I think the secret to getting over one’s fear of horses is to just do it. I mean, seriously, it just boils down to doing it, whatever the super-scary “it” is, and not overthinking it and getting paralyzed by it.
I’m not paralyzed by fear, like so many of my friends are, but fuck yeah I think some aspects of riding are terrifying. And I did so many of my own personal scary things yesterday. I just refused to think of the consequences and tried to enjoy the ride, and yknow what – I actually did enjoy the ride.
A group of yahoos headed out on their own trail ride a few minutes before we did. I really didn’t want to ride with them, but James said it was fine. If we met up with them, we’d just pass them and go our own way. So I set the tone for the day by just trusting him. Turned out they’d left the property by the time we did, so we just went our own way from the beginning.
1) Foolish behavior in the road: James took Surprise and I took a very grumpy Rascal on a long ride today. We started off on a bad note – Rascal started hunching up and crow-hopping in the median of the highway. We got off the road and he kept doing it, so we both got off and James adjusted his bridle up a notch. It was definitely weird; we hadn’t changed anything about his tack. The bridle fix seemed to do the trick so we headed off.
2) Road riding, esp. with shoes: We gaited on across the field and across the other highway and went up old Millington to get to the trails the long way. I posted about this route before – here’s the google map of where Old Millington takes a bend but if you go straight you end up on the trails. I just sat balanced and refused to think about how much I hate riding on asphalt, with stupid metal shoes, with cars, past Horse-Eating Monsters. Monsters? Yeah, there’s a couple of deadly mailboxes, then a lumberyard you have to pass, then a bridge, then a railroad crossing. It’s lovely.
3) Muddy rutted trails at top speed: But we finally made the trails! Yay! Except that we’d had a thunderstorm about an hour before we saddled up, so there was standing water in all the ruts. And dear god the ruts, you’ve never seen such ruts. James is completely insane and he lead the way at a full on running walk through this maze of kneedeep water-filled ruts in the forest. I briefly thought about all those fragile ligaments in a horse’s leg and then I just sat back and concentrated on not getting whiplashed by branches.
It was awesome.
Ten minutes in, I realized that neither horse was slipping like I thought. Two minutes later, I noticed just how much poison ivy was all around me. Oh well, that’s what Zanfel is for. (Yes, it really does work and it’s really worth the money.)
We rode upriver and I caught a lil box turtle for Stephen (but he didn’t text or call me back so I let it go at the barn.) Then we went downriver and we tried to go out under Hwy 51, our normal way back to the barn. But the entire area under the bridge is still flooded, and it’s snake mating time. We sat on the horses on a little bluff and watched the water for a couple of minutes before we saw a cottonmouth quietly swimming. So we turned around and went back the way we’d come in – back past the Monsters, across the highway, back to the barn.
When we got back in the field, we saw the yahoos headed back in. We all converged for the last bit of roadwork to get back to the barn. The horses were tired, but Rascal was still being a total choad. He wanted to GO and pass the other horses, so I let him – but then he broke gait and started cantering, so I pulled him back to a walk, so he got mad and started doing his baby bucks again. Oddly, it didn’t scare me. It made me mad, but not scared. We got back on the property safely and I took Rascal in the arena to have it out with him.
He’d been a pretty good natured fellow for the week I’d been riding him, but it was clearly because he was letting me be a passenger. When James went fast, we’d go fast; when James slowed down, we’d slow down. Rascal’s behavior had very little to do with what I cued him to do – he was doing what he wanted, which was to stay near “his human.” And that was (and still is) fine with me. I know I’m not his human! But damn, the horse must respond to my cues. I’m the brains of the trail-riding team and we’re going to die if he won’t listen.
So we went in the arena. And Rascal was tired, but damn him, we gaited. Then we went out of the arena and past a Monster, where he spooked sideways. So we gaited, circled around the trees, and kept going past the Monster (some contraption of nailed-together pallets that sits near the arena) until finally Rascal would gait calmly past it. Then we gaited past his barn (dammithorsedon’tslowdown) over to my truck (gooooood boy), stopped, and I had him stretch out. Then I got off, told him how wonderful he was, untacked him, fed him cookies, and washed him off.
The whole ride should’ve been a lot scarier than it actually was, if you know what I mean. I just sat my ass down in the saddle, as correctly as I know how, and rode the horse. I didn’t think about how we were both going to die, how I was going to die, how the horse was going to get horribly injured, or how I was going to look like an ass. I just rode. It was wonderful. I’m trying to hang on to that “shut up and ride” attitude.