nobody should have to be that scared

               This sentiment, whether I said it out loud or internally, was a big influence in shaping the work I do.  I remember one of the first times I found myself working with someone and being amazed at the level and intensity of fear they were facing.

                I was giving a lesson to someone who shared that she had fear issues.  She owned three or four horses, and ran a boarding business, and wanted to enjoy riding again.  She shared some of her prior experiences with me, and then we lunged her horse together.  Then, the time seemed right, and she said that she was ready to get in the saddle. 

                She had a portable mounting block, so I brought it over to where she stood with her horse.  We got it situated just right, and she slowly and purposefully climbed up the three steps and gingerly got on.  When she settled in the saddle, I led her through some breathing exercises to help her relax.  After she seemed to be comfortable, I turned to move the mounting block. 

                I heard her say, “Don’t leave me”.  Needless to say I stopped what I was doing and looked at her.  That was when my whole being said that nobody should have to be that scared.  I put my hand back on the reins, and gently led her through another body centered focusing exercise to relax her mangled nerves.  When she started breathing again, she asked me to lead her horse for her.  We slowly started walking around the arena, with lots of checks in to see what this brave student was thinking and feeling. 

                After a few times around the arena, she asked me to walk with her, but let go of the reins.  I knew this was a big step, and took things slow and gradual.  Then, she asked me to stay still so that she could circle around me.  Occasionally I would remind her to breathe, and help align her body into a more balanced riding position.  Her smile grew bigger and bigger.

                Although I have witnessed many others take similar bold and courageous steps, this first instance stands out the most vividly.  I think it is because I knew how much it means to people to be able to wear those big smiles, and I decided I would sign up over and over again to watch those smiles (and their confidence!) grow.

being real and transparent

This past week, a client asked me how was it that I could help her with her fear issues around her horse.  She wasn’t asking it in an accusing manner, we had just had a breakthrough, and she was wondering.  In her perception, I was a confident horse person and didn’t exhibit the fear that she knew.  I have been asked that question before, and I thought that would be a great point to give attention.

Most times, I am a confident rider, that is true.  However, there are some instances where I need to apply something in order to get myself through wavering moments.  That I will share later.  First, I want to share that although my fear hasn’t always been directly related to horses, I do know fear.

I was very shy growing up.  High school was a nightmarish time for me.  Fears and insecurities walked with me every day.  The only time those feelings weren’t my partner was when I was out at the horse camp where I learned to ride.  That was where I felt like I was truly myself, and knew that I wanted to have that feeling in the rest of my life.  (Looking back, I can see how I fumbled my way through my personal growth challenges in a way that actually formulated the confidence through connection system I use now.  But, at the time I didn’t know that.  I just knew I was tired of feeling so scared of everything.)

One of the things that I did in addition to being around horses as much as I could was to get a job waiting tables after I graduated high school.  It was pretty hard to get people to tell you what their order was if you just stood mutely at their table.  It wasn’t easy, and I would have to go through a lot of anxiety to approach customers and speak to them so they could hear and understand.  I got a lot of chances to practice, and that made a big difference in how I could talk to strangers.  One of the little tricks I used to do was to imagine that we were around horses.  At the time, I had no idea I was actually using visualization to reduce my fear, I just knew that I could feel much more confident if I imagined myself in what to me was my element.

Another area where I really lacked confidence was tied to a core belief that I developed.  From how I was raised, and what I internalized, I believed with all my soul that if you were really good at something, you wouldn’t have to tell people, that they would just know.  Let me tell you, it is incredibly difficult to market a business when this lies in your heart and head. Employing techniques to alter that belief was the only option, and it taught me so much.

Around horses, something happened 4 1/2 years ago that changed everything for me.  It was having a baby.  Now, the potential of falling off and/or getting hurt created much more of an obstacle.  I was important to someone, and my physical state had everything to do with taking care of her.  That created a whole new world of “what ifs…….” for me, and changed my perspective completely.  The other big change was that my body felt different in the saddle.  It was almost as if I was riding in a borrowed body.  I know my seat bones were in a different place after childbirth.  Now, I knew apprehensions and fears that I hadn’t before.

I employed many of the mental and emotional tools that I now use to work with riders to increase their confidence level and have more fun with their horses.  The biggest thing that helped me though, was focusing on the relationship that I had with my horses.  When I could trust them, I could trust myself.  Plus, it kept me connected with the reason that I begged to be around horses and ride in the first place~because I love horses.

I would love to tell you that all of these things that I shared here are history.  They are not.  I sometimes have to dig deeper to unearth a root that didn’t get removed, and I know that will continue.  Mostly, because I have a desire to continually grow and seek more.  We all have challenges and issues.  With a little education, practice and support, we can also learn to love our lives better.  For me, horses are a big part of that, and I know I’m not alone.