One of the concepts offered up in this book is that you absolutely stay where you are not afraid or anxious. This one is going to be tough for me, my default is to push through things and attempt to fix by doing more, not less. But, taking an emotional inventory is the starting point.
Before you can begin to address your fears, you must be able to identify them clearly
Since I’m pretty good about being honest with myself about what scares me, I have a head start on this one! Most of my fear and anxiety is with Neuf, but some has crept in on the other horses at speed.
I am afraid I’ll be launched when Neuf bolts and bucks. Now, this is a very reasonable fear. It has happened twice, admittedly over the 2.5 years he has been under saddle, so not regularly, but in this case, this is definitely a case of “fear is common sense in disguise”. The logical part of my brain says that so long as I keep my stirrups shorter, I can ride as fast as he can gallop and he is a pretty lazy horse so isn’t likely to go for too long, but I need to get my emotions caught up to the logical brain.
I am afraid I can’t ride an athletic horse. A horse’s reaction time is way faster than a human’s and I’m scared I’ll fall off when the horse spooks.I tend to stick quite well, I’m not sure where this fear started, but it is probably linked to the series of falls I had.
I’m afraid that other horse’s behavior will trigger bad behavior in my horse…and I won’t be able to ride through it. Horses do tend to be monkey see, monkey do sometimes. Neuf is particularly prone to over-reacting, and I know that my anticipation and dread are worse than the spooks.
Identify the moments when you become anxious while working with your horse
I have a touch of anxiety when galloping (not cantering) as the past 5 falls I’ve had have been at a canter or gallop…3 of them cases where I felt I had no control to stop, one the horse fell, and the last was one of those “I can’t believe I just came off!” With the exception of the falling horse, I had too-long stirrups, which contributed to my getting catapulted off. Doug Payne’s book Riding Horse Repair Manual helped jog my memory on that one!
I’m anxious at the water at Morningside, the site of one of my falls, I didn’t feel scared after that fall, but I had mega bruising and the last time I went up to that water I was considerably more anxious than Neuf’s behavior warranted. I realized it is the location in this case.
I am anxious when there are other horses playing around in sight of where I’m riding. Even riders going down the road worry me on Neuf. In the spirit of staying in the fear free place, maybe I will consider getting off and walking when I am worried. Neuf stands up to fences, I can get back on, and it worked very quickly last weekend when I did that. I felt less anxious and got back on within 3 minutes of getting off.
Be as kind to yourself as you are to your horse I don’t overface my horses, why do I insist on overfacing myself?
Also record your positive emotions
I am loving jumping again! Neuf is fun and that power that is scary when he bolts is nice when jumping fences.
I am giddy after a good ride and most rides are good.
I actually can and do ride through most spooks and resistances. I still have a lot of stickability!
I have made lots of positive progress in my riding skills and love the improved communication with all the horses, this is very satisfying…and sometimes surprising.
Oh, and as a footnote, I’m embarrassed that it makes me cry to admit I’m scared.