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It's not something I like to talk about...😕
But we all have that "thing" that scares us with horses, right? For me, it was the canter transition. Seems silly, I know. Leg back, ask...worst case, you go really fast and cluck and kiss. But what if he won't canter? Or bucks?
All of our fears stem from an experience. Sometimes not an "actual" experience, but how our mind perceives what happened. I had this horse, Daimler. Big gorgeous warmblood, ex-jumper now third level dressage horse. And one day, he just decided he hated me. All right, maybe he didn't decide that. But, he did decide he wasn't going to canter for me. Ever again. Never. Ever. He would canter for everyone else. Anyone else. But not me. So we embarked on this journey of the canter transition.
I don't remember how long it took. Or the amount of money I spent with several trainers (two REALLY big name ones), that told me it was all in my head. Literally. I couldn't get past the fact that I KNEW he wouldn't canter for me no matter what I asked. I felt defeated. Stupid (I mean, I'm an ex-barrel racer for God's sake! And I can't make this horse run?). I felt destroyed. I was embarassed to ride in front of anyone. No shows, no clinics, no lessons. My trainer at the time told me I should give up on this horse or sell him to someone who could make him canter.
Fast forward several ( like a whole bunch) of years. Moved back to Houston, started riding again. I had a huge 18 hand Oldenburg that was the most incredible partner. Every time I got nervous or anxious about a test, he was like "Hold my beer. I got you." When I couldn't trust myself, he made me look good. But, I'll be honest...I still had that niggling fear every time I asked for canter. Would he? Wouldn't he? And he did, every time. But then, the unthinkable happened.
Walking him back to his stall after a bath, he slipped going through the stall door and fell on his back. He rolled and scrambled to get up while all I could do was try to give him space to find his feet. And then as he finally was able to stand up, he was so freaked out that he scrambled and fell on the other side. I'm sure it all happened really fast, but like being in a car crash, I watched everything in slo-mo. I remember thinking "Oh my God. He's going to break his legs." I finally got him up and back into the stall where he stood shaking uncontrollably, bleeding from his legs and back. I was crying uncontrollably while dialing my vet.
It was a back fracture. We didn't know if it would heal. We didn't know if we would be able to bring him back. But I loved this horse. He had carried me through all my show nerves, made me look good everywhere we went, he even helped me pass my PATH Teaching Credentials after failing miserably the first time because...guess the news...I couldn't get both canter leads in my riding test (Third Level dressage rider, ex-barrel racer, can't make the horse canter). He was worth the work.
It's wasn't a short process, but finally I could get on him again. We worked on the lunge line for weeks building back muscle, testing weight bearing with a saddle, riding at the walk, moving to the trot. He loved being back in work. He was forward, willing, and strong. So I decided we were ready to try a little canter. Enter my deep dark demon. It reared its ugly head with a vengence. So with much fear and prayer, I asked for the canter from the horse that had never, ever said no.
He didn't let me down. He broke into a canter that within about 4 strides got faster and faster and I knew something was wrong. And before I could really regain control, he threw a bucking fit that any rodeo horse would be proud of. And I ate dirt. Well, to be fair, it was a really nice arena with very fluffy footing. In case you were wondering, it really does make a difference when you land.
I laid in the arena and asked the question that any horse person who has fallen asks themselves…”Am I dead?” My helmet was intact, I could move, nothing seemed out of place. “Where’s my horse?” Standing there staring down at me like “Hey. Why are you down there?”
If you’ve never taken a spill from an 18 hand horse, let me enlighten you. It’s a long way down. A long way. Six feet down to be exact. And then add propulsion. It was scary. I’d love to tell you that it all worked out for us. But, it didn’t. After 3 more spills, I was scared all the time. Even though I adored this creature, I never wanted to ride him because I was scared. At my age, I realized that I didn’t bounce quite like I used to. Nor did I have a desire to. So my magnificent boy earned retirement.
Enter Tino. I leased a few horses in between. A Friesian who…guess the news…hated to canter. A supposed Grand Prix horse that was just a straight up jerk (and not a Grand Prix horse). And then, by some aligning of the stars, I found Tino. He was like a fire breathing dragon. Beautiful, flashy, movement to die for, and a total headcase. After weeks of ground work with him, I finally called the trainer I had worked with previously and laid it all out for her.
“Ok…he’s incredible, but I’m not riding him first. I’m pretty sure he’ll kill me.”
Ivy: “Does he do anything stupid?”
Me: “Every day. I need you to ride him for a week or so and tell me if he’s too much horse for me. If you say he’s not for me, I’ll sell him right now. But if you say you can turn him into something, I’ll keep him. I just need to know. He’s my dream horse, but you know the deal. I can’t come off.”
Well, the short version of the story is I kept him, rode him, and he really was my dream horse minus the head case part. (Shout out to Ivy who I’m convinced will ride anything!) It got better, but he still wakes up on a new planet everyday. Bless his heart. When Ivy called me to come ride him the first time, I was terrified. I won’t lie and I won’t sugar coat it. I was f%$#@^ scared. There. I said it. I shook the whole time I rode him.
Walk was good. Trot was freaking amazing. Now she wants me to canter…… STOP. Like right now?
Ivy: Yes, right now. When I say. (Acts like nothing is going on. Very nonchalant)
Me: Oh wait. No. I’m not ready yet. Maybe not today. I mean the trot is good.
Ivy: Yeah. You’re ready.
Me: Thanks for having confidence in me, but I…
Me: (In my head) OMG!OMG!OMG!OMG!OMG!
Ivy: Here we go. And CAN-TER!
Me: I think I’m too scared.
Ivy: I know.
Me: (in my head) Mother %$^&%. *^&&%@$@ **^^%^ (At least I think it was in my head.)
Ivy: Come here.
Me: Any excuse to walk. I feel like I’m hyperventilating. No, seriously. Like I really am.
Ivy: I know. But you’re ok. (Never changes her tone. Like soothing a child, but less sing songy because she doesn’t do sing songy) You can do this. He can do this. You’re ready. And his canter is his best gait.
Me: (almost in tears) I don’t think I can.
Ivy: You can.
Me: Ok. (in my head) well, this is it. Here’s where I’m going to die.
I trot off, still hyperventilating. And every time she says Canter, I miss it. And the Fear Demon laughs.
So, Ivy says something to me in that moment that was the crux for change for me. As I am trotting like a wild woman around the arena, out of breath, tears running down my face, she yells to me…
I KNOW YOU’RE SCARED. DO IT ANYWAY.
Do it anyway? You mean, like, even though I’m losing my mind?
And I sucked up everything in me (and yes it took that much) and did it scared. AND HE CANTERED!!!! Now before you get too excited, it was like a car accident. I freaked out, snatched the reins, halted him after 3 strides and almost fell off in the transition. But I did it. And I did it scared. Terrified actually! But I did it. And then I did it again and again and again. And I did it for 2 years after and fell in love with my horse’s canter.
So, are you waiting for the happy ending? Well, I still get butterflies every time I canter. But I don’t hyperventilate. I don’t cry. And I don’t make excuses. I just do it scared.
There will always be fear in your life. There will always be things that you don’t think you can handle or go through. But you know what? Do it scared! Are other people scared? Hell yes they are! Why do you think Nike’s slogan “Just Do It” became so popular? Because EVERYONE has fears that keep them from living their fullest life. But successful people learn to do it anyway. Do not let your fears set your limits. Do It Scared! Whether it’s a canter transition, a new job, starting a new business, leaving a bad relationship, learning something new…Do It Scared. You may still hear your fears once in a while, but you’ll be the one laughing.
Drop a comment and tell me what you’re going to do scared!!