Tuesday, April 19, 2016

What Do Wednesday: FEAR

I have been trying to write a recap post for days now, but my video editor froze on me and I gave up, so this is not only a video-less post, but also a recap and what-do all wrapped into one!

For the first time together, and his second time ever, we hauled out to the park for some XC schooling this past weekend. It was a blast and I have so many things to discuss I don't even know where to begin.

For one, it made me realize how lucky I am to have such a wonderful group of riding friends, and Supertrainer to lead us in our eventing journey.

Horse friendz, I needz dem

For two, I realized I am in worse shape than I thought, and breeches are flattering on no one. Additionally my position has gone to crap and I really need to hike a hole or two up and work on releasing again. Jesus.

like, what is this. GM would scoff
Third, I am absolutely, 100% scared shitless of cross country.

One hundred percent certifiably terrified.

I didn't really realize it until we had finished our canter sets to warm up and we all began on a very simple log exercise to warm-up over fences. The third fence was a roll back turn to the tiniest triple bar on earth and my heart absolutely dropped when Supertrainer was explaining the exercise. You want me to to jump WHAT? Are you fucking insane, I'll die!

You'll notice he's mostly naked now
So I sat there watching everyone else do the warm-up, literally shaking in my boots, dreading my turn. When it came, we cantered over the baby logs, turned for the triple bar and promptly came to an easy halt before the fence.

I about burst into tears. ALL of my insecurities, worries, doubts, fears bubbled to the surface with this one refusal and I cried/yelled "HE JUST DOESNT DO.... THIS... I CANT DO THIS" and Supertrainer calmly asked me to come at it again and my barn mates cheered me on and he sailed over it, rather awkwardly because I can't ride for shit apparently, but no questions asked, went right over like okay mom

sheer terror. I mean seriously look how massive that fence is

OH OKAY so when riders actually ride, horses actually jump. Noted.

Thats the hard part though.

So then we added in trickier things, like a log pile on a bank/hill and even bigger logs after that.

Barn mate jumping the even bigger logs
I instantly was like UH shit no, I am NOT jumping that, I will die. And Supertrainer sternly said, "Monica, Bacardi can do this, easily, you're going to do this" And I was like nope, not gonna. So she gave up, like a good trainer should because I was obviously terrified.

Then one of the girls spoke up and asked me why I was afraid and what happened to make me so afraid. And I sat there like...uhhhhh, I really don't know. I really don't know.

We moved on to other fences, and he refused a few at first. But it got easier, and I was realizing it was mostly my riding affecting my horse. He was having an absolute BLAST and once I got my shit together and realized the baby fences weren't my impending doom and my horse could literally jump over any of them from a standstill (which he did at each stop), I started RIDING.

The exuberance
In-between fences I kept thinking to myself, WHAT am I so afraid of and WHY? Death? I used to jump four feet with no question, no doubts and no fears. I have done this a million times, over much bigger things. I loved it and it was fun. Bacardi jumped without question when I actually rode well, so why was I like this?

more baby log piles

super unimpressive log
I think the root of my fear is failure. So many people have had doubts about this horse, myself included, and I can't stand the thought of proving them right. I have risked a lot with this horse, and I just want to succeed with him. Its a natural human thought process; we don't want to fail. But if I think about it, I have already come so far with him, I feel as if I have a already won.

Then there's the nagging self doubt. Oh that self doubt, you won't leave me. Typical female self doubt that just exists to torment me. "Oh you're too fat for those breeches. Ohmygod you're position is terrible I bet everyone is thinking about how terrible your position is and laughing to  themselves. Oh wow your horse will never amount to nothing and you were stupid to buy him. You'll never be successful, so  you might as well quit now"

Like a crazy person.

Then theres the immense pressure to compete and prove that worth, and having tons of successful friends who show doesn't help. I used to love showing, but right now, I can't really decide if thats my end all be all with riding. Like what is the actual point? To win a $2 ribbon and be $800 poorer? Okay....

Then I think about actually competing though, and my heart actually starts to race, not in a good way. I watched a friend post a video of  her start box departure on Facebook and I felt my heart contract with fear. Hearing that countdown, I was terrified and had flashbacks from my XC days with Yankee. Which were never bad, to be honest, so I have zero clue about what is happening in my brain.

