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September 06, 2022 5 Comments
The line I'm referring to is the balance between complacency and anxiety.
You can be too complacent with a horse, even a good horse, because if you let down your guard too much you might find yourself, like I did years ago, on your backside, catching your breath with your "calm" horse running off to greener pastures.
The story goes like this... I was almost home and feeling quite tired from a long, successful ride gathering cattle from the mountains. As we rode those last few miles back, I noticed myself relaxing more and more into the safety of the moment with a great horse. Then, before I could gather my wits, my horse stepped on an underground nest and bucked. With reactions too slow, I found myself landing on my backside, then dragged for a few steps with my long rope reins tangled in my arm. My horse made his way home without me and I limped home short on everything but embarrassment.
The morale of the story, when you let your guard down too far, even on a good horse, you trust circumstance to protect you. But Murphy's law suggests that is exactly the best moment to be reminded that circumstance is not always there to protect you but to teach you. So... be more alert, ride awake, stay energized and focused.
But the coin can flip over too far, from complacent to anxious. Riding with your guard up all the time has its own set of consequences. Namely, you dare not be a leader when you're most needed. And, if pushed too far, you may give up riding altogether because the thought of riding is too intense. If you find yourself in this state, there is a way out of it. I know the way because I've been there.
As a natural trainer I often get the most challenging horses to rehabilitate. The kind of horses that both fear and disrespect humans. The kind of horses that have a history of injuring people, one such horse even had a person killed. Not on purpose of course, but that kind of experience sets a tone for how you work with the horse, and eventually, all horses. They are literally capable of the worst case scenario and when the fear and pain set into my own blood, coupled with injuries of my own, I found myself not asking horses for anything outside of extremely easy tasks on fair-weather days. Eventually, I faded even further to not riding at all for quite some time.
That kind of anxiety makes you yelp with the smallest unexpected movements from the horse. It isn't healthy and luckily there is a path to recovery. Part of that path is finding small successes. Part of that path is rediscovering your own strength, balance, and stamina. It's not gone, no matter your age. You can recover those things and play at a new level you might not believe you can achieve. But you can! It's been done. You can do it too.
But here's the kicker... You'll never go back to complacent. Once you've been hurt, you'll never be able to shut off your senses completely. This feeling leaves many people believing they will never enjoy their horse again. They believe they have to be totally chill, like they were before, or as kids, but let that go! You'll never have that sense of ignorant based confidence again. You'll always be more alert, more careful. That's a good thing.
All this leads to the simple concept that there is a fine line between complacence and anxiety. We call that line "alert, calm, and proactive." This fine line is within your reach. All you have to do is let go of your need to be bullet proof like you were as a kid, and at the same time, slowly build back your muscles, your balance, your stamina, your flexibility. You can do all that from the comfort of your living room. Or hire a trainer to help you get back to a fit state, mentally and physically.
Here's the thing. Do you really want to let go of riding horses because it's a little scary? NO! You don't want that! What you want is to feel brave, confident, sure! You want to enjoy the majesty of the horse-human connection! You want to be free of anxiety. We are often jealous of the ignorant who seem confident and bulletproof. They often don't fear because they've never been hurt. But true confidence doesn't come from ignorance. True confidence comes from experience coupled with a dedication to not let gravity hold you down.
When you get bucked off, get back on. It's not about the horse. Let that go. Take all the time you need to get back on. Get your horse right first. You don't have to prove anything to your horse. You have to prove it to yourself. Prove to yourself that gravity will only hold you down when you've lived your full life. Prove to yourself that you are capable, passionate, playful, and brilliant at your core. Don't give up. Believe! Believe! Persist! You'll never go back to complacency but the journey away from anxiety and back to that fine line between complacency and anxiety is a worthy journey! Take it with me. Join me. Follow your heart!
Ride the line!
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