I’m posting all 3 parts this morning, in case life gets busy and I fall behind on my blog. Feel free to pace yourself, as I probably won’t post anything for the next few days.
That nasty four letter word.
I think everyone who deals with horses deals with fear eventually. Some people start out with plenty of fear and gradually overcome it. Other people seem to have no fear in the beginning, and only gradually aquire a healthy dose of caution as time goes on. (these are the people that scare me!)
I am a very cautious person. I’m good at taking calculated risks after analyzing known facts, but I’m NOT the type of person to throw caution to the wind and “just go for it”. How did I morph from the timid, scared preteen, to the bold risk-taking rider I am today? I’ll let you in on a little secret – I’m still that cautious timid rider. I still don’t take unneccsary risks. What may look to an outsider as “taking risks” is, in reality, a decision based on a lot of experience and a healthy dose of caution and fear.
When I first started with horses as a pre-teen, I was the cautious one that never wanted to above a walk, was afraid of speed games etc. I was fine on the ground – I had shown Dairy cows for several years before joining the horse group so handling big animals on the ground was nothing new. I was scared on horseback, but that didn’t mean a lot. I spend a lot of my life being scared. In fact, I’ve had to work through fear and caution issues so many times, it really isn’t that big of a deal anymore (more on that later in part 2). I think that confused people, because I obviously didn’t ride well and was cautious and not “brave” on horse back, but I kept doing it. And doing it. And doing it. Because I knew eventually as I got more and more experienced, I would spend more time having fun and less time being scared.
Part of the problem was I never got to ride a good kids horse. I rode horses that took advantage of me, bucked, and misbehaved if they could get away with it.
I loped up a hill for the first time on an old cattle horse, while everyone else went to herd cattle and left me behind at 4-H camp. I felt empowered. My quest to ride was not unreachable.
I joined CHAS and rode 6 up cannon teams in harness on Standardbreds. I rode the middle position (swing) and for the first year wailed and complained every time we had to trot (which was a lot). A year later I could ride the Standardbred racing trot.
I met another women in CHAS and I was determined that I could do everything she could, and as a result starting galloping down the beach bareback. I still fell off a lot. When I was with her I could do anything, but by myself or in unfamiliar situations, I was still scared.
I joined the polo team and along with learning how to land on my feet when bucked off, learned how to canter. One spring break, me and a friend from Switzerland decided to ride every single horse on the team. I rode the hard ones, the good ones, the bad ones, the squirrley ones. I went on my first trot and canter trail rides on those horses, near the river, outside the training facility. I stopped falling off.
The summer before going to Davis, I spent at a Wild Horse Sanctuary. I learned how to saddle a 2 year old and give it it’s first ride. I rode greenbroke mustangs. I was still cautious. I was chosey who I rode and how I rode them. I was more than willing to ride like the wind….only if it felt 100% right at the time. I spent a lot of time riding at a walk on good, broke horses.
After graduating from college I was given my very own horse – Minx. I started falling off again. I learned how to put my own uncertaincies aside because I had to be brave for my horse. I figured I had until I was 30 to get her broke enough she stopped throwing me. I figured at 30 I was going to start breaking things. I discovered the sport of endurance and realized that I didn’t struggle with fear on the trail, like I did in the arena. I was brave on the trail. Then, during a routine canal ride, part of a bank gave way and Minx fell, landing on my leg, which me down hill. I thought she was going to roll over the top of me. We both got up and she bolted for home. I ran after her for a mile, until an SUV stopped and drove me the rest of the way to the stable. I beat her to the stable by 30 seconds and the stable owners did not call 911. I struggled with the fear of her falling on me and then bolting for 3 months. I’m over it now. I stopped riding other people’s horses, or even CHAS horses I didn’t trust. I stopped lifting heavy things “just because I could”. I started protecting my body now – in my 20’s – so I can ride forever.
I bought Farley and realized how “hard” Minx was to ride. I decided it was time to conquer my fear of the arena and I started dressage lessons and practicing for the cavalry competitions.
After 10+ years of sticking with it – I have finally become a rider. Even though I still deal with fear, it’s on a manageable level that could be called “caution”, instead of that mind-numbing fear that prevents me from living my life and enjoying the love of my life – horses. I can FINALLY accept almost any invitation to a horsey gathering or event without worrying that I won’t be able to handle it. I can just have fun.