Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Final Steps- The Secret

I've been holding out on you! There is the dark secret to this whole "program" deal....one I hoped to avoid.... but there is no hope! It needs to come out....

Here it is....

There is nothing easy or simple about getting over an unreasonable fear of horses.

There is no easy fix.

This program wont help...much.

It is damn hard! Ultimately, when you meet your fear, eye to eye, there isn't much that can help you stare it down besides the absolute and sure belief that horses are worth it.

You have to make a touch decision and ask yourself if your desire to ride, or to do a specific sport, or even own horses is important enough- if you get enough from it to justify the inherent danger and risks you put yourself in when handling or riding them. Are you willing to put in the time, energy and money? The blood, sweat and tears?

If the answer is no, stay home. It is not worth the risk, the effort or the pain if you are pushing yourself out of pure ego, or stubbornness.

It was hard enough to sit on a horse, terrified to the point of tears, yet still willing to cluck him forward when you are decided on that question...it would be near impossible if you were not.

If you are going to walk through the fire, or swim through the shark infested waters, you'd bloody well be cock sure that there is something waiting for you on the other side!

If the answer is "Yes, they're worth it!" - then you need to face your fear head on, armed for bear, and PUSH!

Step 8- Push!! wh00-wh00-wh00- PUSH! wh00-whoo-whoo!!

(that is my pathetic attempt to imitate Lamaze breathing)

Push against your fear! PUSH past your fear! PUSH yourself! You are going to have to fight for it! You are going to be scared! You are going to want to give up! You might get hurt! You will have set backs! You are going to need to adopt a little Nike and "Just do it" or a little cowgirl and "Cowgirl up" or a little redneck and "Get'r'done!"!!

It is not easy but I believe it is possible. You just have to want it enough. And these steps helped me get there by giving me a game plan... I still I had to fight the war, (my fear), but having a plan, tools, help, baby steps, strategies... they helped me get there. I hope that by writing about them this past few weeks, they might help someone else one day!

The last two steps are easy ones....

Step 9- Reward the Try!

How many times have we heard a trainer or clinician say "reward the try"? I have, many times. Just like so many things in life, what we do for horses, we should also do for ourselves. Like buy a new pair of shoes and a get pedicure every six weeks! Exercise, take a nap in sun, cut back on the grain, and use a fence post to scratch your ass!! Right? Right. Where was I?

Reward the try in yourself. I needed to learn to say, "I am proud of myself" for doing something as simple as mounting my horse and sitting there for a minute before getting off. That was a big step for me. I could have felt like a chump and called myself a big baby! But instead I had to recognize that I tried and reward myself for it (chocolate is a good reward, right? *wink*).

I was scared but I did it anyways. And I did it again, and again, and again. I deserved to be proud of myself for that. I received encouragement from my friends and family, for which I am very thankful, but ultimately I needed to reward myself, and my spirit, for trying just as much as for my successes.

Which brings us to the final step. Remember in Step 3, when I said that I had to define success so that I could know when I had finally reached it? So that I didn't just keep pushing past my goals without stopping to acknowledge how far I had come?

Well, way back when I defined my success! Want to know what it was? I wanted to have fun on a horse again. Fun. Joy. Happiness. Love. Comfort. Contentment. Elation. Fun.

What is the point, if not for that?

Step 10- Remember why.

Remember why you love horses....Why you are trying.... Why you must succeed! Use this step as motivation to get through all the others.

This isn't the last step, it is the first and only one that really matters. This is what is going to get you through the greatest challenges. This is the motivation, the light at the end of the tunnel...this is hope.

Why would I ride horses, if not for the love and reverence that their fleet limbs and heart inspires within my own? If not for the bond that fuses me to him- so that when he runs, pure of mind and ardor, our spirits run together? If not for those heavenly moments wherein there is no definition between where my body ends and his begins? For the awe of their beauty or for the solace I've found in the touch of a downy muzzle against tear streaked cheek? Horses are for me, absolutely worth any risk their infinite strength or lightening fast reflexes present. To feel that magic is one of the greatest joys in my life...a joy I lost for a little while but thankfully found again. My hope is that on my last day, and on many days in between, I will have been touched by that magic- by a horse.


  1. C-You have done a wonderful job with your ten step program!!

    I really like #10. I think a lot of people forget that part sometimes. We are a goals driven society and sometimes the simple things get lost as we focus on our goals. For me, having Shooter around has re-awakened my desire to just hang out with my horses. True, I lavish a lot of affection on him, but I find myself spending more "down" time with all my other horses too. Even Moon seems to appreciate it and he has never been an "affectionate" horse. But maybe I'm the one who has changed??

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  3. Nice Program!!

