Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Thursday, October 28, 2010

In the Arena #31 - The only thing we have to fear...

I rode Val in the "new" arena on Sunday. A milestone. The not fenced arena surrounded by woods at the back of the property. The scary, scary woods. The arena that so far we're only ever grazed (sometimes nervously) in.

We worked in our "real" ring for about an hour... focusing on leg yields, circles and energy. Also breathing. In fact I did a bit of singing for Val. If his swiveling ears were any indication, he enjoyed my Sunday songs. I enjoyed how singing regulated my breath.  It was a very productive ride, and my seat felt great.

I had asked my friend to come to the barn and stand by for me when I made the switch to the other arena... thinking I'd be more confident with someone else there, but at the last minute she called to say she couldn't make it. I said f*#@ it and off we went. My plan was to mount and just stand, which would have been enough for me. However Val was falling asleep with his lip hanging down - no nervous blow up in the works - so we spent 10 or 15 minutes walking around in both directions. Success!


When I brought Val home last fall, he was the mellowest, calmest horse. Very steady. Our first week together we rode through the woods and straight out to the beach. It was blowing 25 mph, he'd never seen the ocean before, yet he behaved beautifully.

Fast forward a few months. Due to my bad judgment, Val and I had a disastrous trail ride. I shouldn't have ridden that day at all... there were people hunting all around us in the woods and my companions were not supportive of or patient with us. Plus Val was high as a kite due to indiscriminate supplement use.

There was bolting - the others cantered off leaving us behind while we were fertilizing - then an emergency dismount - so not popular with Val. Things went further downhill, culminating in a sky high buck and me hitting the dirt. Hard. My insides felt disconnected. And I didn't have a helmet on. In the matter of a few minutes I had done serious damage to our relationship...

Ever since then,  I've been struggling with fear and confidence issues. And trying to earn Val's trust back. The difficult thing about fear is that it can create the thing you are afraid of. Kind of a which came first, the chicken or the egg situation. Also, you can't really pretend you aren't afraid.

My goal is to gradually spend more time in the new arena, until we're working there exclusively. I also have plans to make our way off the property and down the road to the trail, incrementally, until we're back trail riding again. When I got Val, I wanted to spend as much time trail riding as riding in the arena, and eventually to trail ride solo to the beach. Our setbacks have been disappointing, but character building as well. That's the thing about horsemanship. If you stick with it, you must face up to your shortcomings. If you want to become a better horseman, you have to become a better human.


  1. That trail incident sounds very scary. Maybe you can find some good, considerate trail companions to help on your first forays - even a walker who would accompany you could help. You're right to take it slow, but you'll get there step by step.

  2. Great plan - so glad you're feeling successes as you go!

  3. Congratulations on conquering the scary arena with no incidents. I think it's great that you serenaded Val, it's a good way to focus and breath and I would say that it helps you in overcoming the confidence issues you might be working through.

    Your ride and fall sound scary and it's easy to see why you might have some fear left over to deal with. I hope I don't sound like an obnoxious know-it-all because that's not my intention but I did a post back in '08 about confidence issues and you might find a small tip that you could use (or not). Here's the link if you're interested:

    Good luck with your plan of spending more time in the arena with Val and taking it step by step.

  4. Good for you! Sounds like a great step forward. I struggle with the same issues with my own riding. P and I haven't had anything traumatic, but I don't feel nearly as invincible as I used to around my horses.. but for some reason just having someone in the ring, either teaching or watching makes me waaaay more comfortable to push ourselves..

  5. Kate-

    I have gotten a number of invitations to ride the trail since the incident. Needless to say I'm super cautious, both because I'm not sure about them, and because I would hate to impose my issues on anyone else.

    Bright side is we're getting closer all the time, and I've learned a lot of good lessons.

    I wish you could accompany us ;)

  6. Arlene-

    Thanks so much for referring me to that very helpful post. Lots of good advice, from the comments as well. I feel "confident" that I've been on the right track after reading it.

    Didn't mention in my post, but after getting bucked off I did remount and ride - once I figured I wasn't hurt too badly. I thought the longer I waited the harder it would be...

  7. Gingham-

    After reading about you and Pia for a while I have been impressed with how you move forward even when she isn't totally cooperative. Very brave and inspiring.

    When Val and I are at my trainer's, I feel 100% confident. It totally translates to Val, who is so relaxed I have a hard time just keeping his feet moving lol. Not being on your own makes a big difference for sure.

  8. I just found your blog, via a path I don't even recall right now, and oh, can I relate. Just reading this post, it sounds like we have major topics in common (and, of course, we're not alone, either.) It'll take me a while to catch up on your story, but I will.

  9. I was badly injured in a fall several years ago. It rattles you. I found the best therapy was to educate myself. Knowlegde is power. When you know what to do and your body knows what to do, the fear vanishes because you know you can handle any situation. It's a long road to get there, but it's worth it.

  10. Hi Muddy K-

    We do have lots in common! Will be catching up on your story soon as well. Thanks so much for stopping by :)

  11. Shannon-

    I totally agree. My vacation this year is a five day clinic with my trainer - riding twice a day - and I've requested longing for all of my afternoon sessions. Hoping that a more secure seat will lead to a more secure mind... and probably seriously sore hips lol :)


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