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Monday, February 1, 2010

Fear - Part 2

I never struggled with the fear of falling off or getting hurt (the bonus of ridng young).  I fell off early and I fell off often - it was just part of the riding experience.  Instead, I struggled with the fear of not being in control.  I could list them all seperately, but they all boil down to the root of Not being in Control
Conquering fear is all about facing it, and dealing with it.  Because I have a tendancy to overthink everything, I know myself very well.  I'm very nervous, almost panicky going into the situation, but once "the rodeo starts" I'm calm and even a bit excited.  Dealing with fear so long has made me actually enjoy the feeling of adrenaline that comes with a fearful situation.  I may not want the situation, but once I'm in it I'm loving it and once it's over I'm totally like "can we do that again - that was EXHILERATING!"  I'll even use that adrenaline response to help me do everyday activities - like running.  As I run I'll play a senerio in my mind that involves an andrelanine response and a smile will start to creep across my face and there's a SPRING in my step, and all of a sudden, my 3 mile run doesn't seem that bad!  I think that's one reason I love running so much - I'm addicted to the adrenaline feeling that I associate with it. 
Some fear is healthy - I like to call it caution - however some fear is irrational and instead of preventing me from getting hurt or in a less-than-desirable circumstance, it's preventing me from enjoying my riding and my horse in the fullest.  Those types of fears are what I try to confront.  Here are some of the more recent ones that I've "conquered".
  • Riding in the arena - this was truly irrational and I'm not sure where it came from.  All those turns, all those fences.  I had a panicking feeling just thinking about trying to canter or do ANY kinds of speed games in an arena.  I avoided the arena for 10 years.  Finally I started dressage lessons (which ironically, takes place in a court, not an arena).  Then I started to swing a sword and practice cavalry games.  One day, it felt right, and I asked Farley for a gallop down the fence line.  Nothing bad happened.  I'm fine now!
  • Bolting, riderless horse on a trail ride (someone else's) - I've always had a fear of being on a trail ride, having a rider get dumped, and then their horse bolting past mine into the blue yonder.  I'm not sure what my problem was.  Not being able to control my horse?  Vague images of a rearing horse that collapses on the rider and bolts after the other horse?  Anyways - it happened at the beginning of this year.  It wasn't a big deal.  I was half mounted and Farley barely even budged and just watched interestedly as the horse shot past her snorting and scooting.  I even had time to abstractly watch my aunt fall, wondering if she was going to get tangled in the fence (she didn't).  No big deal. 
  • Beef Range Cows - Like all irrational fears, it's hard to follow this one to the conclusion.  I was scared of beef range cows because.....they were going to attack me, make my horse run away, and then eat me?  really?  REALLY?  Let's be serious.  I worked cows on horseback for the first time a couple weeks ago and we all know how it went.  Well.  Really really well.  I spend all that time going into hysterics on my coditioning rides for nothing. 
My horse fears are coming along well - I've dealt with most of my horse demons and horse-related fear no longer controls me.  Next I would like to discuss a different, non-horse related fear that I have NOT conquered, and will probably continue to deal with the rest of my life. 


  1. I had exactly the same problem with riding in arenas. My background was in competitive trail riding and I never had any problem cantering or galloping out on the trail. When I started taking huntseat lessons and had to canter inside the arena I was very nervous. It was small, and I felt like we were going too fast and were going to bust through the fence. It took a long time for me to be comfortable with it.

  2. Me too with arenas! I hate them. So does my daughter and she explained it well..."you can't take a mountain kid and put her in an arena, it's claustrophobic." I think that's my problem. I have found that if I'm concentrating on something else, I do just fine. So if Estes and I are busy doing something - anything - other than focusing on the fence, we do great.

  3. Loved the last two posts, as I have been dealing with many of the same feelings. It's very encouraging to hear someone dealing with them successfully, as these feelings are very new to me. I grew up as one of those fearless kids who would do anything, ride any horse at any speed over any terrain/jumps/etc. I had a nasty fall a little over a year ago that put me in the hospital, and I have been dealing with extreme fear issues since then. So thank you for your encouraging words, they give me hope that I will be able to be the rider I used to be again someday.

  4. Amen, sister! You know the only thing worse than riding in an arena? Riding in a ROUND PEN! I am irrationally terrified that I'm going to hook a foot on the fence and ~snap~ break it right off.

    I do still worry about bolting off a cliff and dying. I might always worry about that.

  5. Mel, I really relate to your fear of not being in control. My biggest fear (justified: it has happened to me) is that the brakes in my rig will fail. I still have nightmares about it, usually when I feel "out of control" about other issues in my life.

    What I've learned: you can't control everything...but if you obsessively check equipment, you might not have to test this statement quite so often.

    (I will now take a break from reading blogs while I call and make an appointment to have my brakes checked...again...)

  6. It feels so good that I'm not the only person with problems in the arena! I felt like I was the ONLY one dealing with the problem. funny, I have EXACTLY the same image of my foot getting caught and snapping off too.....

    Breanna - I'm not going to offer empty words of "Of course you will get there!" but I will say that I think even if you never regain that fearless ride anything mentality.....isn't it worth it to keep working on the fear feeling and get as best as you can for the right now? I must say I will probably NEVER do some of the things I did as a teenager when I was still trying to prove to myself I wasn't scared, or trying to directly face my fear. I am more likely to dismount now. I'm more likely to say "no thanks" when someone asks me to ride their horse. Been there, done that, and I don't feel like I have anything prove to myself any more. Does that make sense?

    funder - do we have to talk about bolting off a cliff and dying? Tevis is only 6 months away you know......

    AareneX - I have the SAME dreams about my brakes failing. I never related it to the loss of ocntrol in my life though.....I've never ACTUALLY lost brakes in a real life vehicle, but my dreams are bad enough thank you very much. I had them even before I was driving and it made me relunctant to drive...I was almmost 18 before I got my licesnse.

  7. Mel - no more cliff talk, I promise! ;)

    Breanna - I actually will tell you that you can get back there. I learned to ride as an adult, so I never had the kid fearlessness - but I had the World's Best Old Gelding to teach me. Then he died and I was stuck with a green-broke freaked-out bolting psycho mare. Every single time I went to the barn last summer was an effort of will and a victory over fear. I kept bumbling along with her, and a couple months ago I started having brief moments where I wasn't scared to be up there. Now I am almost always calm, and I'm even blissed out part of the time. It's not guaranteed, but it is definitely possible to have fun on a horse again.

  8. So glad you responded Funder!

    Breanna - I haven't taken a break from horses, I have pretty much ridden continuously since I started so it's hard for me to tell you honestly that it will come back, I'm glad to hear that it CAN happen. If you don't believe Funder, you should go back and read her blog starting in ~April 2009. :) She speaks the truth!


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