Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Step Four- Define your Fear, Comfort Zone and Success

I figured that I would keep with my early 90's theme songs (Top Gun's Danger Zone being yesterdays) and pick up another classic, Free Your Mind by EnVogue.

Today's post is all about "Free your mind, and the rest will fallow!" I love the scene in the 1994 movie The Cowboy Way (with Woody Harrelson and Kiefer Sutherland) where this song is playing during a scene where these two ruff necks are at some high fluten' fashion show! Oh, and I totally want to play "Big Chief" too!


First, I think that we just have to, for the sake of moving forward, leave the Parelli/carrot stick conversation for another day. I promise that I will do a Parelli post and that we can have a rip roaring conversation about it one day soon! Actually, I am looking forward to it... I have a feeling it will be an all out smack down and I love a good girl fight! (not the pillows, feathers, and underwear male fantasy kinda thing...nor the jello or mud in a bikini's either.... ..promise!)

*ehem* (again! Sorry...just havin' one of those days)

Step Four is about addressing the spiritual and mental side of your fears. I am the kind of rider (and person) who is very much stuck in their own head. I am my own worst enemy that way because I can think things to death...and then beat on them for a while. I mull on an issue for so long that it can become distorted and hard to define....So, when I was trying to overcome my fear of horses, it was important that I break things down and look at each fears specifically in order to prevent them from getting all balled up inside of me and overwhelm my ability to physically and actively work through them.

In other words, It is gut check time!

The first part of Step Four is- DEFINE YOUR FEAR

This meant that I had to look at each and every single bad experience I'd ever had and try to understand WHY it happened. What went wrong? What could I have done differently? Sometimes there are no answers, and I had to accept that too. But understanding what has happened, looking it in the eye and finding the common thread is critical in determining how you can resolve that issue going forward. For me, that meant acknowledging that I had been handling the wrong horses. My eyes were bigger than my stomach, so to speak.

For you, that might have been that you didn't have the tools to be safe or that you put yourself in a dangerous situation.... Maybe you pushed your horse too far or asked him for too much, maybe you did nothing wrong but things went bad anyways. Either way, looking at and understanding what happened will focus your fear and narrow it to a specific issue.

This knowledge allows us to move forward in the next part of Step Four- DEFINE YOUR COMFORT ZONE

This comfort zone is going to be the foundation of everything you do going forward. You need to find one single starting point at which you feel safe, and from which you can move forward. For some this might be standing outside your horses stall door and for others it might be standing beside your tacked and ready to mount horse. Some might not even make it to the barn before they begin to feel weary. I've been there. Either way, you need to figure out where it is around or with horses that you feel safe.

In my case, that comfort zone was a place where I could see my horse and where I could protect my personal bubble. I didn't like a horse being out of my sight line- where I couldn't anticipate a problem. I didn't like a horse standing beside me or being near enough to strike me. I felt comfortable when a horse was 8 feet in front of me and I had a stick in my hand.

The last part of Step Four is- DEFINING SUCCESS

What is success FOR YOU? Each of us has different goals and ambitions when it comes to our relationship with horses. If you don't know where you are going, how do you ever expect to get there!? What do want your relationship with horses to be? Do you want to be that ubber confident professional horse trainer- starting colts and riding 'stangs! Or do you just want to be able to go out on a leisurely trail ride? Do you just want to be able to take your horses out to local shows? Or just handle them safely as pasture pets in your back yard?

Know your goal, so that you can work towards and it and, of course, so that you will know when you have found success!

I feel it is important to note, once again, how CRITICAL it is that you are handling and riding the right horse. Everything going forward is based on the premise that you are handling a horse that matches your ability and who is suited towards helping you overcome your fears.


  1. Well, it is what it is. I was going to say Poco is probably more than I can handle, but then again, I AM handling him. Sometimes it goes better than others, but we're progressing.

  2. I worry that Casey is too much. And like you, I analyze things to death and then some after it's been beaten, shredded and buried. I worry and yet my trainer tells me that Casey is just right for me. So, I trust that she's right and insist that she finish his canter for me while I take refresher lessons on her lesson horses.

  3. Well hi there Chels, I've just caught up on your first post about this subject and your core reason behind the fear issues. Wow! I feel like I've been gone a long, long time. You've been a very busy girl. This is one heck of a deep subject and as varied as a subject can possibly be. I will attempt to catch up on your posts in the next day or so and hopefully have some time to comment on my fear of my wonderful boy Ladde. I wasn't always fearful either, much like you grew up on the back of a horse. But, never had any actual lessons, just rode. Ladde is trained by me - no one else and he's big, about 1400 lbs and is 17 hands high. He intimidates the hell out of me when I'm on his back, but I am completely confident on the ground. But somedays, I feel good and there is no fear. I've been working on this issue since I first mounted him at 3 1/2 years of age (just days before I was entered in a Ray Hunt colt starting clinic with him) and talk about pressure and fear! Well, suffice it to say that there is a big and ongoing story here. But, no more time right now. I will try to get back to this. But, keep up the good work and posting. Like I said before, this is one helluva deep subject. I look forward to delving into it more.

