I recently got an email from a friend asking how I got over my fears and gained back confidence from an accident 6 years ago.
The accident was with a horse that wasn’t mine or even at my barn. While I was riding him, he reared up and fell back on top of me. I was lucky to only have a broken femur and a severed femoral artery (the more serious part of it all).
As I was responding to her question, I ended up writing a novel and I thought it would make a good blog post. So here it is!
After my accident I was very frightened for a long time and intimidated by lots of things that weren’t even horse related. I was nervous to fly, became an overly cautious driver and lost and the edgy, daring and adventurous side of myself. I think in a way the accident caused me to grow up and to be a lot more careful in some good ways. After you get hurt, really hurt, your brain tells you to stop doing stupid things.. So you do.
But there is an inner battle that can begin. Eventually, you’ll want to have “fun” again and live the carefree adventurous life you once had. But your brain reminds us of the pain, surgery, physical therapy and wasted time etc. from your accident. Then your heart and brain begin to argue…
Heart: “Oh! That looks SO cool!! Let’s run down that hill at a gallop and try to jump that downed tree in the ravine and then race back up the steep slope of rocks!…. Bareback!!!”
Brain: “What the hell are you thinking? If you do that you deserve to break your leg.”
This happened between my brain and heart all the time. Not so much the dialogue above but more like this:
Heart: “It’s so beautiful out today! Let’s ride outside and if Charms good, maybe we can even venture into the woods.”
Brain: “Like I said before, your horse is going to spook and fall on top of you. You’ve avoided riding outside for the past 6 weeks. What makes you think the wild prey animal you’re riding is going listen to you and not act like a nut job?”
I was very afraid. At times my own trustworthy horse made me nervous. I did NOT ride other horses under any circumstances for a couple years. As I began to venture outside without the arena as my safety net my heart and brain frequently battled it out which would leave me an emotional mess.
The accident happened six years ago and it took four years for me to gradually turn the corner and gain my confidence back.
My main concern was that my horse would squash me. So riding outside, faster than a walk was out of question. I knew my thinking was so silly, I had a good horse and I rode with other people that I trusted.
The main turning point for me was the Dave Ellis clinic in 2010. It was taking place in a large field with sloping terrain, soggy patches and COWS. Riding a spooky horse outside? Yeah, this would have gotten first place.
Was I scared? YES.
Did I want to say forget it? Oh YES.
Did I? Nope.
I pushed myself through some of the thresholds, but only the ones I was feeling confident about at the time. Over the four day clinic, we eventually ended up running all over the field gathering the cattle and working as a team with other riders. It was very organized and had a purpose, which made me forget my fears and focus on the task and fun of it all.
After that clinic, my confidence started growing and so did my trust in my horse and myself. I realized I have common sense and I have a good seat and balance. Charm and my relationship had developed enough, that I knew she’d take care of me.
Since then, I’ve enjoyed riding outside, running through the fields and trail riding like never before. That clinic was the push I needed to convince my brain not to worry so much. But it did take a lot of time, about four or five years to get there. Remember, this was my situation, everyone is different.
My main advice to anyone struggling with fear is not to get down on yourself for it. Your brain is programmed to protect you. It will take time. When it comes to horses, I suggest having some good riding buddies to help your confidence so you have plenty of good experiences with your horse. Take lessons, ride in clinics, try new things!
Heck, I got my motorcycle license around that time and I know that was also a big confidence boost for me.
I hope this will help someone realize they are not alone in their fears.. We all have them to different degrees. It’s just your choice as to when you’ll eventually confront them.