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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