OK, I'm back. Nice quiet ride on Pete. He's a nice kid.
Fear. We talk about it here, we talk about it on Fugly Horse of the Day, it buries some of us. I have had a couple people ask me how they can work on their nerves.
It kicks our butts, doesn't it? The biggest jolt I had was when I realized it had a lot to do with age. Up until a month ago I rode day in, day out, horses of different kinds and ages, year after year.
Guess what? Every year my gut level fear gets a little higher. I have always had a little rumble in my stomach before the first ride on a young one. Now that I've hit my fifties its a friggin' avalanche. Same for getting on problem horses. It gets tougher and tougher.
So what's going on?
Well for one thing, I'm smarter than I used to be, I bet a lot of you older riders are too. I have seen wrecks and crashes and disasters. I have lived through the same. I know what can happen now. Not just on a horse, but in a car, going for a run in the park, living on a flood plain, you name it. Life gets scarier as we age.
So then we add horses to it.
I think fear is a reality and we have to accept it in our aging bones.
So what do we do about it?
I am a little bit of a maniac on my horses. I feel safe doing stuff that a lot of people don't.
I am also accepting of my limitations, (or learning to) and am trying to embrace them.
I have given myself permission to NOT do a bunch of things that were a constant in my life just a few weeks ago.
I'm not starting colts anymore. My daughter is going to start our colt next fall. I'll take over when he's going along, and I feel comfortable.
I'm not riding crap anymore.
We have to be realistic. Poorly bred horses with bad conformation add a whole new level of risk to the situation. Ewe necks, thick throatlatches, weak stifles, weak loins, cow hocks, bad minds, slow reflexes, lack of physical ability, all of this and more can add danger to my ride.
I like nice horses that are bred and built the way they should be. Even though you can have problems on any horse, it's the Fugly's that adds that extra dose of danger.
I'd be fine with owning a Fugly that somebody else proved to be a nice horse, it's just not going to be me anymore.
I'll ask for help, even if I have to admit I'm afraid. I'm old enough that I can let my pride go now.
I'm just riding my horses from now on. I know them, I feel safe on them, so I'm staying there.
That's some of how I'm handling my own fear.
I do have a basic point or two I'd like to make.
First about fear of riding itself.
We just have to ride. If I'm so scared all I can do is sit on my horse for a minute, then that's what I'll do. Every day I will get my horse out, saddle up and sit on her. Eventually I will take a step.
Scared or not I will do a little as often as possible. Eventually I'll be able to do more.
Remember Peg? My scaredy cat/brave woman who has worked so hard to overcome her fear? She called the other day. She was at a Ranch Versatility Clinic. She took her horse, loped after a cow, and roped it. Son of a bitch. I am so proud. We started working together over seven years ago. She would walk, me at her side, clutching the horn and shaking. Now she's on a Ranch Versatility Team.
Guess what? Every day she does as much as she can. The next day she does the same.
You just have to get out there, even if all you can do is get them out and brush them. That's more than the day before.
Second, fear of showing.
Now there's a can of worms. Showing is a scary, scary thing. I used to throw up before my class. I used to be so scared I couldn't think at all, I couldn't remember my patterns, I couldn't focus on the cow, I was just a mess.
Eventually I realized a few things.
One: Nobody really pays much attention to you. The only people who watch are the ones rooting for you, so why worry about them?
Two: You are paying the judge to watch you ride. The Big K used to make me ride into the arena, look the judge in the eye, smile and then ride. In my mind I had to be shouting, "Look at my horse, it's the best horse you've ever seen!" He wanted me to send that message to the judge with my eyes.Riding Sonita made that a tough enough deal believe me, but it works.
Three: SLOW DOWN. Slow your thoughts, your movements, your breathing, your horse, your mind. Breath deep, slow, and steady.
Four: Show a lot. Small shows, local shows, whatever. Just get in the ring in front of a judge and go. It gets a little easier every time. I promise.
Five: Realize you are not showing against your fellow competitors, but with them. Everybody is in the same boat. It really comes down to you and your horse. Showing off what you've been working so hard on....so have fun. Really, I mean it, have fun damn it.So there's my thoughts on fear. I have one more thing to bring up.
Lasting Light said: Would you consider writing about horsey topics other than training? Here at the Southern tip of Africa my favourite horsey forum recently had heated debates about the virtues of letting horses live out 24/7 vs stabling them at night, blanketing vs not blanket, riding with a bit vs bitless etc. I love the way you think things through and apply your years of experience, so would rather like to hear your thoughts on these topics. And of course the thoughts of other readers too! How do you do things where you live?
Africa? How cool is that? I would love to get a reader input thing going on some of these topics. What do you guys think? I've got opinions on all of the subjects mentioned above, and I'd love to dive in. Let me know.