When I see people posting pics of them from shows over Novice fences I am like holy mutherfucking shit no way that is Novice. I literally never want to jump that, ever. What really freaks me out is Training level, like WHEN did those fences get so massive? I did training for 5 years and not once did I think "oh I might die today on XC". But now, beginner novice fences have me like, NOPE.

So what is wrong with me? Did I grow up and realize life is fleeting and riding is terribly dangerous? Am I scared of failure? Do I just not like riding anymore?

So after all that thinking and pondering while riding, we came up to this incredibly simple log (whoa a log again, its getting wild) in which Bacardi over jumped by a mile and then blasted off on landing. He was so totally and 100% overjoyed that he let out some squeals and some hops and was so proud of himself I couldn't help but smile!


such majesty

such impulsion

many leaps

It was then I realized that my horse was not afraid at all, in fact he loved it. After that, I relaxed a little and found that I took was having fun again. Then, he surprised me with no reaction to the ditch at all. None. He just glided over it like he had been doing it forever. That was cool. I can dig it.


I still have a lot to work on, and being more positive with my inner self, pushing away the "demons", but I think I might be getting there again. I don't know how I feel about competing anytime in the near future, but I will admit the XC was pretty fun. I am sure some of you know how damned hard it can be to believe in yourself and that you're not a totally horrendous rider, but thats how I am trying to conquer this fear of XC head on.

So dear readers, what do you do with your fears? Do you face them head on? Do you shrink away from them? Do you find something else that works? Tell me, what do??

That all being said, we are going to KY this weekend to have Supertrainer ride this time (Event only 3 weeks away!!) and get some water schooling under his belt. I can't wait to see her ride him over fences!


  1. Girl, I'm right there with you about being terrified of XC, so absolutely no judgement here! Anyone that knows me knows that I am incredibly fearful of riding outside an arena: I rarely join people for trail rides walking around our property because I'm afraid that Roger (or whatever other horse I'm on) will gallop away and I'll fall off and get dragged on the ground and hit a tree and die...it's the same reason I will not EVER school XC, even if the logs are 6" high. NOPE. Point me at a 3'6" Swedish oxer? No problem! Take a walking hack around the property? FEAR. FEAR EVERYWHERE. Granted, I have never had a horrific experience riding outside the arena **knock on wood** so I'm not sure where this fear comes from, but I think I'm mostly scared because regular jumps fall down if you hit them, whereas logs and most XC stuff does not (side note: I'm aware of the release pins they're using on XC jumps now, but still--solid jumps freak me the hell out).

    When I lived in Texas I rode outside the arena A LOT and I was totally fine with that, but when I moved back to NJ, I had this almost paralyzing fear of imminent death if I ever was riding outside the comfy confines of the ring.

    That was a very long, rambling, roundabout way of saying that I try to face my fears head on, as long as it's inside the confines of an arena. There isn't a lot that scares me when I'm fenced in because I know my horse can do it and I trust him immensely, but when I walk out of that gate? SHEER TERROR. I'd love to feel confident cooling Roger out on the trails, or having Sunday Funday and taking a nice long trail ride, but I'm definitely not there yet. Major apologies for the novel.

  2. I'm sure you're sick of me commenting, but we (and our horses) are so very similar. I feel like I'm under tons of pressure not only to not screw up or "break" my horse, but also to show and "get my money's worth" out of this great horse I have. What do I do with my fears? I blog about them. I try to quantify them, and break them down into concepts I can tackle. I did a lot of the "easy" stuff already - horse makes me nervous because she's disrespectful on the ground, so I demanded respect and she is much more pleasant to be around. She didn't load, and now she does. She was spooky in the indoor and ruined an entire winter of riding because of tension, so we worked on relaxation and building trust and staying controllable all freaking winter this year. Our showing issues, I felt, were because she was super green on XC - we can school SJ and dressage at home, but XC wasn't fun because it was so difficult and disappointing and I HATE having to walk-of-shame home when you stop out. So last weekend I moved barns, and we have XC on property. And she will play on that XC basically every ride until it's boring. And then we will trailer out and find some more XC to make boring. And I won't compete her again until she can cruise around XC in a relatively chill, controllable manner. And I need to do the same - my first horse left me with some baggage, and I need to stop riding the wrong horse and stay in the moment. My young(er) horse is not the same ride as her sister, and she needs different things. And if I ride her right, she can fly and gallop XC thinking she's the baddest ass there ever was, and then we can get back to achieving my T3D dreams. Hopefully.

