Horse Problems Australia
Post Office Box 1361,
Victor Harbor, SA. 5211





John O'Leary



I have met my share of Nervous Riders' in my day and have fixed a few too. As a matter of interest, they are almost always female and mostly have had kids, suffered bad experiences, got hurt, bucked off, although falls off horses when starting out does see kids suffer from it too. To qualify the 'female' point, two things. The majority of the Horse World are female and it is a fact that male riders' get less worried and are more 'gung ho'



  • A fear of getting injured

  • A fear of a lack of control, horse bolting, bucking etc.

  • Vibes

Lateral thinking tells me then that if you give CONTROL back to the Rider, the fear has to dissipate. I want to give you some ideas of what to do to overcome it and some other ways of looking at the problem

Fix the Controls and put "Air Brakes" on your Horse and surely the fear should dissipate for danger is virtually eliminated!! ** Remember, I have ridden THOUSANDS of suspect Horses and still athletic at old age!


READ MY LIPS -  there is no such thing as Bolting Horses in our Life!!!!!!!!!!!!!



It stands to reason that if one is a Nervous Rider which probably comes from the fear of falling off and getting injured, then such people should not be riding in in "English Saddles"


Here is a good letter I received recently about the subject:



Hi John,
Just a quick comment that may or may not be helpful for nervous riders.
A common thread seems to be that every nervous rider I've never met insists on riding around in English style saddles, which could often only be described as virtual 'ejector seats'.

All, without exception, reel back in horror when it's suggested they might like to try my stock or western saddle, almost as if it was a heresy.

It often takes a great deal of bribing and coaxing, but those that do eventually climb aboard on of these saddles come back from a ride with a liberated smile on their face that hasn't been there for years.

While it would be poor horsemanship to rely on physical 'tools' to cover up psychological riding issues, it seems the security provided by the stock saddle allows them to focus back on their balance in the seat and lightness on the mouth, where it should be, rather than waiting for the next spill to happen.

It even seems that that when they revert to their English saddles for competition, they comment their position and confidence is greatly improved.

The only down side is that they tend to develop a short-term phobia that their Pony Club or dressage mates will see them on the trail in their 'new' saddle. But this only lasts as long as it takes to admit that it's better to enjoy your ride than think about how you might look to others. Not to mention that it may also be more comfortable for rider and horse.

There are no absolute guarantees when you mount such a powerful animal, but a good poley stock saddle, the knowledge to execute a one rein stop, and the trust and respect of your horse are probably about as good as it's going to get, short of not getting on in the first place.

So, as part of the solution, I could only suggest that giving one of these saddles a try could do no harm.

Regards ~ John F


How true is that John and how well written? Thanks. That is a very important subject. It absolutely amazes me how people can attempt to get through the 'Green Horse' stages, in an English Saddle. (Self Emptying Saddle)  It is not only the entire career of the young Horse that is at stake but also the physical well being of the Rider that is at stake. Oh, I forgot the financial investment of many thousands of dollars that is possibly lost or at least set up to be potentially lost, when a person falls off a young Horse during it's formative times.

Then there is the quality of training, the boldness of the Rider and the potential damage to be done to the foundations of the 'Green Horse', lasting the rest of it's life. You may remember 'young aureo' in my Green Horse DVD. She is the Bomb Proof lead traffic Horse on this Camp. Why, because I was confident enough to brave the dangers of upsetting a young one, safer in the knowledge that I was not in a self emtying saddle. then there is the improved weight distribution for the un-prepared back of a young Horse.

The people of the 'English Discipline' however, appear brain washed into the fact that they just have to be in an English Saddle. They cannot get their brain around the fact that for $1500 they could have a safer life, a better horse and even be fixed as a nervous Rider. Hell, I would be a nervous Rider if I had to ride on a rail :) Thanks John. Great letter

So why do people fall from horses?

  • An inability to read horses by the Coach.

  • An inability to read  riders' by the Coach.

  • Wrong selection of horse to rider by a Coach.

  • Falling from horses at the point of sale, normally caused by liar's.

  • Purchasing the wrong horse or a change in personality by a horse in the new environment.

  • Over facing of a rider by a Coach.

  • Learning to ride a horse without being taught the 'independent seat'

  • Not enough knowledge about Horsemanship.

  • Not enough teaching by Coaches of control mechanisms of horses.

  • Too much teaching by Coaches of 'hey look at me I'm pretty'

  • Too much focus upon correct English riding rather than horse control first.

  • Too much teaching in the arena and not enough out of the 'cocoon' in rougher Country including ditches, up hill and down dale and so on.

  • Not enough teaching of horse control and other alternative methods of control.

  • Too much teaching that brakes means grab two reins and pull against the mouth.

  • Purchasing horses without knowledge or advice.

  • Too much teaching on 'brain dead and bomb proof horses' where the pupil is being 'taken for a ride' rather than 'riding the horse' and taking it for a ride.

  • Saddle selection

If I had to choose my top two however, it would be these:

  • Not being taught an 'independent seat' and to not balance on the mouth of a horse, and...

  • A lack of teaching of horse control and horsemanship which equals survival.



100% of Nervous Riders emit 'Vibes' BAD VIBES, fearful vibes.

Horses want 'Leadership' as they are 'Prey Animals' (why they love the Alpha Mare' who beats them up

Nervous Riders' frighten Horses because the Horse has no anchor, no Rudder. No Leadership.

