Peer Pressure: Not Just for 13 Year Olds!

There’s a very popular horse message board that I frequently read. Whenever the topic of injuries comes up, I am stunned at how many people have been to the E.R. twice, three, even four times in the past year or so thanks to the same horse. It’s usually their own horse.

Good grief. I have not been to the E.R. due to a horse since 1987 (knocks wood violently) and in that time period, I have jumped and played polo and ridden plenty of greenies and horses that came from dealers and auctions with no history available. It is not that I am rider of the year, but I use a lot of injury avoidance tactics (i.e. giving them a chance to blow off steam before mounting, riding anything iffy in the indoor arena) and I will not ride a horse if it doesn’t feel right. You know what I am talking about. Sometimes you get on, and you can just feel the hump in the back or every muscle coiled, looking for a reason to explode. If that happens to me, I get off. Usually very quickly. Then we longe/turn out and reevaluate whether or not the issue has passed after doing so. Oh, and I BAIL if they rear. I am not fixing rearing. Somebody else can fix rearing. I do not want a broken pelvis and massive internal injuries. I have great respect for those of you who can pull ’em sideways and down and fix it (see halfpassgal on Youtube) but I know my own limitations.

(And sometimes I accept that the brain has left the building and we’re just not going to ride today. We will longe or do ground work or get ponied. If this is happening 2 days a year, I don’t think it’s a problem. If it’s happening 2 days a week, yeah, the horse has you cowed.)

Injury avoidance is not always easy, depending upon who is around. I used to have to work this polo pony who was known for blowing up bucking when you mounted. Everybody thought I was a freak when I longed this horse before getting on him to warm him up – but you know what, that made him not buck. He was just a typical cold-backed horse who needed to adjust to the saddle and girth and loosen up before you got on. I’d rather bear the disparaging looks than go flying – but when I see these people getting hurt again and again and again, I wonder if part of the issue is that they’re making the other choice.

Have you chosen to do something you knew was not a good idea with a horse for fear of the barn bitches or a strict trainer giving you hell/embarrassing you/comparing you to others? Have you pushed yourself to jump fences you’re not comfortable with, to ride at speeds you’re not comfortable with, to drop stirrups when you knew you weren’t ready, etc. – just to avoid the scorn of others? Are you, even now, keeping a horse you know you are never going to feel comfortable on because of peer pressure?

Here’s something I think happens a lot: Trainer sees gorgeous horse. Trainer wants gorgeous horse. Trainer convinces ammie to buy gorgeous horse. Gorgeous horse is perfect for trainer – will NEVER be the right horse for ammie. Ammie would be WAY HAPPIER with a 15 year old TB with floppy ears that has auto changes and never overjumps. But that isn’t what Pushy Trainer wants decorating his/her barn…and Pushy Trainer wins. Ammie with broken arm watches from sidelines all year and writes checks with good hand…

So let’s talk. How has peer pressure affected your riding? For those of you who have learned to ignore it, how did you come to that point? Or conversely, do you think peer pressure can be a good thing sometimes in pushing you a little bit out of your comfort zone? I do think the right kind of peer pressure is good (hence my posting of my riding goals for the VLC this year) but there’s a wrong kind of peer pressure that gets people hurt. To borrow a cheesy phrase, sometimes we all need to learn to just say no!

Published in: on May 11, 2008 at 5:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

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