Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jess-2, Fear-0.5

Fear and I are doing a dance, but bit by bit, I'm reverting to my true nature and starting to lead a little more. It has not always been this way, no. There have been many times over the last couple of years when I've let myself chicken out when faced with a situation I think could get squirrely or even one that just makes me a little nervous. Sometimes the scenario mirrors one that caused Bar and me trouble in the past, and sometimes it's just something unfamiliar. I'm not proud of giving in to the fear or hesitation and I could cheat and resort to only writing about the times we are awesome, but we won't start to work past anything if I don't start by admitting I still get scared sometimes.

The thing is, I'm coming back around to the conclusion that I can handle more than I think I can.

Calabar says, "Duh." And, "Phew, it's about time you figured it out."

Over the last couple of weeks, I've faced a couple scenarios that previously would have caused me to back away--riding with folks I don't know, and having another horse in the round pen when I'm working with Calabar. Both cause me anxiety and I've used both as an excuse not to take him out, but I decided to suck it up and deal instead.

Last week, I got to the barn in time to ride, but saw the lights on in the lower barn and a few cars there, indicating I would have company in the arena if I chose to ride. "Urgh," I said to myself. I could just smooch and go home, no harm, no foul. But.....

Bar hadn't been out in a few days and I needed to be a big girl and do this. It would be a learning experience, right? And he's been really good lately. And we both needed OUT. I needed out of my medical-industry-nonsense brain space and he needed OUT of his blanket and paddock.

Yes, please, and thank you. Now.

Being around other horses has been challenging for us, and I'm not sure how much is him and how much is me being nervous because I'm afraid he's nervous and will react to the other horses. I know he's a herd animal and that other horses are interesting, exciting, and possibly competition. He has had good days and bad days, but has gotten progressively better over the years with more and more exposure. That night in the arena, he showed interest in the other horses and riders while we did our ground work in the round pen, but he didn't show off too much and kept his head in the game. I got on and we stayed in the round pen to do our work, during which a little bounce-spin told me that was a good plan. He thought he was done after that, so I worked him some more to show him he wasn't. We finished up our ride and I told him next time he could go out with the other horses if he was good. "I was good," he said. "I suppose you were at that," I sighed, realizing I should have trusted him a little more than I was ready to. Something to remember next time, though.

The other night, after I'd warmed him up in the round pen, saddled him, and gone to get on him, the barn owner's wife came in to lunge her Quarter Horse mare. Bar is particularly weird about horses lunging in the round pen. To put it bluntly, it freaks him out. No, I have no idea why, but I've levitated with him enough to safely say it's low on his list of favorite things.

So I thought it prudent to stay on the ground until I could see how he was going to handle this. Daisy is normally fairly sedate, but she was frisky and Calabar's eyes became large brown saucers. However, he didn't go anywhere and even moved forward a few steps to check out what was going on in the round pen. In fact, he was really good and I was about to get on when he heard someone clang the gate to the outdoor arena and I became the center of a short-lived Thoroughbred tornado. Only one circle, actually, at the end of which he tripped over the mounting block and looked suitably embarrassed.

I did get on after that, and we walked, and he was somewhere else--e.g. not with me. You know. Me. His rider. So I got off and lunged him again a little in the round pen, which he thought was truly boring. I told him I was scared, and that I really couldn't get hurt again and he bumped me with his big head as if to say, "It's okay, I know." Then I got on again and he was most excellent. Once again, I realized I could have trusted him more than I did. "Sigh," says Calabar.

In between those two scenarios, we went on a trail ride that was not only physically challenging for all of us, but provided much-needed non-arena time.

Today there was no scary situation, no hurdles, just lazy Calabar and me in the arena. We did a tiny amount of ground work, then I climbed on bareback and worked on feeling his front feet. He worked on trying to figure out what I was up to and pointing out when I was scrinched over to one side. "You're doing it again," he said. "Crap, you're right," I said, pushing down into my seat bones, pushing my shoulders back, and uncurling my spine.

It was all very relaxed, even the tiny (and I mean tiny) dip-spook he did in the back of the arena because he could hear-and-not-see someone out there.

Bit by bit, I'm taking the lead back from fear. All with the help of my big, fuzzy, brown mirror. And a little faith in myself tossed in for good measure.


Sarah said...

After I stopped staring at his picture (dayum, you've got a handsome boy), I read your most excellent post. You guys are so adorable together-I totally know the trepidation of working with other horses in the arena, especially explosive horses. It sounds like you guys won't be batting an eye at these experiences very soon. Go Team Jess and Bar!

Suzanne said...

Wonderful and inspiring... you go girl! Thanks for sharing!