When I opened my eyes, I saw the fence post right in front of me.
That's when it hit me: I had escaped serious injury or even death by a mere few inches!
Earlier that day, I was riding in my neighbor’s arena, showing off what my Quarter Horse gelding Chris Whisper and I had accomplished over the winter. With a big smile on my face, we entered the corner of the outdoor arena at a flowing, rhythmic trot, and I asked Whisper to move into a canter. He willingly complied UNTIL he saw the irrigation pipe hidden in the high grass on the other side of the fence!
All I remember is that Whisper tilted his head to look at the scary object - and I ended up in the dirt… My neighbor, an accomplished barrel racer and roper, said: “Don’t you let that horse get away with this nonsense. Get back on that horse and hold the reins tight!” She instructed me to move into the round pen and remount.
Every Fiber of my Body Told me it was NOT a Good Idea…
But there I was… doubting my own gut feelings.
I told myself: “Obviously, she must know what's right.
She is older and has way more experience than I do!
You are just being silly..."
I got back on my gelding, who was still tense and tight from being frightened by the horse eating irrigation pipe AND me falling off somehow. I shortened my reins, and – within seconds – he spun, reared, and I flew through the air, landing with my face first in front of the arena fence post.
The good news was I healed quickly on the outside; nothing happened that a couple chiropractic adjustments couldn’t fix! The “inside” of me was a completely different issue.
I proceeded to ride, but immediately started dreading it.
The joy was gone. My heart was racing every time I got on a horse. My hands were sweaty. The butterflies in my stomach did backward flips!
After a few weeks, I had another scare: A plastic bag blew into the arena! My confident and super quiet gelding Harley simply lifted his head to look at it. He didn’t even move. He didn’t shy. He didn't tense up. All he did was raise his head to check out the plastic bag.
I found myself crying in total panic, unable to get off my horse!
Afterwards, I was frightened to death every time I put my foot in a stirrup. Thus my journey began…
My first thought was: “I just have to get rid of this fear. It cripples my life!”
That is simply unrealistic, wishful thinking!
After the accident, not only was I scared to get on a horse again, I also distrusted myself deeply. After all, I had allowed my neighbor to talk me into something I knew from the bottom of my heart was not safe to do.
All this happened over 20 years ago. Since then I have seen it over and over again in myself as well as my students. Whatever shows up in our HorseManShip is created by the patterns we live in EveryDayLife. What's not working in our HorseManShip, isn't working in our EveryDayLife. Back then, I was simply unable to set boundaries. Saying no was almost impossible...
My journey to regain my confidence, learn how to set healthy boundaries and grow into my true authentic Self is a story for another blog. For now I would like to start with my Top 5 LEADMare Confidence Tips to keep you (and your horse) safe and sound:
(Photo by Coco)
FEAR IS A GOOD THING, it keeps us SAFE
If I HAD LISTENED to my own, inner gut feeling, I would not have remounted my horse and I would not have ruined my own and his confidence in the process!
So my first advice is: TRUST YOUR OWN INSTINCT! The split second you think, I should get off (or I should not get on) … FOLLOW YOUR OWN ADVICE!
And yes, there will be well-meaning friends, riding buddies and maybe even family members who will tell you otherwise. Don't listen to them!
All my students have these three things in common when they come to me
(and I can so relate...because I did all of them as well!)
Here is the thing: Others will not be able to help you regain your confidence once you lost it! The good news is: You can always get back on. You can learn the steps how to regain your confidence, step-by-step.
Horses are our hobby, our enjoyment. We don’t have to win a contest to be the bravest, most daring one. Especially as we grow older, we know that we are not invincible, and we don’t bounce as well either... What we do have is more life experience and therefore wisdom.
Tip Number Two: LEARNING IS SOMEWHAT UNCOMFORTABLE.
Usually we either avoid our fear or we push ourselves regularly into Panic Zone without knowing it.
No learning takes place in our comfort zone (where we still are comfortable, that might be at home!) and no learning takes place in our panic zone (riding when you already feel butterflies on the ground).
Only you know where your learning zone begins and your comfort zone ends. Don’t let anybody tell you where that is or try to push yourself past it. Do not allow your Self to push you passed that small opening of learning.
Be prepared to feel a bit uncomfortable, not a lot!
Thoughts of avoidance, butterflies, stomach pain, sweaty hands, increasing breathing or holding your breath, your heart beat changing to a faster rhythm…
these are all signs that you are at or beyond your threshold.
