Jan 17, 2009

Real Fear

A friend was giving lessons to a young girl today and met the child’s mother for the first time. She asked the mother if she rode. The mother told my friend that she used to, but was injured on a horse when she was in high school and hasn’t ridden again. My friend asked if she still had the desire and the woman said “I’m not sure….”

I’ve written about fear before on Horsetrailriders.com Stable Talk. In brief, I went through an “unreasonable fear” phase. Now, after almost a decade of riding, I still have my moments. But the things I am fearful of are within reason. Rather than being afraid, I call it “being careful.” I’m careful about what horse I ride, where I ride and who I ride with. I learn to listen to the “little voice” that has proven to be right more times than wrong. Call it intuition or EF Hutton – I listen.

Yesterday I watched helplessly as a friend took a bad fall from her horse. It happened a second after she mounted and was totally unexpected. It was a horse she knew well and none of us, including her, saw any warning signs while she warmed him up. It was simply just “one of those things.” She’s no amateur – probably one of the most experienced horse women I know. In another incident, Lisa, a fellow blogger from Laughing Orca Ranch, is recovering from a knee injury and subsequent surgery following an unplanned dismount. And my bruises haven’t completely faded from my September accident. It happens. But I hate to see it, hear about it or be victim to it.

A nurse friend told me that medical personnel question the sanity of horse people. I can think of quite a few other activities that are equally, if not more risky. Motorcycling, snow skiing – heck, even football to some extent! But age wise, I am sure equestrian events are one of the more dangerous sports that (forgive me for using this word) “middle aged” women participate in. And it definitely is a sickness for many of us.

Even with lingering fear issues, I got back on my colt. Lisa recently made a visit to her barn. And as she nurses her leg, my friend is probably re-riding that horse in her mind, trying to find a clue to what set him off. I’m sure they are both counting the days until they can ride again. I wonder if the mother, who in her youth was injured, will once again uncover the passion which fear has taken from her and her daughter is now enjoying?

It's boots and chaps
It's cowboy hats
It's spurs and latigo
It's the ropes and the reins
And the joy and the pain
And they call the thing rodeo


  1. Great post, Tammy. I was tickled to see my name inluded.

    Yes, horse riding is considered a risky sport, but like you said, so many others are, too. Heck driving a car can be very dangerous and often ends in fatalities.

    When I was in the emergency room, I felt like a celebrity, ironically. A couple of the techs were horse-riders, too. And we just connected knowing what it was like to have a horse-obsession. So, at least noone said, :You're not going to ride a horse again, are you?!" lol :)

    Yes, not a day goes by that I don't imagine myself riding my horse. My neighbor/riding partner brought my horse down to the round pen today to work her and I crutched out of the house to see my horse again. There is such a feeling of connection when I'm near my horse. I just AM when I'm with her. It feels right.
    So hard to explain unless you're a horse-lover, though, isn't it?

    I may be a little cautious, maybe a lot, when I first get back on my horse, but I can't wait.

    I think if it was something my horse did in malace, like bucking me off to get rid of me, it would be scarier to consider riding her again. But it was just one of those things that happen.

    If I had been better balanced that day, and had been more focused, not letting my mind wander, I'd probably not have fallen.

    Maybe my horse picked up on those feelings and felt I wasn't paying attention and that she had to do the job of protecting us from whatever she felt was a threat at the time.

    Either way, she jigged, and I lost my balance and slid off. Unfortunately my foot got stuck in the stirrup, or my injuries would have only been bruises.

    Do you know what I used to do, to give myself confidance and help me relax, when I took my mare out on the trails alone?
    I sang Christmas Carols!
    Jingle Bells was me and my mare's favorite, especially the part "One horse open sleigh". lol!

    Singing really worked, though. For both m and my horse :)


  2. My song is Amazing Grace! It's about the only one I know all the words to and within my limited range!

    Lisa, in your Cowgirl Blues comments - (an realizing you HAD the blues when you wrote it), it frightened me that you were pondering if riding was worth it. I wondered if something really bad happened whether I would feel the same way. Each of my kids have had broken arms from horses. Another time my youngest fell and really hit his hear hard, ER visit & months later we were still worried enough about it that the dr. ordered an MRI. Heck, my older son was grazed by a bullet when riding! I've broken my ankle, my husband ribs and his ankle... but NOT riding was never an option.

    Gosh, now that I list those... I wonder why I do ride??? :)

    But like you said, the connection is there to your mare. "It feels right."

  3. Totally understand Tammy. Your comment about all the broken bones and injuries, if it were my family, would make me look a little deeper, too, on why I still have the urge to ride.
    Man! That's a lot of injuries! :~O

    I think what I meant when I said I was questioning why I should ever ride again...was not whether or not I would, but why do I want to. Not sure if that makes sense.

    I don't ever want to quit riding, but after a serious accident, I think it's natural to dig a little deeper into our minds to try and figure out the reasons why we engage in activities that are considered 'risky'.

    If the pros outweigh the negatives, then it just feels like we're validated somehow. It makes it ok.

    Well, that's what I was doing anyway. I wasn't even considering not riding, but I did want to delve a little deeper just so I could move past that and just keep focused on the goal.....getting my mobility and strength back so I can ride my horse again :)


  4. Yep, know what you mean, Lisa. I have to validate it quite often - not just from an injury aspect, but cost. I just sold a 6 yr old gelding that I've had since he was a weanling. He'll be leaving probably at the end of the month. Keeping, feeding, and caring for 6 horses takes $$ away from other things we could be doing as a family. My boys ride less and less, my husband about a quarter of the time that I do. So what was once family entertainment which could easily be justified, is now Mom's very expensive habit!

    I'll have to blog about our broken bones sometime. None of them were really violent horse accidents... and a couple were pretty funny! Yeah, that will be a good topic!

  5. Riding is worth it! I think as we get older, the caution factor does kick in! Maybe that is what is keeping us safe! I think as we learn to trust our horse, the fear gets less and less. Good decision on Black. I agree...you shouldn't keep a horse that makes you hesitate and wonder, what if? I hope you are content about that decision. You post about broken bones...I'll post about bruises!

  6. I haven't been hurt too many times, thank goodness, but I often ride "high risk" horses so I am fully aware of what "could" happen. There was a time in my life when I had no job and no medical insurance and I had an extraordinary fear of what could happen to me. I think that as a young person, you have no fear or anxiety of being hurt. Then, as you get older and take on responsibilities, you realize the possible consequences of being hurt, and it can really give you mind trips.
    Now, I have a security blanket of medical insurance again and I have noticed more self confidence and less fear in my riding.

  7. Anonymous10:48 AM

    boy... this one sings out to me.. i'm still going thru residual fear stuff after an unforced dismount on my arabian gazi... a bunch of grouse flew up underneath him and he went 90 to the side...

    thanx for posting this
    gp in snowy montana


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