I've ridden horses since I was a child. Granted I took a long 10 year hiatus during college and into my twenties but here I am, as obsessed as ever. I've also never been a fearful or anxious person. I grew up skiing, riding horses, and rarely had a glimmer of fear hold me back from anything. I wouldn't say I was a dare devil by any means but I was young and bouncy, falls didn't seem to hurt much.
Fast forward to my return from horsey hiatus. Only a few years ago. I had had Indie for a little under a year and we were absolutely fearless. She was a retired racehorse, young, and green. My friends and I would race through the woods and fields and down the road without a care in the world. It was amazing. Completely freeing.
During that time I was boarding Indie at a small farm. Some things transpired and I opted to move her home but she needed a buddy so I found a huge gelding from the same OTTB (off track Thoroughbred) farm where I adopted Indie and I decided to give him a try. I went to the farm and while having a lovely ride he spooked at something in the road, juked left and in a split second I went right. Right off of that large boy and onto my shoulder and secondarily my head (always wear a helmet folks!). It startled me more than anything though the next day my shoulder and head were pretty sore. Nothing serious. By horse riding standards it was nothing. A simple fall. The horse meant nothing by it, a small startle on his end, but one I wasn't prepared for so off I came.
I was not hurt, it was not a bad fall, everyone was fine. But it stuck in my mind. Without realizing it at first I became terrified to ride. Even on Indie, who as a little OTTB baby had been nothing but an angel. My fear started to manifest in her as well. When I would work up the nerve to get on her she started acting out like she never had. And nothing else had changed...except the fear inside of me. Horses can sense it all. For some reason, that simple fall triggered a fear response that grew inside my mind like a virus. It started slowly but before I knew it, it had basically robbed me of my passion.
It has taken me a long time to overcome. Between my own willpower, instruction from an amazing trainer, and nearly two years of time, I feel like I have finally tipped the scales and it feels just as freeing as ripping through the forest on Indie's back.
Here I am on my trainer's beautiful mare.
I equate fear to a bump in the road. You approach is slowly, taking your time, thinking you'll just "get over it," but as you reach the base of that bump you don't have enough momentum. Your tire starts to skid out and fear and anxiety kick in so you try even harder to get over it, all the while digging a small ditch just in front of the previously small bump. Now the bump is a small hill and you feel even further away from your goal. How are you ever going to get over it? Well, it took me a long time to change my tire to one with more tread, more grit. And I decided that I really wanted this. I had to just dig in, not rush it, but get on with facing my fear.
I had to start over. After I set my mind to face this problem with more grit, the second solution was to become a better and more knowledgeable horsewomen and rider. I found my trainer, I think by fate, and she has helped me immensely. She's a world class horsewoman tucked back in the outskirts of our little town, not even a shingle hung outside her farm. I have learned more from her in just over a year than I have in what feels like all of my horse years combined.
So with my new gritty tire I dug in and started climbing the hill. And even though it took much longer than I would have liked, it worked. I feel like I hit the top and that fear virus in my brain started to shrink. My desire to be better was bigger than my fear. I still have a ways to go but it feels good to be on the right path and over the bump.
My sweet Emma is helping me too. In fact just this past weekend, I got on her, by myself, for the first time since I've had her. And because of my new mindset and focus on trust from the very start, it was no big deal. For her or for me. We simply walked around together, no agenda, no rush, and it was perfect.