I’ve been majorly struggling in the equine world lately. I’ve kept quiet about it, save for a few (over)dramatic Instagram posts here and there, where I’ve asked for some advice or just basically ranted to let off steam. Before I start complaining, I want to say that my struggles haven’t been about my horse. No, Red is doing pretty well right now. I say pretty well and not very well, because he’s been a bit extra hyper thanks to Spring, and has still had his moments, but really, his issues haven’t been bad. My issues, however, have been horrible in the last couple of months. My anxiety on horses has been through the roof. I’ll have a good ride and think, man, I’m breaking through! Then I think about leaving the arena, or doing something different in the arena, or cantering, and I feel sick to my stomach. My horse hasn’t done anything to cause this. I’m this way on other horses. I rode a dead broke, well trained, old lesson horse at my old barn the other day, a horse that kids ride, and I was nervous. Almost too nervous to even trot. On our last ride, I struggled. I was nervous, I kept thinking that my horse was going to bolt. Which he really doesn’t do.
My horse, all things considered, is a good horse. He has his issues, but every horse does. I’m never going to find a horse that is so dead broke and trained that it never does anything that would cause me to be nervous. And really, Red is the horse that I’m most comfortable on. I have fun on him. 9 times out of 10, when I dismount, I’m smiling. These problems are mine, not his. I’m not angry with him, I’m angry with myself. Angry with myself for being an anxious wreck, for not being brave enough to push through, for being stupid and not trusting my animal who has never done anything to instill such a fear in me. This horse follows me around the pasture like a dog, he lets me, and only me, spend all evening with my arms wrapped around him. He trotted after me in the pasture the other day, during a moment when I was genuinely thinking about his future with me, and if I was truly the best person for him. It felt like something out of a flipping Flicka movie. A girl dramatically sighing about her hard life and wanting the wild horse to go run off into the sunset and get away from her, and the horse running to her instead. It was stupid and cheesy, and it made me feel guilty. If any horse has ever showed any sign of loving it’s owner, Red has done that hundreds of times in the 3 years that I’ve had him.
I have no confidence in myself at all. Despite the fact that I’ve helped my horse improve a lot, I like to cut myself up and say, “well, anyone could make him do x, y and z.” Anyone could get him over his fear of hoses. Anyone could get him to trot pretty. Anyone could get him to do this, or this, or this. Honestly, most people could’ve made him improve better. Faster. A better rider could have him cantering around everywhere, meanwhile, I’m holding him back. Me. This isn’t his problem, it’s mine. But when I even entertain the idea of someone else on him, of someone else dealing with his sweet itch, or feeding him, or taking care of him, it just makes me sad and emotional.
Yesterday, I made a vow to myself and to my horse, that I’d push myself beyond one fear when riding. Just one. Whether that be cantering, or simply getting closer to it.Or leaving the arena, or trotting in a pasture. I’d do something that scares me, I’d live, I’d dismount and feel better and know that I pushed myself, and I did something, and I am fine. I put on his old hackamore, the one he came to me in that I rode him in for the first…2? years, because my mother reminded me of how great he did in it. I accidentally put it on backwards so it’s backwards in the photos I took before I mounted, but I swear, I fixed it before I rode. Pictures were too cute not to post, though, and he was sweaty and nasty in the photos I took after. 😉
I rode alone, knowing my fears would be better if I was riding and only dealing with me and my horse, as opposed to my mother’s nerves, or the constructive criticism of other people. I didn’t bother worrying about my EQ as much as usual, or how great Red looked. I only cared about overcoming my issues. I warmed him up, then asked for a jog to see how he was feeling in the hack, and he listened better than he has in months. He went lap after lap in the arena with no sassy moments at the gate. After 30 minutes of me talking myself up, I asked for the canter. I felt myself holding him back, and he went into a fast, extended trot and I could feel him basically saying, “okay? you’re really asking me to canter? This is a thing now?” and I could feel him holding back. I asked again during the next lap. Same response. I know if I would’ve let go a bit more, he would’ve cantered. Probably without an issue, considering his entire attitude that ride was more along the lines of “yes ma’am” as opposed to “I’m going to kill you if you make me canter.” That sort of thing.
Normally, this is where his problems start. When I ask for the canter. But no problems surfaced. I lived. I got over my fears enough to ask for more speed, to ask him to do it. And while we didn’t canter yesterday, I still pushed back a fear and overcame it, even though it’s small.
I forgot to get my mother to help my lower my stirrups (they are screwed in and it typically is so stiff that it takes a team, lol.) so they were way too short, but regardless.
I rode for an hour, I let him go faster than I have in months. For the first time since my lesson, I pushed back some fears and trusted my horse. And today, I’ll push it back even farther. I made myself a goal, to canter him a few times in the arena by the end of June. It seems like such a small thing, compared to y’all who are setting goals to jump 3′, or set a new incredible time on barrels…but once I overcome this, I can start dreaming bigger. And I will.