Friday, July 12, 2013

Turning a page on fear

Life offers ongoing lessons and life with horses tends to provide multiple chances to find out just how much there is left to learn. Since he bounded into my life in 2007, the road has been interesting for Calabar and me. We've had ups and downs--definitely a few moments of fear and frustration, but so many more of absolute joy and connection. He greets me at his gate every day, always ready to ride, always willing to give a good snuggle.

He really gives the best hugs ever
It has not always been easy, but from day one there has always been something between this big brown horse and me.

In fact, the very things that drew me to Calabar--his energy, his big presence, his straightforward attitude about the way things should go--are the things that have also led to our more painful incidents. The incidents, of course, led to fear, anxiety, less riding, and so on.

I'm still not where I want to be--galloping along at full speed, carefree and laughing--but I am riding more and enjoying it. I am learning to push him and trust that he'll respond and even if that response is a little belligerent, that I can handle it.

So far, it's working. He's happier. He's excited to be out with me and hasn't even really tried anything evil. He's a little lazy, but he doesn't get mad when I push him past it. He is attentive and responsive and relaxed. Maybe even a little relieved that I'm taking control so he doesn't have to, both of us responding to the ever-increasing level of trust.

Well, he looks good anyway.
Trust has been hard. Trust in the form of cantering has been vaguely terrifying and the mere thought of cantering in the outdoor caused hyperventilation. I had not cantered in the outdoor arena for, well, forever--afraid that Calabar might just take off. Or more specifically, that he would take off and I wouldn't be able to control him. In the indoor arena--a more contained environment--there has been cantering and jumping. There have even been various pranks and silly episodes worked through with as much grace and confidence as I can ever muster.

But the outdoor? With the scary bushes of doom and the wide open spaciness? Oooo.. shiver.

The other day, my friend Allie (who has been riding both Lena and Calabar) said, "Just do it." So I did. And my horse was good. Even when I got a little off-balance, he kept a happy face and moved forward in a relaxed and calm place.

Unlike riding motorcycles, leaning into the turn on horses is not necessary.
Then I slid off his butt backwards just because I could and he sighed and said, "You are ruining the reputation of crazy Thoroughbreds everywhere." I told him it was his fault for taking such a rookie and turning her into a huge fan of crazy Thoroughbreds. So much of a fan that fear is just not an option any more and trust continues to build on itself with every step.

Bar says, "You're embarrassing me."
Next we will try some jumping because I'd like to be a part of something that makes my horse smile this much.