Tuesday, February 26, 2013

FEAR

I don't know how many of you watch the Biggest Loser but I'm obsessed with it. Last night's episode was all about facing your fears. I had a bit of an epiphany while watching it. I know that I'm a very fearful person and I also know that fear comes out of an obsession about control or the lack of. When I was fifty (actually 49 but that's a long story for another time:), my husband bought me my first horse. He'd asked what I wanted for this milestone birthday and I said quickly, simply and surprisingly for both of us, "A horse!" I'd wanted a horse of my own since I was a little girl and I knew, if I didn't get one soon, I'd most likely never get one. So, the search began and I finally found my perfect horse with the help of some friends. Here begins the story, the blessings and the problems because even though I rode quite a bit as a child, it was as a child does everything, without thought and without concern and in my case, without any formal training; I just rode. As we go older, you would think that we would grow braver and less fearful but sadly, the opposite is normally the truth. I tend to over think every thing which results in worry about things that could possibly happen but most likely won't. It didn't help that, as soon as I announced I was getting my horse, every Tom, Dick and Harriet who'd ever even seen a horse was telling me horrible disaster stories of experienced riders being seriously injured and killed. Everyone offered their advice (whether fact based at all) as well as warnings. I went ahead anyway and brought my beautiful girl home after falling in love with her instantly as soon as I saw her for the first time. I'd dreamed of riding every day but the reality was, I was terrified of even trying. I imagined everything that could go wrong and everything that could hurt either me or my horse. I had an instructor who agreed to come to my farm to train me and my horse together. The first thing she told me was, "This horse is way too good for you." The second thing she told me was, "I hate teaching people like you who take up riding as adults." We were off to a great start...haha. I grew to love this trainer as a person and a friend but she wasn't the one to be teaching me because she had no understanding of my fears and she worked on the basics which was good but never addressed with me what to do if something did go wrong (in my opinion, this is the first thing that every potential rider should know.) Consequently, I grew not less fearful but more so. I'd gotten a new saddle that my horse didn't like. First time I put it on her, the English cinch, which was strange to her since she'd always been ridden with Western tack, pinched her and sent her into a panic. She literally ran over me and sent me flying through the air. So, our next ride was a fearful one for both of us and proved to be disastrous. She started bucking lightly midway through the lesson. It was a little buck and one that I could easily correct now but I had no idea what to do and I panicked. I felt totally out of control and I did something I absolutely shouldn't have done, I bailed. I thought I could jump onto the fence....very bad assumption. I ended up hitting the metal fence so hard that I actually bent it! I didn't fair as well as the fence because I broke. The bad to worse part is, the trainer insisted that I get back on and the horse promptly put me back into the fence again. This time, I was hurting so badly that I was throwing up. The trainer was going to have surgery the next week that would put her out of commission for several months, so, as soon as I healed (several broken ribs and severe, deep bruising that left nearly my entire right side black and blue for weeks was, thankfully, all of the injuries I sustained), I went in search of a new trainer. It was not an easy search. Finally, I ended up at Blue Point Stables and under the instruction of Brandy McDonnell. Brandy was a godsend because she did understand my fear. At first, it took all of my effort just to mount the horse and one little hiccup would send me into a full blown panic attack. In fact, I would hyperventilate every day on my trip to her barn. Brandy was patient and kind and she never yelled at me or criticized me. She taught me to be easy on myself, too and she praised me for every little accomplishment instead of pointing out my faults. She knew how to teach me. One day, she asked me why I was grinning like a monkey and I said, "Because I just realized that for the first time in decades, I'm having fun on the back of a horse." I still had a long ways to go but we brought Mouse to her barn for a while so that I could work with gaining confidence on my own horse, the horse I'd gotten hurt on. Several months later, Mouse developed a problem with her stifles and I brought her back to my farm. After treatment, the vet told me that I needed to ride her three times a day. I had to do this on my own. One day, I decided to ride Mouse around the big pasture because there was a hillside there that would be great therapy for her stifles. Midway around the pasture, a deer came leaping out of the brush right in front of us. Mouse side stepped a bit and snorted but nothing else. Instead of panicking, as I would have done in the past, I reassured her and turned her so that she could watch that crazy deer hopping all over the field. Then came the big test, we came to the big hill, started up it and I leaned forward, loosened the reins and gave Mouse her head. We galloped up that hill and it was so much fun!!! Afterwards, I called Brandy and told her what had just happened. She told me something that made me even prouder of myself and my accomplishment that day. She said, "I've trained riders and taken them to national championships where they've won but I've never been prouder of any one of them than I am of you today. When you came to me, I didn't think I'd ever be able to get you past your fear but today, you're a rider." I've lived long and I've had successes and I've had failures. I've known joy and and loss and sorrow but I have to say, over coming that fear was both the most difficult and the most exhilarating experience of my entire life and the one I am most proud of. Brandy also told that, when she first started teaching me, she was sure I'd quit because of my fear but I just kept pushing and pushing. I told her that I was determined that I wasn't going to let the fear win because I knew if I did, I'd be scared for the rest of my life because this wasn't just about riding. I haven't totally done away with fear in my life or its control. The truth is, it is still an ongoing battle but I'm still pushing. Living a full, fulfilling and enjoyable life is well worth the effort!

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