Friday, January 27, 2012

Post-Traumatic Stress After Serious Riding Accidents

Apparently, post-traumatic stress symptoms are common in people who've experienced traumatic accidents, such as traffic accidents, involving broken bones, or head injuries, or hospitalization.  It also makes sense that this happens after a serious riding accident.  One common symptom is refusal or reluctance to engage in the activity that led to the accident, and envisioning possible negative outcomes from engaging in the activity.  Some of you in your comments have noted my dread/lack of enjoyment from riding my horses, and that's certainly true.

This understanding comes as a relief to me - I'm a bit slow on the uptake, apparently.  I'm not old, or incompetent, and my horses, while they may be challenging at time, are just fine.  It's just that I'm still processing, mentally, emotionally and physically, the effects of the accident.  My reluctance/dread/lack of pleasure in riding and working with the horses are perfectly natural effects of the accident.  There are some things I can do to help work this through, including consciously directing thought patterns into more positive stories ("reframing") as my horses and I come through this together.

This validates for me my plan and goals for 2012.  While my horses are on "winter vacation" (you should see our arena - it would have qualified last week for ice hocky events), I'm planning to take some lessons on easier (more thoroughly trained) horses to get the habit of riding back and solidify my abilities to ride "in" rather than on, the horse.  I'll also be working with an experienced trainer who's a student of Mark Rashid, probably starting in March, as I bring my three horses back into work, so she can oversee and advise with our getting back into business.  I'll be working on my core strength and stamina, as well as my balance, to make sure I'm fit to do what I want to, which is work with and ride my three wonderful, full of personality horses - Dawn, Pie and Drifter deserve nothing less.

P.S. - read the comments - there's more interesting stuff in there . . .

(A very big thank you for all the supportive, insightful and challenging comments - I very much appreciated them all and they were a great help to me in thinking these things through.  And read this post of Mugwump's - that's where I want to get to with my work with my horses.)

24 comments:

  1. Hmmm, how interesting. This is affirming to me, as well. Your second paragraph could describe me and my circumstances.
    Get strong! Have a 'productive' winter. I can't wait to read about your progress as the weather improves.

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  2. Good for you Kate! I`ll be reading with interest.

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  3. YES!!!!! I love this attitude and plan for 2012. I know you will succeed and enjoy your 3 wonderful, loving ponies again!

    GO KATE, Stay strong and it is OK where you are at the moment, you have a plan to work through it I think that is a huge positive step forward!!!!!

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  4. As usual, it is easy to have great respect for your plans for 2012.

    And you do have three wonderful horses. Hang in there.

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  5. I definitely have PTSD after my accident. However, I've started taking horsemanship lessons myself! I have a wonderful woman who also works with kids from the recreation department with her lesson horse and I've gained so much confidence! I plan on continuing my lessons so that I become a better rider so this summer I can ride a couple of my horses! I hear 'ya!

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  6. Breathe - for some reason, although your comment shows up as published in my dashboard, it won't show up here - so here it is again:

    Kate, You know I'm a huge fan, and have learned so much from you. So in that spirit I'm going to push back a bit. When, in your first posts about finding a horse, before Drifter and Pie, you described what you were looking for it could be summed up with the words "no drama". These aren't no drama horses. They have the potential to be, but it will take some time. I have the same journey with Smokey. I really do want no drama. We are close to that point, and I too have a plan to get there, but I have Lily, my no drama (but still with her moments like any horse) ride. Frankly I want you to have a no drama horse and one you have to whip into shape to keep you engaged mentally. but that's what I want, long for, when I have read your blog over the last six months. I am glad you'll be riding some steady eddies as you come back to work. And working with a trainer will probably get Pie through this rough patch. But I do wish you a quiet, steady horse in your remuda.

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  7. Breathe - now that I managed to get your comment published, here are my thoughts. I think you've got a good point, but Pie was intended to be my no-drama horse, and in fact was, although since he was very young - 4 when I got him, he needed miles and experience and could do things like spin unexpectedly when startled. Since he was so good and basically a horse with a calm disposition, I may have underestimated the issues involved in working with any very young horse. But I need to be no-drama myself before he can get back to where he was, hence the plan. I think Pie will be no-drama within a reasonable time - the accident threw a spanner in our works.

    Part of my desire for a no-drama horse was due to my work with Dawn - she was all I had for a while, and while she's wonderful, she's, as Mark said, not an easy ride. But I managed to come a long way with her and we're not done yet. But there are cross-currents - my mind says I want no-drama, but the horses I'm most attracted to in my heart are the beautiful, intelligent, dominant, challenging horses. I've been this way since I was a child - when I was at camp when I was 12 they gave me the horse that no one else would ride because it had a bad habit of rearing, and we had a great summer. Drifter, like Lily, falls into this pattern - it's partly that they're like me (leaving out the beautiful bit), and partly that I'm always putting myself into situations where I have to really put in some effort - that showing off as well as a need to prove myself I mentioned in the earlier post.

    So while I may think I want a no-drama horse, my heart, for good or bad, draws me to the drama kings and queens of the equine world. At some point as I get older, I'll have to grow up and get over that, but maybe not yet . . .

