Conquering Fear

fearWhile reading Jillian Michael’s book Unlimited I came across an anecdote that reminded me very much of my experience with conquering fear in the saddle.

“One day I was sparring with my martial arts instructor on what we called “fight night”. I was basically a beginner, maybe a blue belt, and I figured he was not really going to hit me hard.  It was just practice training.  After all, I was a novice and a kid going through a tough time – right? Wrong.

Suddenly I found myself in a corner getting the crap kicked out of me.  Literally one sidekick after another was being delivered right into my stomach.  With the wind knocked out of me, I immediately curled into a ball, took cover, and started crying.  To my amazement, he did not stop kicking me. Instead he said, “Life is not going to stop knocking the wind out of you. You can pull it together and fight your way out of that corner, or I can break your ribs”.  And then he delivered another swift blow to my solar plexus.  I promise you this is no exaggeration.

But in that moment I realized that I couldn’t allow fear to immobilize me.  I had to use it as motivation to fight back – and I did.  That night I fought my way out of the corner, and I have been doing it ever since.”

Okay so it doesn’t really have anything to do with horses, but the moral of the story is relatable.  I bought Savy while I was recovering from wisdom tooth surgery with complications.  I felt weak and sick for a long time, and I hadn’t been in the saddle consistently for years.  Savy had only been backed a few times when I bought her so she was green as spring grass.  Due to my timid-ness, she realized pretty quickly that she could easily intimidate me.  Savy decided she didn’t want to be ridden past the gate.  She wanted to go out the gate to her stall.  Every time we rounded a corner away from the gate, even if it was at the other end of the arena, she would bulk and act like she was going to buck.  It terrified me.  I’m not sure how many lessons Megan and I went through with her trying to get us to round that corner.  Savy would bulk, pin her ears back and I’d curl into fetal position.  In the saddle.

Courage quoteMegan kept telling me to sit back but it was hard!  Sitting up straight while Savy misbehaved made me feel so exposed.  But I was lucky that I had someone there to push me through my fear, and to help me realize that ridding through the situation instead of hiding from it was the only way we’d get better.  If it wasn’t for Megan screaming sit up, sit up, I don’t know that I would have ever been able to ride my horse.  And it’s a really good thing Megan taught me how to ride through Savy’s sassy episodes since they continued in one form or another for a year.  When she bucks now I barely register it.

The only way to face a scary situation, whether in life or in the saddle, is with your shoulders back and head up.

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The First (unofficial) Weekend of Spring

LuxFriday afternoon found me bouncing in my desk chair, itching to get outside to enjoy the warm weather.  Frankly, I think the first warm day after winter, and especially after winters like these, should be holidays.   The snow had melted and it was nice enough to let Savy hand-graze.  I could not wait to give Savy her first taste of grass in months.  After munching some seriously dry dead grass, I decided to ride bareback with just a halter.  It went surprisingly well.  I only walked because she’d already had a training ride with Nicole that day, but she got “on the bit” in her halter and we did haunches in and shoulder in with no problems.

Then I had a bright idea.  Lets run around together in the outdoor (on foot – not bareback).  I was feeling playful and I pictured us frolicking and playing our own horse/human version of tag.  Savy did not think this was fun.  I’m pretty sure she thought I’d lost my mind and was chasing her around the arena for no reason.  That girl can run!  And she did some beautiful flying changes but once I realized we weren’t playing anymore I tried to calm her down.  She came out of the arena prancing, with her head and tail straight up in the air and snorting so much I could see the red in her nose.  And then I remembered she’s a 4 turning 5 year old Arabian mare.  It’s safe to say we won’t be playing that game again.

Saturday was perfect.  Perfect.  We rode in the outdoor with our friends Liz (human) and Maxi (horse), and then took a little hack around the farm.  Savy has grown up so much over the winter!  She didn’t act nervous or spooky outside at all…not even when we rode past the place where the cats tried to kill her last year.  Liz and I are going to try and do Trail Ride Saturdays when the weather is nice 🙂

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this on the blog before, but I work Sunday mornings at the farm.  I feed, turn out, clean stalls, feed again, bring some in and take others out.  It’s a lot of work but I love it.  There’s nothing more satisfying than leaving the barn knowing all the stalls are clean, the horses have fresh water, and that they have full belly’s.

It’s weekends like this that make all the work and frozen toes of winter worth it.

horses make life better