Anxious Fear

So because my boots are continuing to collect dust due to 'adulting' requirements and not enough time in the day, I was recently inspired to do a brief post regarding the fine line between fear and freedom.

Although I was never a complete wild child, I certainly felt as though I was much more invincible than I am now.  I began riding at the age of 9, and my third time on a horse I was cantering bareback over jumps made out of lawn chairs and 2x6's on my best friends driveway.  I was fearless, balanced, and dare I say - perhaps a little talented.  Winter came and it all ended due to the weather.  However, that Christmas I received a booklet of riding lessons at the local stables, and I was hooked.  I still remember nearly every moment of my first lesson, and though I was nervous I still gritted my teeth and loved every minute of it.

bb Kidd
As time passed I had the privileged of riding many wonderful horses, I progressed through Pony Club and competed within our region.  I had developed a small fear that reared it's head while jumping my first horse - an OTTB with a rushing problem, but I was able to push it deep, deep down and grab mane and hope for the best to continue keeping up with my fellow peers.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVED  Jumping, but it scared me.  A few falls off my horse, who loved to grab the bit and rush fences, made it hard to enjoy sometimes.  Nevertheless, it was required if I wanted to continue through Pony Club - which I did. So, I once again gritted my teeth and dug in.  It was a healthy fear; logical and practical.

Shortly after losing my first horse to Colic in 2006 I barn hopped, dabbling in multiple disciplines and expanding my knowledge in horses, horse care and - predominantly - training.  I haven't the desire or interest to dive too deeply into the root of where my obsession with fear and anxiety developed, but suffice it to say, it completely overwhelmed me for many, many years.  A dark plague that hung over my head in so many aspects of life, much like that gravitational feeling in your gut when it feels like a physical chore to push yourself to do something that scares the absolute daylights out of you.  This was a regular occurrence; this was daily life with horses. I was terrified of riding for the first time in my life.

Semi-Adult Kidd
The fear seeped into every ounce of my body.  I think I am a strong-willed person, and I was able to push through to the point of 'blending', but I was still scared.  A quick movement, a flicked ear, a calked head and oh god - the fear of the 'what if's - they ruled my life, and held my confidence hostage deep within... so deep, I didn't know if I would ever be able to find it again.  On the ground I was comfortable and confident, but the second I was on the back of a horse my life felt crackled; ready to shatter at any moment.  A fear that would often leave me feeling immobilized, frustrated and lonely.  Why?  I'm not sure. Was it the word "cant" that was so regularly embedded in my brain? Was it the loss of confidence most teenage girls end up facing?  This question will tumble through my brain for years to come, i'm sure.

As quickly as this fear seemed to appear, I awoke overwhelmed with the feeling of putting it behind me.  I vowed to push myself beyond the fear; I was tired of being 'that' girl.  I was tired of missed opportunities because I was so painstakingly overwhelmed with fear.  I was tired, period.  


I felt so unsafe on this horse. I was terrified, but would never let my friends know it.
At that time, I decided to cut the main tie that I felt encompassed the fear-causing amulet that ruled my life for many years, and start fresh.  I decided to downsize and jump in with both feet to battle this fear that encouraged me to sit quietly in the back seat for far too long.  I was going to get back into training, and I was going to succeed.  I was going to get involved, and I was going to get my life back together. I was going to find myself again.

Before that day came, I was so wrapped up in the anxiety and perplexing fogginess that I had felt was normal, and I had lived like that for so long that I thought it was normal.  I'm here to tell you it's not.  Nothing should ever be able to rob your happiness the way I allowed fear to rob mine.  You need to push yourself past it, but more than that - you have to want to.

For so long I was stuck in the dark shadows of fear; I was so entangled in my own anxiety that I didn't know it was even an option to come out the other side feeling successful.  I thought "this is me, whether I like it or not" but as usual, that was the fear talking.

Don't get me wrong, I continually straddle the line of fear and what I like to refer to as "knowledge", but that line is what keeps us safe, to some extent. I mean.. we ride horses, I never said we were smart, but hey - what else would we do with all our money if we didn't ride?!