    I am really bad at number 9 - reward the try. I hardly ever. But it sounds like fun perhaps I will next time I am pushing against some inner fear of mine.

    I like number 10 too - its always in my mind - ALWAYS - it drives almost everything I do, that one I am really good at. Its so strong that it almost over powers any fears that I may have floating around in the back of my mind.

    I think its different for different people, how you naturally approach fear and all. In my other life I am a reformed adrenaline junkie - a Mountain Biking - Snowmobile Hill Climbing - Rock Climbing, Tree Skiing, Bungee Jumping, Mud Racing, JUNKIE. Not always the best mindset for someone as accident prone as me. I get little rush off each risk I take - so I am motivated a little differently.

    It's a wonder why I never got into barrel racing?

  4. Teeheehee...I like your Lamaze breathing technique!!! I was more like "Get. It. Out. Of. Me. Now!!!!!

    Ah yes. Step #10. Why we do the crazy things we do. All of my non-horsey friends think that I am a nut to like horses because they are so dangerous. I tell them that it is not all about the riding...it is about the connection.

    For some though, it is not enough. I have a good friend who rode her whole life, and then was injured pretty bad by her horse in a drill team performance. She is a mother of three, and had to ask herself if horses were worth it, and for her they were not. She's done. Maybe one day when her kids are grown she will come back, but for now she has swore them off.

    And reward for trying?? I do that everytime we finish galloping like wild banshees down the trail. I'm like "See?? You are still alive and in one piece, and most importantly, you are still on the horses back." LOL!!! I give myslef pats on the back all of the time! :) I'm a nut, I know!!!

  5. smile and nod, smile and nod, smile and nod (in understanding). Excellent.

    Just like kids, it's all for the love of the beast :)) There's no manual that tells you about every situation, but you give pretty darn good guidelines.

  6. I love your program! I need to reward the try, and I need to push. I have trouble pushing. I get comfy in my 20 meter circle and don't want to venture out of the safety of it. And 10 is the best! Great 10 step program!

  7. Rewards... I don't reward myself and maybe that's what I'm doing wrong. I am harder on myself than my trainer. I know what I should do, what I'm capable of, what I've done in the past and I expect that of myself.

    Thanks for the reminder to reward myself as well.

  8. Excellent post! (Standing ovation and clapping!)
    Have you thought of gathering all that info and selling it to a Horse type magazine? I think it would be a great article. Try Julie Thorson over at Horse and Rider or the newest magazine-Gowgirl Living
    If you need help doing the formatting, e-mail me off line and I'll tell you how. It's super easy and magazines are always looking for good articles. They have twelve issues to fill!
    Once more- Brava!!!

  9. Quite the 10 steps. I have had to do a lot of this throughout my lifetime. I have had a horse slip and fall with me when I was an indestructable teenager, sprained my ankle, but it didnt give me pause then. I had my mare go over backwards with me in my 20s, that did give me pause, and butterflys in my stomach when I went to get back on a horse, she stepped on my arm when she got up and I fainted afterwards and had a siezure from hitting my head, it did cause me some problems mentally.
    I had a car wreck that I was busted up pretty good in, hit by a drunk driver, and horses helped me heal I think, push myself to get better so I could ride again.
    And this last year I had brain tumor surgery, and I believe having horses ( and a great husband) helped me pull through this too, I still have issues but have ridden again and will continue to do so. It hasnt been easy, and I could have given up at any time, but I guess its not in my makeup, pushing through the fear is something I have done alot, I dont know about the reward thing, I dont think I have not rewarded myself, my horses and still being able to have them is my reward.

    great posts, a lot to think about.

  10. Thank you for Step 10. I've been feeling very down and I needed to read this.

  11. Gosh...another good one. You even made me cry...in a good way, I assure you.
    You really should consider sharing this with the thousands of horse riders out there in a magazine article or short book. You are THAT good.

    I think it's so easy to talk myself out of riding again or owning a horse, but then I realize that I have waited so long to get my dreams to come true and I haven't yet satisfied those dreams and yearnings. A year with horses was just not enough. They are like a drug for me. They hurt me and I still want more time with horses anyway.
    I start to think I've lost my mind when I think about how devastating this injury has affected my life, my family's lives.

    But the satisfaction of just sitting on my horse bareback in a field while she grazes gives me the biggest smile and feeling of peace. Riding out on the trail together with the sun on my face, surrounded by nature, just me and my horse gives me a sense of freedom that I can't duplicate.

    How can I give that up?

    No. I can't.

    It's going to be an uphill journey for sure, but I must keep the end in sight. Remember what I'm working through and for what reason.

    If I never rode again or gave up my horse, my heart would feel empty and I would know that I gave up too soon. I don't think I could live with that.