Exercise four in the fear series asks "What am I afraid of?" Then it moves to refining that question into a few categories: What it is; How I currently respond to each fear; What skills I'd like to have to address the issue; Assess where I am right now on a scale of 1 to 10; Map my path to a 10
What is my biggest fear? Getting hurt so badly that I can't ride anymore probably hits the high note, but part of that is also the worry of what would happen to Calabar if I were that badly injured. Yes, there is me--and the irony of saying I'm afraid to ride because I might end up unable to ride is not lost on me. But who would love a horse that broke his rider? Who would understand and be willing to work with him if he was labeled "the horse who hurt (or worse) his owner?"
I cannot fail him. I can't fail me either.
So on to the exercise.
How do I currently respond to each fear?
Um. Sometimes okay, sometimes not so great. It would probably be easier if I just focused on what would happen to him, but I'm a little too selfish for that.
So it comes back to me. I am trying hard to just get up and ride and to challenge the fear with at least one thing that pushes me a tiny bit past my current bubble of a comfort zone. Breathing deeply, shoulders back, I ask for a canter. Crap. I lost my inside stirrup. Stay with him, relax, use your seat. Cool, I'm still on. Ask him to slow down, now.. gently.
Ask him to do something I'm scared to ask, and go with what he offers if it's in line with what I asked. Ask a little harder if he doesn't respond and correct him if it's not what I asked for at all.
What skills would I like to have? I'd like the skill to separate my mind from my body so my terrified lizard brain isn't directing my body to do the exact opposite of what it needs to do. Stop gibbering, darn it! I do NOT need to curl up into a protective ball in the saddle! I need to sit up, breathe deeply, and not wrap my legs tightly around this coiled spring of prey-animal like a nasty, ornery predator might do.
Assess where I am now. I am at about 40% of where I need to be. Some days, I'm doing really well and I can talk my hammering heart out of exploding out of my chest. Some days..well, ground work is better. I am having more days like the first part, so that's good. I'd like more days, though.
Mapping my path is actually not so hard. The main goal is to actually ride more. Nothing will get better without me getting my butt in the saddle for more hours. This is a work in progress as my real job seems to be counterproductive to my fantasy life as a cowgirl, but it is the only path to horsey goodness.
There may be more concrete steps I can take, but it all comes down to more saddle time and more sweaty saddle blankets for both of us.
A horse is a commitment. Some people think of a horse as the means to an end--be it shows or ribbons or other glories. I think of Calabar as my partner on this journey. The best path is the one we create together.