Semi-Adult Kidd again, and mommy that can't relax her hips enough to ride his giant Canter

My purpose for this post is to address those who live with daily anxiety and fear, primarily when it comes to horses.  For years I had myself convinced that this is just who I was, but there are ways to step an inch closer to that wild-sided zone some of our friends may play within on a daily basis.  I would be lying if I said my gut was never in my throat, but there are small feats that I have accomplished in recent years that have made me really sit back and think "whoa, look how far I have come!" It's these accomplishments that encourage me to crave the confidence I need to overcome the fear and anxiety that has ruled my life for so long.

A prime example of that fine line between stupidity and knowledge with a background of fear and anxiety is this -- 2 days ago I rode Kai for the first time since March. I rode her in my riding arena, which has no solid fence around it (or any fence at all for that matter), and I was home alone.  Not safe. But, in my defense, I did text my husband and tell him I was getting on, and followed up again when I dismounted.  But regardless, it's those massive accomplishments that helps me take one 1/4" baby step towards that line of feeling capable again, and before I knew it I was dipping my toe in the crazy horse lady waters; something I haven't done in many, many years.

Kai, before our second and most recent ride; February 15 2017.  Before she learned that pulling back was enjoyable.

To dive a little deeper into that desire to push past your fears, to get to this point in my life I really needed to grab that fear with both hands and turn my frustration on myself rather than the universe and grit my teeth and commit to overcoming it.  It is terrifying, and scary, but so worth it.  I am the first to admit, I am dangerously humble and incredibly hard on myself, but I can harness those traits and pair it with the bubbling frustrating and  overbearing need to challenge my fears, and encompass all of it into an elixir of success. 

 Sometimes, things that are particularly scary, take a few attempts, and that's okay - as long as I am satisfied with myself in the end. This was the case when I got on Kai 2 days ago.  I put my foot in the stirrup 7x and told myself we were working on patients at the mounting block. Realistically, that was only about 75% 60% of the reason why I was continuing to just lean on the stirrup... I think we all know the other 40%. As Kai got impatient, I stood her up again and tried again. Finally, as time wore on and I began yelling at myself in my head, I swung a leg over. I wasn't going to allow myself to hang my head, toss my helmet in my trailer, and belittle myself for giving in to the fear.  I came face to face with the fear, and won.

I was on her, for the first time in 7 months, and I could barely contain myself.. but the little safety sergeant in the back of my mind told me to cool it.  Was I excited because I was
on her, or because I made myself get on her? Probably a bit of both.  That confidence that glimmered and tingled deep within me was exactly what I need to ask her to move; especially when she jigged around and stuck her nose to her chest as though she was going to have a negative reaction to this whole riding thing.  I'm still surprised to say her messing around didn't rattle me one bit. 2 Years ago I would have just taken that opportunity to bail because she 'might' have followed through with her impure thoughts.. but that day I pushed myself to the brink of fear and succes, and that just goes to show the improvements that I have made in taking charge of my life and harnessing my fears and learning to live with the anxiety it causes.

Finally on the backside of those big ol' dumbo ears again



Comments

  1. I think a lot of riders struggle with anxiety. It's good you are able to push yourself a little bit at a time.

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  2. anxiety is the worst, esp bc it follows no rational thought or logic. it's just.... insidiously always there. but like you say, it's not insurmountable. one step in front of the other!! awesome that you were able to get on Kai and feel those glimmers of growing confidence!!

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  3. I agree with Emma here - it's frustrating because anxiety follows no real guidelines. As someone who has been diagnosed with PTSD and anxiety disorder I completely feel for you. It is hard when things that are supposed to be calming and "fun" for us become the source of our panic and end up being something we avoid. I am glad you have been able to push yourself past your comfort zone - I was so proud when I saw your post the pic of you on Kai. I know it took a ton of guts to do, and I am sure there will be more anxious moments to come, but it sounds like you have a good "tool kit" of things to help you get past it.

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