I never struggled with the fear of falling off or getting hurt (the bonus of ridng young). I fell off early and I fell off often – it was just part of the riding experience. Instead, I struggled with the fear of not being in control. I could list them all seperately, but they all boil down to the root of Not being in Control.
Conquering fear is all about facing it, and dealing with it. Because I have a tendancy to overthink everything, I know myself very well. I’m very nervous, almost panicky going into the situation, but once “the rodeo starts” I’m calm and even a bit excited. Dealing with fear so long has made me actually enjoy the feeling of adrenaline that comes with a fearful situation. I may not want the situation, but once I’m in it I’m loving it and once it’s over I’m totally like “can we do that again – that was EXHILERATING!” I’ll even use that adrenaline response to help me do everyday activities – like running. As I run I’ll play a senerio in my mind that involves an andrelanine response and a smile will start to creep across my face and there’s a SPRING in my step, and all of a sudden, my 3 mile run doesn’t seem that bad! I think that’s one reason I love running so much – I’m addicted to the adrenaline feeling that I associate with it.
Some fear is healthy – I like to call it caution – however some fear is irrational and instead of preventing me from getting hurt or in a less-than-desirable circumstance, it’s preventing me from enjoying my riding and my horse in the fullest. Those types of fears are what I try to confront. Here are some of the more recent ones that I’ve “conquered”.
- Riding in the arena – this was truly irrational and I’m not sure where it came from. All those turns, all those fences. I had a panicking feeling just thinking about trying to canter or do ANY kinds of speed games in an arena. I avoided the arena for 10 years. Finally I started dressage lessons (which ironically, takes place in a court, not an arena). Then I started to swing a sword and practice cavalry games. One day, it felt right, and I asked Farley for a gallop down the fence line. Nothing bad happened. I’m fine now!
- Bolting, riderless horse on a trail ride (someone else’s) – I’ve always had a fear of being on a trail ride, having a rider get dumped, and then their horse bolting past mine into the blue yonder. I’m not sure what my problem was. Not being able to control my horse? Vague images of a rearing horse that collapses on the rider and bolts after the other horse? Anyways – it happened at the beginning of this year. It wasn’t a big deal. I was half mounted and Farley barely even budged and just watched interestedly as the horse shot past her snorting and scooting. I even had time to abstractly watch my aunt fall, wondering if she was going to get tangled in the fence (she didn’t). No big deal.
- Beef Range Cows – Like all irrational fears, it’s hard to follow this one to the conclusion. I was scared of beef range cows because…..they were going to attack me, make my horse run away, and then eat me? really? REALLY? Let’s be serious. I worked cows on horseback for the first time a couple weeks ago and we all know how it went. Well. Really really well. I spend all that time going into hysterics on my coditioning rides for nothing.
My horse fears are coming along well – I’ve dealt with most of my horse demons and horse-related fear no longer controls me. Next I would like to discuss a different, non-horse related fear that I have NOT conquered, and will probably continue to deal with the rest of my life.