You may have noticed that one of the items on my un-bucket list was: fight for tooth and nail for confidence. You might be wondering, this girl has galloped racehorses, backed babies, jumped around preliminary, does she really struggle for confidence in the saddle? The answer is yes. It is not every day anymore, but quite often fear tries to raise its ugly head. Every time it does I make a choice to not give it the time of day. I choose to think about my skills and not the nebulous idea of danger. I'm not particularly scared of falling off, it happens. The fear more encompasses this swirling cloud of the unknown. My over active brain does strange things and I choose to not listen, I go to instinct. I've ridden some real crazies and if I have a chance to get my heals down and eyes up they are hard pressed to get me off. The fear though can literally be paralyzing and tends to crop up when not much is actually happening, but the possibility is there. I was talking with a friend about it the other day and she was shocked to hear that I struggled with fear. That shocked me, when I'm grappling with my daemons it feels like there is a neon sign flashing above my head 'this girl is scared out of her mind.' Turns out there isn't. It was actually a confidence boost, because when I am fearful and think the people around me can see it (and are judging me, another irrational thought of mine) it gives that fear a foothold. It whispers in my ear, picking at my armor and strength. It knows where my weaknesses are because it is in my head. My mind can be my own worst enemy. It was liberating to choose to not be scared. To choose to not listen to that terrible voice. To choose to hand that fear to God and let him deal with it. Call me crazy for being so freaking stubborn, but I wanted it desperately. My trainer suggested several times that I stick to dressage, I had the talent. I don't think he understood a teenage girl in tears about jumping who kept gritting her teeth and coming back for more. My confidence had been tenuous at best and a few nasty falls opened up a vault of what ifs that constantly ran through my head. I had already battled fear once on my pony and I knew I could do it again. My trainer's wife also taught lessons and occasionally I would take one from her, one day she recognized the panicked look on my face out on the cross country course and said some words I keep with me every day. Throw your heart to the other side and go get it back. She knew I could do it, she had also fought her own battles for confidence. So, I kept swinging that leg up and over on any horse I could get my hands on, reminding myself to breath in and out, in and out. I had plans to go back east and be a working student after high school and I thought for sure that was when I would remake myself. How wrong I was. A lady with an incredibly generous spirit had me start riding her young horse as she had two horses and limited time. She had seen me ride and knew I had skills, but she hadn't been privy to my fear issues. I fell in love immediately with the mare and didn't want to fail, suddenly I had that final push to kick the fear out. We went on trail rides (of which I had been petrified previously) and gallops, I started riding her in cross country lessons and going to events.
A couple of redheads finding their way
Right before my eyes and the eyes of my parents and trainer I blossomed. Ironically the mare wasn't even a packer, she was downright rank at times, you should have seen the buck she had. But, we clicked, I would have gone to the ends of the earth for that mare and eventually she for me. Here I was a girl 'paralyzed by fear' a year earlier going to events and growling a green spooky horse around novice courses. I had done it, I had redefined who I was right at home.
She could jump the moon
I went back east and rode for 7 months and when I came home the same lady let me ride her experienced horse around two Trainings and a Prelim. Our paths started to split after that, but I will always be grateful for the opportunities she gave me. I first started riding that red mare over 9 years ago and I can remember the way she felt like it was yesterday. So yes, I still have to choose to be confident, it isn't naturally in me. I'm an avid reader not a downhill skier. I hope someone reads this who needs to know it can be done. I hope someday I get to run Advanced, but most of all I hope someday I can inspire at least one little girl (or boy or grownup for that matter) to not give up, to not let the fear take over, to do what they want no matter how hard.