lost count of the amount of events I’ve paid for then, on the morning of or the day before pull out. I’d have myself in knots. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have done well, I’m not sure if not going to these things, my self sabotaging is my self conscious stopping me in my gallop and saying cop on. When I do e.g. the odd riding club lesson afterwards I luv it but prior to it I’m apprehensive & socially I am more awkward, prob cos my life’s at s different stage to the others. Im a devil for comparing myself to others, it was getting me down so I culled a lot of FB riding club contacts. The FOMO was getting me down.
    I know I’m probably waffling but essentially, I have never met you but you seem like a good person, a lovely energy. Be careful of putting too much added pressure on yourself, maybe watch that, hold back a little on competition pressure and enjoy the little things like focusing on positives, what good things you get done with your lovely horses and your beautiful boy growing. Babies change rapidly, blink and you miss it but horsey mums needs time alone with their horses to recalibrate to be better in their home lives & other roles.
    Take care, hugs Johanna (Ireland).

  6. Thank you for sharing, it’s really difficult times at the moment. You’re not alone, everyone has times when they lose confidence, and then at other times we feel we can do anything. I like you had a season planned, and am so gutted not to be out doing it, but I’m focusing on the things I can control until things change. I have to have a plan and goal every time I ride otherwise I probably wouldn’t, I watch videos and read social media of others to see what they’re working on and then try to copy it – including yours sometimes! I know how to do the stuff, but it keeps my mind on the job and not on any fearful thoughts that could creep in. My horse is a hot, sharp, spooky TB, especially on spring grass (!) but I try not to think about that! My advice would be to just try and think of all the times you’ve ridden Pat and he’s been amazing, rather than the few times it’s not gone to plan. Take your time and keep smiling, you do really well and are an inspiration to so many people! ??

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