I came across a really good post a few weeks ago on Facebook, shared by a page I follow, on fear and how it relates to horsemanship. The gist was fear can be a big obstacle…but it’s also an important emotion to recognize as it relates to self-preservation and keeping a modicum of common sense about us.
I’ve always been more of a “scared” rider. Maybe some of that is my own personality as a whole — I tend to be a somewhat cautious, careful person in pretty much all aspects of life. I play things safe, I’m not a huge risk-taker, and I don’t like to get hurt, physically or emotionally.
How am I possibly drawn to horses, and an extreme sport such as endurance riding?
Probably because as much as it scares me sometimes, it also pushes me out of my comfort zone, reminds me that life is meant to be lived, teaches me things can and will go wrong without it being the end of the world (thus far, at least), gets me outside of myself, and, if I play my cards right, rewards finding the balance between caution and bravery.
Granted, I’ve come a long ways. There was a time that, to get me to actually ride outsidet the safe confines of the area, my old trainer would have to clip a leadrope on Mimi and head out the gate, leaving me little choice but to clutch the saddle horn and whimper in futile protest.
Was my pony that “bad” outside the arena? No. On the contrary, she was actually super bold and liked to “trail ride” on the streets and canal banks near the barn. But she was “looky” and had a very fast reaction time.
And I have a very hard time forgetting or letting things go, so after the one fast spook-spin-bolt that resulted in a parting-of-the-ways, Ashley-getting-lawn-darted-onto-pavement incident, I’ve had a hard time relaxing in an “urban riding” environment…never mind that happened like 17 or 18 years ago.
Ummm…let it go much? Maybe???
Upon actually writing that out, even I have to shake my head a bit at myself. I mean, I wish there was some “sprinkle pixie dust, wave a magic wand, and poof, Instant Brave Rider” secret I could tap into and make all of those fears and self-doubts go away.
But there isn’t. At least, not the last time I checked.
But there is experience, a bit of “grit your teeth and do it,” and the positive affirmation of post-adventure survival. Sitting and being all cogitative and academic and thinking about all of the “what ifs” almost makes it worse — way too much dwell time. Getting out and doing something tends to produce a more positive mental outlook.
A couple months ago, I got lawn-darted. A complete accident on both the horse’s part and mine, but for the first time ever, I actually had a horse go completely down with me. I’ve had incidents of horses tripping and taking a knee, and even my own Mimi has always had a tendency to catch a toe on an underlying rock, a by-product of her daisy-clipping ways (and not always paying 100% attention to her footwork, especially in “easy” areas). So I tend to “ride aware” with good contact, always ready to catch/stabilize as much as I can. It didn’t help in this case. One second, we were trotting along on a slight downgrade, and the next second, I was skidding on the dirt.
If you’ve got to have a horse fall with you, this was seriously the way to do it. Physics worked in my favor and I got ejected clear of the saddle and ahead of the horse, and didn’t get fallen on or rolled on. My shoulder and arm took the worst of the impact, and then my hip and my head. (Yes, I was wearing a helmet. Yes, it has been replaced.) Given the fact I went skidding down a single-track trail comprised mostly of decomposed granite, I’m shocked and pleased my tights didn’t even suffer any rips. (Shout-out for the Irideon Synergy tights.)
Horse was fine, saddle was fine, I got a few bruises, but was fine. And, shockingly, not even particularly mentally shaken up, which is most unusual for me. Hmmm. Signs of bravery and acceptance of “you may get hurt along the way, but there’s an even better chance you probably won’t” possibly making an appearance?
I still don’t know what caused it — whether he was getting tired, maybe a bit footsore, or just caught the right rock or dip in the trail at the wrong time? But up to that point, we had a fabulous ride — covering some really beautiful, fun trail at a really good clip. It was the kind of ride that had really served to give me a good confidence booster and validation of my ability to ride, so maybe that’s why I was able to be more circumspect about the whole fall thing?
Of course, it didn’t exactly help that the next time I rode, the horse (a different one) I was riding did a very nice stumble on a downhill, but at least she caught herself. Twice in a row would have just been too much.
But it also got me thinking, and generated this subsequent blog post contemplating my own riding and being a possible contributing factor to these incidents.
For what it’s worth, I would also like to get back to taking some lessons in the future, especially with a new horse…I benefit from someone else’s eyes on me, and if I’m listening to someone else’s directives, I’m less likely to wuss out and “overthink” and more apt to just “go with it.” And I know I’ve developed some very bad “lazy rider” habits over the year that are going to take some work to correct.
I’ve been riding now for over 20 years…and there’s still so much I’m improving on and learning. Fortunately horses (the good ones) are a remarkably forgiving journey.