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  8. You are clearly feeling more optimistic allready, probably comes from your new understanding and from having a great new plan. Good for you.
    Aren't we always dealing with feelings when in the equestrian world? Either the horses, or our own.

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  9. I think the trainer idea is an EXCELLENT one, especially if it's someone who shares your philosophy. That's something I've wanted for myself, too. It's just nice to have that second pair of eyes and a competent friend on the ground. It gives you more confidence to do the things you already know how to do. I think 2012 is shaping up to be a wonderful journey for you.

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  10. I like your idea of taking lessons on what I would call "broke" horses. See how that feels to you. I agree that your three horses are challenging (for various reasons). If you like the trainer you work with, another viable option is to have her put some time in on Pie and Drift before you ride them again. That could be very helpful. Again, if you like and trust her after working with her.

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  11. I think post-traumatic symptoms (not full-blown PTSD) are a perfectly normal biological reaction to trauma! The deeper parts of your brain are still freaked out that something bad happened and let's not do anything to make that happen again. It's up to your conscious mind to acknowledge all those (totally valid) fears and work through them. I'll still barely canter Dixie, six months after our very minor fall. When the stars are perfect, we'll do a couple of strides and I'll start to get nervous and bring her back to a rack (just as fast, but not triggering). It just takes time, and gently prodding the boundaries of your fears.

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  12. I think it's a great idea to take some lessons on no drama horses. It's always easier to work with a qualified trainer and I think it will help with your confidence in the long run. If you could take lessons over the winter by the time your ice-skating rink is usable you'll be ready for your three horses. Good luck with your goals for 2012.

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  13. I'm always late getting into the comments stream so there's not much new I can add except more encouragement. You're wise to seek a trainer's help and I wish you the best for that.

    Dan

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  14. Your plan sounds doable, fun and sure to be successful. I have been riding all my life and while I have occasionally had a jumping fall that made me timid for a while, in general I have been pretty lucky. Until this last year when I have managed to get myself hurt twice. The first time I really pushed myself to get back to riding and felt semi-paralyzed with self doubt. After a while I took the pressure off myself and just did what I felt like. In a fairly short time I was happy riding again. This last one I am still healing from but I am going to do the same thing - first, wait til the worst of winter is over and second, no pressure on me.
    I think experienced riders can do this, find a comfort level and stay there until overtaken by boredom. I think less experienced riders need more outside support because they may not have a comfort level. Outside support is always useful and I was already planning more lessons this summer. I think it will help also. Good luck to you.

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  15. I think taking lessons on an old steady eddie may be perfect for you. Sometimes it is easy to be wary of the horse who caused the accident for no logical reason. I have been guilty of this myself, I still think my Bailey mare is gonna be silly and buck on me although she hasnt done it in many years, but I stil have it in my mind. So getting on some horses you know will be safe may help get over that lingering fear/resistance.
    Hope it works well, you are an awesome thinker when it comes to horses and I love reading your posts.

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  16. Glad you are feeling better about things. The trauma of a bad wreck is real and debilitating often.It takes the time it takes to work through it ,an I think you are doing well

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  17. You'll love taking lessons. Mom and I do. It totally helps. I know I have become a better rider on Pippi thanks to my lesson horse.

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  18. So good to know you've found a key to transforming your relationships with your horses. Something to work on with high probability of a great outcome.:)

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  19. You and I were injured around the same time... I recognize that I have PTSD and am working rehabilitation two ways... through riding and training with good kind folks that will help me work through it... AND, I am going to a therapist who deals with PTSD patients (or folks with PTSD symptoms). My blog, like yours is filled with different approaches I've taken towards getting better. I'm cheering for you too!

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  20. Kate, These last two posts are dealing with so many things going on at the same time - the unkind, ignorant comments of others that hurt you, your thoughts of getting over the effects of your fall, your thoughts about plans for your horse training- that's a lot to deal with at once. But thinking through some of these topics on your blog, and getting so many interesting comments from others, may help you to evaluate what you want. I sympathize, it's an awful lot to face, but you are such a thoughtful, conscientious horsewoman, I'm sure you'll make good choices.

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  21. I also hope that you get fit soon and good luck for your plan and goals.

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  22. Kate,

    Glad to see you are feeling better and ready to get back in the saddle. I had a similar experience that left me basically petrified to ride in my own arena. I found that riding other horses at different barns really helped me gain my confidence back. I was also horse-shopping at the time, so it was easy to start riding a bunch of differnt mounts. Sometimes it really takes a change of scenery to help put some perspecitive and give you the tools needed to feel confident again. Plus, no horse ever suffered from a mini-vacay or ground work, so I think its great to take some time for yourself. Good luck!

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  23. Bulldozing through the fear and pain...walking into the fire rather than away from it. Good for you. You'll end up in the right place for sure. And in the meantime, you are inspiring all kinds of riders! Ride on, sistah!

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  24. PTS; is that correct? At any rate, I realized that my "freakouts" to anything to do with Laz's hooves, and some gloomy days of winter, remind me of the major stress I dealt with when I almost lost him. I could cry at a moment's notice, the beautiful Fall easing into winter is a HUGE source of anxiety for me b/c I relate that to when he got sick (over 2 yrs ago). It's recognizing it that is finally helping cope and handle it. You will find the resources for yourself. :)

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