Thursday, August 21, 2014

PSA: Trail riding

The lovely lady who owns/runs the barn that Prisoner is at made an interesting observation about trail riding today.  This is after I mentioned that while I often enjoy the end result/parts and pieces of trail rides I am often petrified.  She said she has known way more than eventers than you would expect who are not really into trail riding/downright scared of it.  Yup, that's me.  I ride racehorses, will get on nearly any hooligan in an arena or field, start babies, have run Prelim and hope to go further, on trail rides I often think my heart is going to burst out of my chest.  Not from joy.  From sheer terror.  Heck, most of my early riding miles were doing endurance, go figure.  Yes, I believe the good times I have had on trail rides far outweigh the bad times.  I have walked and full on galloped (on purpose for conditioning) these trails for the last 10 years.  I know them quite well, the only time I've fallen out there ended in hysterical laughter (funny story for another day).  I have countless pictures of me smiling and having fun on trails, but there it is, that insidious thing called fear, it knows no bounds, no limits.  Fear and confidence get talked about a lot in blog land, for good reason, it affects a lot of people at some time.  
Having fun
Prisoner went on his first trail ride today.  He was perfect, in fact he dealt with me sword fighting hidden trail riding demons.  Many of the issues could have been eliminated by fewer horses, we had 5 along.  They were all great and I love all the people who went, but Prisoner and I kept getting stuck between horses pulling ahead and trying to stay back for the slower one behind us.  It got him a tiny bit worried and while I rode through it and none of us is any worse for wear, not only is being scared no fun, it is really freaking embarrassing.
P-diddy has cute pink ears
For realz though, I love to gallop out there in pairs or trot in pairs.  Groups worry me, but I can deal with it.  I love looking at the scenery, chatting with friends, feeling the swinging walk under me.  Somewhere in there the wires short circuit and I seriously think I'm going to die or be maimed or who knows what but logic flies out the window.  If you love trail rides you might have trouble understanding this, but maybe you have been fearful of jumps, or loading horses in trailers, or public speaking, or galloping a horse, or dogs, or anything.  None of those things scare me, but trails do.  I wish we had access to wooded trails, not scared there.  Possibly I'm dealing with mild agoraphobia, it took me years to think about taking a picture of the view from the top of the hills we ride on, mostly I just wanted to get off the horse and hug the ground.
Squashing fear, taking pictures from hilltops
Imagine you are nervous about jumping.  You warm the horse up and all is well.  You finally decide to head towards that jump and that 15-30 seconds of approach feel like the end of the world.  Then you jump and the world doesn't end.  Now imagine that 30 seconds of terror stretched out into an undetermined amount of time.  I never know if I will be scared at the beginning, or middle, or end, usually it is a few minutes here and there.  I try and break it down, I'm not scared of hills or terrain (not a fan of next to cliffs, but who is?), different speeds don't scare me.  I really can't pin point it, I think if I could form a purpose for what I was doing I could focus on that instead of the strange fear.  Like jumps, or if someone is visibly nervous I suddenly focus on them and helping them chill and my own fear dissipates.  
Hey yo having fun here too!
I guess I just want to say to the people who aren't scared, don't judge, don't belittle, don't rush, keep us talking.  Just like every other fear and phobia, it takes long slow work and a whole truck load of determination and patience.  Also to those who aren't scared, thank you for putting up with all of us who are, if we snap at you don't take it personally, it is real hard to talk when having imaginary sword fights with stuff you can't even identify.  
Yes, just yes.
We already know horse people are crazy, I'm just helping bring it to a new level!
Take that fear, just get out of here!

30 comments:

  1. I suffer from a mild agoraphobia that crops up on trail rides. Summer rides are relaxing and wonderful, hugged on all sides by tall corn and leafed trees. Fall and winter rides can really scare me, with open windswept fields for as far as the earth goes. I'm right on the edge of Illinois and Indiana, where the land was once scraped absurdly straight by glaciers, and not a single hill breaks the sight line. It's crushingly scary. There's nowhere to hide.

    If that's the fear you have, too. Know there's another out there.

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    1. Wow! I'm not alone! I love the 'safety' of trees, windswept vistas freak me out!