  4. I wish I had read these posts about a year ago when I was having confidence issues with my gelding. The cause then was I thought I knew better than the old hands and got on him fresh out of the paddock a few times. He was frisky and tried to throw me a couple of times.

    I don't even remember getting over it, I just avioded riding him for a while then one day I just got him into the yards and played with him. It wasn't a serious "I have to keep him in work" it was more, "I want to go for a ride on my horse today."

  5. "Everything going forward is based on the premise that you are handling a horse that matches your ability and who is suited towards helping you overcome your fears."

    This is key. These horses are worth their weight in GOLD. Excellent post.


  6. Hey there Chelsi! (I am secretly writing this from school on my lunch break...don't tell!!)

    I think that you nailed this one right on the head. All of what you mentioned is possible when you have the right horse. Just look at!!!

    Seriously though, the horse can make all of the difference. What are you thinking of getting next? I am just asking, because you seem like you are an experienced rider who would be bored with a total dead beat, but maybe I am wrong??

    That is why I love Bo so much...he is reliable, but he can also be a handful, with a lot of get up and go...just what I need to keep me on my toes...teeheehee!!!

    PS-Oh boy!! I can totally see the claws coming out over a Parelli/NH!!! I think that BEC summed my feelings about that whole movement up well in her previous comment. :)

    Oh...and I like that picture of Woody and his ummmmm...hat!! And, I hummed "Highway to the danger zone" the whole time I wrote this. :)

  7. I think I have the same horse freaked out issue that you do. These posts have been so helpful. And I read the one before this one, and my father in law is all sorts of ate up with the "stick" and I actually tried it out the other day, and it was alright. But I love ground work. I am not scared of the ground work, I am scared of my colt.

    And now this brings me to this post. My four year old gelding has perfect ground manners. A real gentleman. I am terrifed to ride him, just in case, he spooke, bucks, or takes off at uncontrolable speeds. I get so nervous. I can ride him in the round pen, and in small arenas, but when it come to our big arena, NO WAY!! I tired riding him out in our big pasture and he did what I thought he was going to do, freaked out and bucked me off. And he ment to do it too. I am just going to have to bite the bullet and send him to a trainer and have him come back to me more broke.

    I ride my kids' 20 year old gelding. I feel save on him. And I will ride my 15 year old mare, and I feel save. I think I am really done with colt breaking. It's not my thing and it brings out the frear in me.

    I love these posts!!

    And I can't wait for the NH/Parelli post. Oh, I can't wait. I will grow out my nails!! LOL!!

  8. C-you could start doing your own clinics with these steps!!

  9. I enjoyed Step 4...moving forward positively, assertively. Me likey.

    I do believe my horse and are well matched. She's just enough horse/attitude to test me and teach me how to ride and handle situations.
    She's never bucked me off and only gives a small crow-kick/hop if she want to remind me that she's a living breathing creature and not a bicycle. I can respect that. And she will respect me, when I tell her that my opinion over-rides hers. She's been a terrific confidance builder, especially working through her barn sourness. We had come so far and it was mostly good.
    She only bolted once from a spook that rished up behind us, and I got in control immediately and she calmed instantly. We were a good team, I believe.

    What I need to work on once I'm able to get back on again is knowing exactly what to do during EVERY spook. Working on maintaining my balance at all times, especially dring sideways movement. hah!

    I'd also like to put a little less trust in my horse and more in my abilities to earn her respect and cooperation. Maybe that means moving from the Dr. Cook's bitless bridle to a bit? I think that if I feel more in control with my mare, and we're not in a tug-o-war sometimes with the bitless, when she believes it's time to go back home (before I'm ready to go home), I will feel more confidant while out on the trails.

    I would say that my first goal is to figure out a way to mount my horse without putting too much pressure on my injured knee. I want to work on the round pen and arena, focusing on regaining and building my balance by riding bareback again.

    Eventually, my goal will be to get back out on the trails again.

    I look forward to reading Step 5 to imagine how I might accomplish this.

    Thank you Chelsie :) Smooch!


  10. You and Bec should have a clinic! Ok so where do I sign up? No really, I have a pen and everything.
    Yes I am pretty lucky! I also have a really great boss, but he is more like an Un Brother! he he

  11. Just a note on defining sucess and Goal setting. I see too many people defining their success by someone else's standards. Make sure it is your success you are trying to achieve, not your trainer,your mother, your best friends etc.

    And having a BIG goal is great- mine is winning the World- but if you have smaller more reachable goals set up you are actually able to er....reach them! And nothing makes you feel as good as achieving a goal! Some of my smaller goals have been entering a horse show ( after thirty years away) then placing in the top five. ( did that last year! Yippee!) This year it is to gather at least one AQHA point on Desi! And my other goal is to place in the top ten this year ( different class- more folks!)
    Great post!

  12. Hey Chels,

    I don't think you do much with awards and stuff, but I wanted to give you one, just to let you know how you've touched my life. You don't have to do anything with it, unless you want to. It's just 'to let you know' that I think you're one very special person. :)