Battling Fear
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, January 26, 2009 11:08 AM
I wanted to tell you this story for quite a while by now. After all those technical blogs I thought it would be a good thing to change the subject. It happened during winter about 6 years ago. I had another horse, a youngster, whom I was starting under saddle. Unfortunately, things didn't go really well and he bucked me off twice during a course of 6 months. The bucking came very sudden, as soon as I settled into the saddle after mounting him. They were hard and fast and I fell with quite a force. This horse was almost 17 HH tall and other than those bucks he was very nice and quiet fellow. Very easy to handle or start under saddle. I'm telling you all that to set up a stage for the next act. These two accidents really shaken me and my confidence. Of course, I sold the youngster and continued riding my nice and reliable Colonel. However, one time in the field, Colonel took off with me and threw in a buck. I didn't fell and I stopped him. But, it was the last drop into my full cup of rising fear. Next day, I'm about to mount my horse, my pulse racing, my hands shaking, my legs limp. I rode anyway. I clenched my teeth and I climbed into the saddle. It took me about 10 minutes to calm down slightly. I rode for 30 minutes and didn't recover completely.
And so it was. Every time I'm about to mount. I thought my heart would jump out of my chest. I felt miserable, it was torture. Because of cold weather I had a good excuse to cut my riding. I tried to reason with myself that Colonel would never buck like the other horse did. It didn't help. I kept riding and kept being terrified of mounting. I started to consider giving it up. That felt even worse. I was hoping that may be if I do it for a while and nothing bad happens I will calm down. Weeks went by, nothing changed. Riding was torture all the same.
The cure came suddenly and from absolutely unexpected side, from my horse! I was finishing one of those miserable rides of mine and I decided to go for a 10 minute cool down walk on a trail in the pine forest on my property. About half way through Colonel suddenly raised his head and stopped. Approximately 100 feet ahead on the trail was a bull moose. He stepped out from behind the trees. I must tell you that moose and Colonel did not mix well. All our previous encounters usually ended up with jumping up and down, trying to run somewhere and not listening to the rider. To make the scene more dramatic I had a few dead trees laying along the path with branches sticking out inviting me to become a human on a stick. I still remember how my heart stopped and dropped all the way down my boots. I probably should have dismounted but that didn't occur to me then. What I did is I grabbed Colonel's mane leaving reins long and I left it to my horse to decide what to do next. We stayed like that for a few seconds, staring at each other, me and Colonel staring at moose and he is staring back at us. I'm sure it was just a few seconds. However, I thought minutes passed by. Colonel didn't move, moose didn't move... At last, the moose turned and run into the woods. Colonel took a deep breath and walked on. I rode back home and I cried. My horse whom I was afraid to ride protected me when he was given absolute freedom of choice what to do and no guidance what so ever. That walk in the woods was my turning point. I started to recover from my fears.
My recovery wasn't instant. It took me a while to be OK to mount Colonel. Next winter I visited Frances and rode Andalusians and Friesians she had in training. That helped me even more. But to this day I have to get a grip when I'm mounting unfamiliar horse that does not have enough respect for the handler on the ground (from my point of view), especially, if the horse is big and powerful. Recovering from the fear made me aware of my flows toward horses. How I did not respect their nature enough and did not learn from them enough. I'm still working on these things but the journey is so much more fun and productive. Another benefit from my battle with fear was my search for the better seat. I decided I must learn to ride better. I started studying human anatomy and biomechanics. I found Mary Wanless work. Things just accelerated from there.
Colonel will always hold a special place in my heart but looking back I must say I have to thank the youngster who bucked me off. If he didn't put me through the ordeal I would not be where I am right now.
Happy riding...
Comment by Sheila Edmonds on Thursday, January 29, 2009 05:17 PM
This story made me laugh and cry, Irina! You, your darling Colonel and that big moose! You always seem composed to me, so this story of overcoming fear was a wonderful revelation.
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