  3. I try to tackle fear head on in non-horse situations so that by the time I get to my horse fears, my brain is used to dealing with fear and I can push through. For me, it is SUCH a mental exercise to deal with fear. I know I can, I just need to hone my building blocks so that I can fall back on them whenever I need. I gain more and more with time.

    Public speaking, leading a climb, tackling a really technical downhill on a mountain bike, and even whitewater (though that one is EXCEPTIONALLY hard for me after a certain point) are all things that I have a semblance of control over (horse adds an additional thinking mind that makes things trickier) and thus my fear can be dealt with in a kind of more controlled manner. Confronting these issues and working through them mentally helps me so much as I do it again and again. I get a little better all the time. Gawd is it ever a slow process! But I have made progress and that's what keeps me pushing forward!

    I recognize that most things that cause me fear listed above are physical things that require fitness, but I know I'm fit and capable of them all. My issue is my fucking HEAD, and my head likes to be irrational and illogical. The act of making myself be a little uncomfortable mentally (a little bit of fear) every time with each of these activities helps build me up for the long run. It's like I'm doing sets/reps of mental exercises just like you'd do with your crossfit. It starts with simple things and they build over time. I gain mental endurance to squash my fears the more I work through them and present myself with uncomfortable situations.

  4. I didn't realize I had a fear problem until last fall when I took Moe to a little schooling CT. I entered him in Novice and thought about half the fences looked HUGE.

    I realized that I had been spending so much time trying to deal with Gina's problems over fences that I had lost confidence and become some kind of jumping pessimist. Like "oh my god what is this giant house thing? Moe is going to refuse!!" I basically stopped trying to fix Gina's jumping problems, tried to jump Moe more frequently, and feel like I have the fear issue under control.

    Foxhunting all winter really helped, too. I didn't have time to think about what might go wrong while I was galloping in the middle of a group toward a fence. All the port didn't hurt either. :P

  5. I think the "it can be fun" realization is critical. If you don't get to that point relatively quickly, you need to make some changes. So yeah. Let that feeling resonate. Watch super trainer ride and have fun. Enjoy watching the first event. And then if you want to take over, great. If not, you literally do not have to event.

  6. Your pictures look amazing and totally badass. I think a small part of Fear is the natural aging process. You learn that things don't bounce, they break. You have so many responsibilities - to your job, to school, to significant others, that questionable riding activities take on a different perspective than they once did.

    Maybe stick with what feels good and fun until it gets boring and you're actively looking for more. It sounds like you have a great group behind you of barn friends and trainer.

    Wet saddle blankets are good for people, too :)

  7. Substitute cross country with stadium and this post could be mine. It's a long, slow journey working yourself back up to baller status, and I think the most important thing is not to rush it. If you have a set back and get scared again, don't try to fix it by leaping forward past where you even were before whatever happened that freaked you out. Baby steps. Boring but effective.

  8. Hi, friend. Join the club! I have written EXTENSIVELY about fear, we're BFF's at this point. And you don't ever 'get over' your fear, but you DO learn how to manage it. I think you've gotten a great start in managing your fear by re-learning that XC can be fun, and by handing over the reins to your trainer for Bacardi's first event. When you get back in the tack, don't push yourself to do something that makes you so scared that you feel like you are literally going to die. When your heart is racing and you can't breathe and your hands go limp you can't ride, and that IS dangerous. But in a safe environment with your trainer that you trust, start with things you are 100% comfortable and slowly work your way up, trusting the people who know you and your horse when they say that YOU CAN DO IT! Because you can. :)

  9. Ah, fricken fear. It sure is a bastard. The good news is, there are a few different ways to deal with it. I like the head on approach, but that doesn't have to be your approach. With xc, if I look at a fence or question too long, I start to over think it and get a little worried. Or a lot worried. So, I just don't look at it. I sit up, get my leg super on and get into a defensive position if I think I need it and just ride.

