November 14, 2011

Courage and the Fear of Canter

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." ~Ambrose Redmoon

I think the hardest thing about fear is facing the fact that you indeed do have fear. I don’t want to be fearful and I don’t like the sense of being out of control, especially being a 30 something adult. I’ve cantered many times on Willy but have had a pretty big spill on him when his canter evolved into a fast gallop. The one time I tried to canter on Millie she did a swift right turn that I wasn’t expecting and then decided I would stay at other gaits with her and forego cantering for a while. Of course I never did end up cantering her!

Even though I had a spill on Willy I still did canters afterwards but stayed within the property boundaries where fences would stop him from the all out gallop. Thinking about it though, did I feel more secure in the canter because we were going up a hill usually rather than being on a flat surface? I know that trotting down a hill makes me a bit nervous, so cantering would as well. Going up a hill is perhaps easier to balance since I don’t feel the pull of gravity so much? Why is that?

I’ve made the thoughts up in my mind that when I cantered on Divine in the ring that one time that I was unseated because of cantering in a circle rather than in a straight line. Now I realize, especially after all this trot work, my seat gets tense in scary situations and that’s why I lose my balance. It had nothing to do with the situation. Even though I’ve had some nice canters on Willy that I enjoyed, there is still that fear deep in my subconscious that I need to bring forward and confront. I need to truly relax while riding and be able to ride up hills, in circles, on turns, straight-aways and yes maybe even down hills (though I wonder about speed and down hills on the poor horses joints!).

So today after I tacked up Divine, with more bridling issues (totally another blog post all together), I got ready to go into the arena with Laurie who had the lungeline out. She mentioned cantering a bit today and I felt my stomach jump at the thought.

We started to warm up with sitting trot and then posting trot. My legs still wiggled a bit during posting trot and Laurie had me work on that a bit. Then it was time to get in a few strides of canter. Laurie told me to hold onto the saddle if I wanted, which of course I did. With an English saddle it’s hard to hold onto it with my short arms, they are fully extended reaching the saddle and I wonder if it makes me tense up but I’m not going without holding on right now that’s for sure! The first couple times were pretty scary; one time around I freaked out and grabbed on really tight with both hands. I also lost my stirrups several times as my legs crept up from tension. Oh if I’d had a blood pressure cuff on!!

I was so scared and frustrated that the tears flowed; I felt so silly being an adult and crying like a baby from fear of a canter. Laurie understood and let us walk a little so I could calm down as she discussed that several bad falls can cause that fear and it’s natural. She related the scary fall Uschi had where she cracked her helmet when she fell. I luckily haven’t had that bad an accident but the fear is still there and is still very real. I doubt anyone who hasn’t had a fall can truly understand this concept.

As an adult I don’t have the “nothing can hurt me” mentality I did as a child. If I think back on my riding from childhood I don’t know if I ever had someone work with me on the painstaking task of seat and legs. I rode the canter and had fun but did have a few falls when things got a little scary. Perhaps I could never truly let go and relax back away from the scariness; grab a hold of my fear and settle back into the gait. That type of reaction is not “natural” so having someone work on me doing transitions, getting to the scary part and working through to a settled and “non-falling off” end is really important at this stage in my riding. I feel ridiculous crying about this fear and the frustration that “I can’t do this, it’s not difficult, what’s wrong with me” kind of thoughts.
I just have to realize that whether I like it or not, believe it or not my past falls from childhood and recent falls have stuck with me. It’s time I face up to those fears and take it from step one. Laurie is the best person to be able to help me through this. Look how far I have come with trotting, and sitting trot! I can’t fully xplain the feeling I have at the trot now compared to before. I feel very secure, sure there is room for improvement but I don’t feel a need to grab for the saddle, even when I can on the lungeline and completely hands free. My seat moves with the horse comfortably. I’m not quite as comfortable as I am at the walk, and who knows I may never be, since as gaits get faster there is always that “chance something could happen” in the back of my mind that I doubt will ever fully leave.

After the lesson I gave Laurie a big hug, still crying a little as I recovered being back on the safe ground again. I’ll get there, I will. Starting riding again in my 30’s is hard. I have the memories of the ease and fun of riding from childhood but I now realize that my technique was not sufficient back then and I was probably just blessed with the luck (or stupidity) of youth to not realize it! Now as a grounded adult taking some time to work hard at getting a solid seat and facing head on with my fears, will help me regain some of that ease and fun of riding I remember so fondly from childhood. Hindsight is always 20/20 isn’t it?

“Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow.” ~Mary Anne Radmacher


Barbara said...

Good for you! Keep in mind that the more you canter the farther you get from those falls. I have students in lessons who tell me that they can't do whatever we are working on. I tell them that if they could do it we wouldn't be working on it. Nobody is hatched knowing all this stuff. Stay with an instructor that you trust and just keep chipping away a little at a time.

Breathe said...

Based on my own rocky road, I have found that courage is not built (usually) in one big moment. It's a step by step, with some backsliding process. The only thing that matters is you have a clear vision of where you want to be and focus on lining up your efforts and thoughts to stay on that path.

You can do it. The past can't catch you if you stop holding on to it.

Skippy the Scott said...

I'm proud of you, sis! I know you will be able to do it. You are passionate about riding, and nothing is going to get in your way of accomplishing this next step in your development as a rider! Remember, as a child, they probably gave you horses with the easiest of temperaments because they wouldn't want to get sued by parents whose kids were given a horse that was a bit "ornery". So keep that in mind. I look forward to hearing when you accomplish this goal. Love ya!-Bub

Christie said...

Hey Bub. Thanks for reading my blog! It's not about temperment, Divine is actually calmer at the canter than my childhood horses. Remember Joker that would do a buck or two as he went into the canter? It's all about me tensing up and needing to get back into the "zen" of riding that used to come so naturally!