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  2. No judging happening. I have fears of trail riding too, but they mostly stem from having a horse than turns into a maniac when we leave the barn. :P So I understand somewhat.
    Love that GIF... LOL

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  3. Lol, we all have our demons. I used to be a trail guide so I kinda had to suck up any of my fears to help the often completely novice rent string enjoy their paid ride. Endurance made me a little nervous because it was unknown trail. Now jumping has been a rollercoaster of emotions. I don't know how comfortable if feel on my mare on trail even though she has done it before me. I'm losing confidence with age and responsibilities lol.

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    1. For some reason endurance on Arabs doesn't make me nervous...they are strangely trustworthy

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    1. Always happy to make the wheels turn:)

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  5. Fun! I love a good trail ride. I'm one of the "not scared" types but I totally get it when others are a bit timid.

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  6. So interesting to learn about what makes different riders nervous or fearful. I'm fine on trails, but I'm not sure if I'd ever breeze a racehorse. The situation would have to be just right for me to attempt it.

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    1. I'm fascinated about different fears as well

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  7. insidious is exactly the right word for fear. and fear certainly doesn't obey the laws of logic. you make a nice point about being kind and empathetic to riders dealing with it - whatever the root cause.

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    1. Fears are all different, but we all need some sort of support to get through them

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  8. Foxhunting is sort of like a large (very fast) group trail ride, but for some reason doesn't bother me. Trail rides with lots of people? I'm with you, those can be sort of horrifying.

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  9. Great post..I think we've all been there at some point!

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  10. Great post. I so admire your honesty.

    My trail fear is just the opposite - the closed in woods I have to ride for an hour to get to the beach, which have my heart in my throat anymore. (I was fine, had logged many, many trail hours - solo and in company - until a train wreck caused by thoughtless companions)

    Running into a tree or branch, my horse stepping off the trail down a steep hill, slipping in the you-can't-see-the-bottom sticky mud hole... The wide open spaces of the beach are no problem if I could just get there.

    Having the right companions that you trust implicitly is key I think - I'm still looking for them.

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    1. Right companions are certainly key, fingers crossed you find some!

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  11. I'm scared of trail rides. I do have a good time and have had several wonderful rides with friends. But I fell off once, on the road, when my horse spooked and started trotting and I was bareback. Yep. That was years ago and I am better rider now. But I'm still scared of trails. I also get nervous the minute I step out of the ring even if I am just riding back to the barn. I do make an effort to try to ride more outside the ring, even just walking out around the property to cool off. I'm nervous but I try to breath and relax, my horse is relaxed, why can't I?

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    1. Good for you trying to broaden your non fearful areas, I've found the more control I take over my fear the less it tries to sneak up on me

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  12. Thanks for reminding me - I grew up trail riding (trails were the only place to ride for us) and I completely forget that my life experiences are NOT the same as others. I'll be more cognizant when I go out with other riders.

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  13. I totally know all those feelings (and the paralysis over jumps generally starts in the warm up), but I'd never considered that it was even possible out there. I'm a little bit nervous on super narrow ridges with steep drop offs, but never scared...

    It's such a uniquely human feeling, regardless of when and how and where it strikes. Alyssa and I will just make you keep on talking, which makes you keep breathing, and Prisoner will keep you on top. :-)

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  14. I also have trail anxiety, and I don't know why. Probably because my horse before Simon was horrible on trails and got me downright scared.

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  15. I think trail riding is really scary. Mary insists upon it. And my mom is dragging me on a three day trail ride/camping trip in October that I'm trying not to get worried about now.

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  16. Fears come in all shapes and sizes. This topic can feed back into SB's Confidence Series...If only we could understand and re-wire, where necessary, the human mind - we'd be on to a winner.
    Confidence is key to helping manage the feat, but i don't need to tell you that.

    When I lived in Ireland, I used to hack Kika out the fields & on the roads on my own. However since the 2010-2011 confidence crisis/bad years i have lost all faith in hacking her alone. As soon as i feel her tense, my go-to reaction has become fear which is the worst reaction on trail as it just feeds the horse's paranoia and unleashes a vicious cycle.
    Nancy on the other hand, no problem as she instils confidence in me wig her almost inflappable attitude and calm approach to "scary" things for her. Heck i can pony Kika from Nancy's back for the hour and a half trail ride from the off-site turnout area alone!

    In saying all that, I have no problem hacking Kika in company so long as i know & trust the horse(s) and rider(s) we are with not to freak out if Kika tries to pitch a fit...sorry this probably got way longer & off-topic than anyone could have time or inclination to read.

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