So "Nervous Riders' manufacture 'Nervous Horses"

and Nervous Horses shy and more.



In my opinion, as you have already read, riding pupils are allowed to have the reins of a horse far too early and pretty quickly learn to balance off the sacred mouth of the horse. They learn to walk trot and maybe canter but the whole time they are using the mouth as their crutch. They never learn to ride in balance and to have an independent seat and therefore, fall off at the 'drop of a hat', as soon as a horse sneezes. I see it almost daily.

It follows therefore, that if I were a nervous rider and I could improve my balance to the point where I didn't need the reins and could ride a shy, I would become less nervous. This would be because my brain would start to believe that I am not going to fall off and so I would relax more and more. That would compound as relaxation equals a better rider.

I am constantly contacted by nervous ladies telling me they went for a canter, got frightened, grabbed the reins and the horse got nervous and so on. They should not be off the lunge then imho. What danger? Get lessons on the lunge where you can relax, have fun, get your balance and then chance your arm.

look at the leg position between the two saddles!




I just received this from the UK.

I can't go with your stock saddle thing though. I appreciate that it would be impossible to fall from one of these, but, we don't have the habit of using stock/western saddles in the UK, and thus riders really need to learn serious self balance/core stability stuff to stay on board! feel free to correct me if you think I'm totally wrong!

In answer, I say that I fully agree with the 'Independent Seat' training as being essential but the predominance of 'Nervous Riders' are found in the demographic of "Mature Aged Females" I know this from having escorted over 50,000 Riders on 'Holidays on Horseback' in another life.

Go look at this.......

Further, with the deterioration of the core muscle groups, fitness, weight challenge and bone density dangers, the 'Independent Seat' is often long gone. So have reaction times diminished.

Safety is therefore paramount, at all costs. Forget position and focus on survival. Have fun and be IN CONTROL. That is the name of the game. We do not bounce any more and injuries can be life lasting.!!!!!.

Last night and every week, I escorted a 'Mature Aged Lady Rider" around the Suburban District here on her young Horse that has been ridden 8 times only in it's short career. Why? BECAUSE OF AIR BRAKES!!!!!!!!!!!!



The fear of the horse acting up, running away or doing something to hurt me would be the other major factor that makes me nervous. So if I could improve my Horsemanship and knowledge base of how to control horses better, I would have the horse more and more under control. Wouldn't I? Then, the more I achieved this, the less nervous I would become. True? Why do you think I don't get frightened every day as I get on the unknown quantities that I meet? Because I know I have the Horsemanship knowledge and controls, together with an un-clouded brain that is not frozen in time.



Almost every nervous rider that I have met, only know one horse control defensive action when things begin to go wrong. Grab the reins, lean forward and clamp the legs on to grip. 3 of the worse things that one could dream of doing and all designed to conclude your fate. Let's look at them individually.

  • Grabbing the reins signals worry, heightens the 'flight response' and causes horses to grab back, normally ending in the opposite to what the rider wanted in the first place. They have designed their worst fear to come to fruition.

  • Leaning forward tells the horse to 'go fast' and run away. It also causes our bodies to emit the fear chemicals that horses are so susceptive to.

  • and grabbing with the legs to hang on completes the trio of run aids as you are putting the accelerator to the floor whilst trying to jam the hand brake on.

So, if you could learn better ways, you would worry less, wouldn't you? Here then are those ways:

  • Learn to use one rein only for stopping a horse.

  • Learn to use one rein only for slowing a horse.

  • Learn to use one rein only for stopping a horse from evading or shying.

  • Ensure the mouths of your horses are genuine and light.

  • Retain the Mouths of your Horses

and, if the Mouths of your Horses are substandard or have deteriorated, fix them.



I rate the Mouths of Horses thus:




I therefore ride Horses that have a 10-10 Mouth and if they haven't, I fix them.

Horsemanship predominately resides in America, Australia and South America. I have ridden and tested the Mouths of Horses around the World and I see the Mouths of Horses via Youtube, daily.

The Mouths on Horses in the UK generally rank at tops, a 7/10 but average a 5, with many less of course. That is why controls are not there and inmho, that is why the highest percentage of 'Nervous Riders' reside in the UK. Remember, I meet hundreds of them here in Australia, as Tourists and as permanent residents. I observe them and work on their Horses. 100% of them rate poorly. I do love the British though Not their fault. They are stuck in systems that came from the Dark Ages and due to the nature of the Country, change slowly.


The One Rein Stop page/


.......and watch this:


If you are a pleasure rider, 'galloping housewife' or even a member of the 'crinkly wrinkly Club', forget about your Dressage skills and learn Horse Training skills. The concentration upon what Dressage Coaches tell you is one of the main reasons for your problems.

So, get control of your horses, laterally and learn to use your 'air brakes'.

In Britain, the level of Horsemanship is way behind America and Australia due to the entrenched BHS systems. The integrity of the "Mouthing Systems" in Britain are Europe are second rate.

 Get off the mouths of your horses with your hands, off the ribs of your horses with your legs and let them relax and you will too. Your horse can't relax if you are on it's mouth at the walk or on the trail because it can't put it's neck down. If it can't relax, nor can you. Rein controls are about having the luxury of letting the reins go so the horse can relax. Not having the 'grip of death' all the time, which only sends related bad vibes to the horse. Rein control allows me to be 'on the buckle and yet have a horse's head up it's you know what, in a split second. You know what? .....that's why I am not nervous.







Happy Trails


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