Fact is wherever your comfort zone ends, wherever your “threshold” is, that’s where the learning will take place. Take small, small steps over and over again, until you feel NOTHING.
In the beginning, my threshold was actually in the house, thinking about going outside to the horses. I would find excuses:
The wind is blowing, I don't have time, I should do this instead...
It will be vital for you to find these SMALL thresholds and resolve them prior to moving on to the next step. Maybe that will be entering the barn or being close to your horse. For example: One of my students' thresholds was getting out of the car to walk to the barn.
Here is what happens when we do not observe those smaller thresholds: Our brain will create MORE fear, more anxiety, more stress... because it wants to keep us safe.
Step in and out of the house until you feel nothing. Walk to the barn. You feel butterflies? Walk back to the house... re-approach... until you feel NOTHING.
Then your job is to find the next threshold!
Resolving my thresholds around going and being at the barn, my confidence had increased to the point where I was able to hang out with my horses on the ground and eventually do groundwork.
My biggest threshold was to get on my horse again...
I felt pressured by myself and others to get back on... Often, we give into the pressure (setting boundaries I could not...) and sooner or later another scary incident or even accident happens.
Remember, my second, scary experience?
It happened because I was told I HAD to get back on...
And I also hear this story from students over and over again: Scary incidences happened again and again prior to coming to me because they did not know the steps to regain their confidence and gave into pressure and traditional advice.
Would you like to chat with me what a personalized plan for your situation could look like and how I could help you? Please don't hesitate! I'm only an email away. Just send a quick note to [email protected] and I will be happy to do a free 15 minute discovery call with you!
Tip Number Three: BE KIND AND GENTLE TO YOURSELF. Rome wasn’t conquered in a day! It will be important to take the time it takes. Move closer to your goal, one step at a time. Even if it means you miss the 4th of July Parade, an amazing trail ride or the show all your friends go to… you get the picture: It will be worth it in the end! SLOWLY increase your comfort zone. Staying in a fenced arena, with a supportive buddy, is a great way to start and progress from.
Tip Number Four: ONLY RIDE WITH OTHERS who understand what you are going through AND who are willing to adjust to your needs. Along my journey to regain my confidence, I also realized that I had difficulties setting and maintaining boundaries in daily life. I did not have the confidence to speak up to my neighbor, who obviously meant well…
Nowadays, I understand that I am the one who is responsible for my own well-being.
I make sure that I set my Self AND my horse up for success!
And Last but not Least: All these principles also pertain to your horse. Your horse has to be trusting and confident in you, in order for you to regain and increase your comfort zone. Your horse will experience thresholds, too. Again, if you push yourself or your horse too far away from the comfort zone, no learning will take place. That’s why we call this the PANIC ZONE.
When I sat on my horse that day, crying relentlessly, unable to get off, I had pushed myself beyond learning - and I actually decreased my comfort zone that day. That day I was in full blown Panic Mode, and my fear was even worse after this incident! My brain was constantly looking for threads... and I was stressed, anxious and nervous most of the time, even in my EveryDayLife!
Horses will engage in self preservation and self protection when they are anxious and afraid.
THAT'S WHY ACCIDENTS HAPPEN IN THE FIRST PLACE...
Along with understanding our Self, we need to understand our horse and adjust to her needs...
Regaining my confidence taught me about life in general. It taught me how to assess a situation, how to set myself up for success, to engage in never-ending self development, how to set and maintain healthy boundaries...
Through it all I found joy in riding – and life – again. I am a better person because of a fence post that almost “hit me in the face” – literally speaking!
Along the way, I met Dr. Patrick Handley, Personality Assessment Expert, Founder of Insight Institute and Co-Creator of Humanality with Linda Parelli. Patrick's Insight Inventory® Program helped me so much to understand my Self and why I do the things I do.
As a result, I became a Certified Insight Inventory® Coach.
Let me assure you: You CAN achieve your dreams, in your HorseManShip as well as your EveryDayLife - and I am here to support YOU!
AS ALWAYS: I LOVE to hear from YOU!
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(because LOVE makes everything better,
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I am looking forward to connecting with you:
Hop on over to the Community to share your thoughts. Sharing your thoughts will help you to solidify your newly learned knowledge AND will also help others. This is how we grow a wonderful tribe where we help each other...
If you prefer to comment in private, just sent me a quick email to [email protected] . I'd love to hear from YOU! Remember, I am here to help and I have the tools to support you on your journey with a step-by-step approach, no overwhelm and the how-to-knowledge to set you up for success:
A 15 minute discovery call how to create an individualized plan for you, is just an email away!