Admittedly it took me smashing both my legs and spending a year in a wheelchair before I felt empathy for fearful riders. Although I knew all the catch phrases to try and teach someone that was afraid,- “he’s not going to do anything”, “nothing’s going to happen”, “doesn’t matter”, I really didn’t understand that it was a physical problem to be frightened, not a mental one.
It’s easy to stand on the ground when someone is fearful and logically explain why they have nothing to fear, or even what to do if they experience loss of control. These are things most people can understand and conceptualize, however; when a person has been hurt, or just has a fear of being hurt no logical understanding overrides the blast of adrenaline that shoots through their body causing a cold sweat to break out on their forehead.
If you are trying to teach, or help someone that has this fear, understand that they want to get through it or they wouldn’t be there. If possible get on the horse first and show them how quietly he goes around the arena without spooking or falling. Sometimes it’s helpful when the rider is on the horse to get them talking about something else in their life, maybe their family or their job, to distract them from the situation for a minute. This will keep them from over analyzing their ride. Put a grab strap on the saddle or a stirrup leather around the horse’s neck for them to grab if they feel the need to. If they become overwhelmed with fear and feel like they must get off the horse try to be supportive and understanding, even if you have never felt this way yourself. Everything doesn’t have to be conquered in one day.
If you are a rider that has experienced a bad fall or is fearful for some other reason, realize you are not alone. Many people feel fear and express it as anger or frustration. Don’t be embarrassed to talk to your trainer about your fears. This will save a lot of time and confusion if the fear is getting in the way of training. Never feel “less than” because you are afraid. Eventually most everyone gets to experience this most unpleasant of feelings.
It took a long time after I began riding again to feel confident enough to train a horse again as opposed to just sitting there fear struck. Fear can be overcome but it never goes away completely once it becomes a part of your psyche. If you have a bad day just spend the time on the ground with your horse and don’t let one uncomfortable feeling keep you from what you love. Get back in the saddle tomorrow, it will be a better day. I promise.
“I hate writing, I love to have written.” Dorothy Parker
Writing this blog, originally a writing exercise imposed upon me by my roommate, an avid birder that blogs daily at thebirdhousechick.com, has brought about many unexpected benefits and pleasures to my life. While it sometimes seems like a chore to sit down and torture myself with self-doubt and criticism just to get three paragraphs completed, once it is finished I feel a sense of relief and am usually inspired for my next topic.
In addition to the cathartic experience of sharing issues that are dear to me I have met so many other bloggers, and many other riders that stumble across the writings and share their comments and insights. Some of them are professional trainers and many of them amateur riders that are passionate about their journey with riding. Without the global reach of the world-wide web I would never have met these kindred souls that share my love of dressage or horses in general. The comments and e-mail I receive as a result of my small blog have inspired me and made me feel part of a community in which I have never felt included.
It was a great surprise and admittedly a source of confusion when I received an e-mail from Frances Keller, an organizer from the historic and distinguished Dressage at Devon horse show. The correspondence was an invitation to attend Devon as an “expert commentator” for the Prix St. George class held in the famous “Dixon Oval”. My first response was that the e-mail must have been sent to me inadvertently so I replied to Ms. Keller to inquire why I had been included in the group of experts that featured top judges and top competitors from across the United States. It seems she came across my website and blog while looking for Scott Peterson, a great trainer I have listed on my resume’. After reading the site Ms. Keller invited me to be a commentator as she felt that some of the listeners may relate to my point of view as a contrast to the great judges they have scheduled to speak. I am very humbled by the invitation and hope that her instincts prove correct.
Although I am nervous about the prospect of speaking to such a large audience without the time to edit and rewrite that I am afforded by writing a blog, I am more afraid of “flinching out” on an opportunity to be included in such an esteemed panel at such a dignified event. So Thursday I board the plane to face my fears and hopefully offer a perspective that remains true to myself and resounds with others.
If any of my fellow blogging friends, or others that follow the blog are going to be in attendance at Devon please let me know so we can finally meet. I consider you all part of my journey and wouldn’t be included if it weren’t for your kind words and inspiration.