    But, that is me. If you aren't having any fun after a few tries, then just don't worry about it. Nobody here is going to judge you, and you are always allowed to do what you want to do. End of story. But, you look pretty awesome riding that dolphin xc!

  10. I never would have guessed you were afraid if you hadn't mentioned it before. You've ridden through some crazy stuff on B that had my heart in my throat just reading about them. I'm glad you managed to work through it and enjoy the schooling. I'm glad B likes it too because I know you were afraid he wouldn't enjoy it.

    I'm scared of getting hurt and dying, so I think mine is an age thing. I went probably fifteen years without falling off and then when I did it hurt way worse than I remember.... So yeah I'm terrified of falling off. My fears are of the horse spooking or acting up and throwing me or a horse spinning or bolting and I can't get off. I don't even know what I would do if someone wanted me to jump or gallop across an open field lol!!

    As far as the negative self talk.. I definitely do that. I'm so afraid of messing up I've basically done nothing with my horse. It's terrifying doing all his training on my own. As for you, I admire you and I think you've done an amazing job with B. You shouldn't be afraid of failing him because you've done far more than most people would have even tried to do. A lot of people would have given up on him and you didn't, so that is success in my book. Showing is supposed to be fun. So go have fun and quit pressuring yourself. If anything, do it for him because he obviously loves it and you know he needs a job!

  11. I don't have a real strategy. I just do things while terrified. You look great in the xc pics. I wish I had a group of people to ride with; it sounds like such a fun day.

  12. Ugh, fear. Fear sucks. But I slowly chip away. I start with what I can handle, and build up. It just takes time and repetition. LOTS of reps.

  13. I honestly don't even try to understand or explain my fear any more. It doesn't matter WHY I'm scared, and it doesn't really make sense or abide by any logic anyway. It's just plain old shitty. I just try to work through it, once step at a time - exactly like you did in this schooling. It's ok to say "no" to doing some stuff, and it's important to have a trainer you trust completely. And I always try to dwell on positives rather than anything bad that happened. Slowly but surely it gets better. My latest theory about how far to push myself etc is to focus on "confidence BUILDING not confidence proving". Good luck!

    I think I'm going to write your "When riders actually ride, horses actually jump" on my hand before tomorrow night's group lesson. ;)

    I just started riding again in January after a 10 year break (omg wtf I know), and for the first month or so I was just so happy to be back on a horse that I had ZERO fear. Gimmie all the horsies! But that initial rush has worn off (And I've fallen when a green mare I was working with at a rescue barn spooked, gotten bucked while mounting by another rescue, and stabbed in the face by a branch while trail riding), so the ol' confidence is a little shaky. I'm taking a group class to prepare for a trail obstacle show class, and I keep finding myself being SO timid with the obstacles. There's a little jump rail that's MAYBE 1 foot, and I keep having my lesson horse (who I refer to as my Little Pony Prostitute, since I pay for him by the hour) walk over it instead of jumping it. I've never been a badass jumper - I think I was doing MAYBE 2'6" back in the day, but omg, I can at least trot to and hop over a 1 ft pole.

    And it's not like I'm afraid of falling or looking silly if it goes poorly or anything else - there's just that nonspecific FEAR, and it's paralyzing. WTF, brain?

  15. Fear is the reason I don't jump anymore. I can't explain it. Seeing my horse be off and on lame has made me afraid to go to the barn. I don't want to get there just to see my horse hurting. This whole thing is so emotionally taxing

  16. And here I was thinking that you were the most bad ass of bad asses there ever was to have no fear. That was probably my fear doing the thinking for me. I think fear mantra number one is to convince you that no one else has ever been scared and is totally judging you for being scared, and damnit scared brain stop doing that to me, it isn't true! So many people struggle with fear. I totally understand being terrified for no understandable reason, I'm not actually scared to fall off, I know I can ride through most shit, I think it is fear of failure combined with possible mild agoraphobia (open places are scary as shit). I could just do dressage, but those times that xc goes well are so addictive, I just want to push myself to find that success again. I'll be over here rooting you on if you promise to be over there rooting me on!