“Are you scared to get back on?”
This was the fourth time in as many conversations that the same question had been posed to me. I suppose it’s a bit ridiculous, but until someone asked me it never occurred to me that being scared was an option. I’ve been doing this for a long time. The ship has passed on my being afraid to get hurt. I don’t want to get hurt, of course. But I’m well aware that working around and riding horses is one of the more dangerous life choices.
So why wasn’t I scared to get back on?
The more I questioned myself on that point, the more I wondered if I actually was a bit fearful. Much like not feeling nerves until someone feels the need to ask you if you’re nervous. I had almost two full weeks out of the saddle. It’s a long time to be grounded, but to be forced to stay down makes it worse. I tried to picture it, over and over, with no real success.
Part of it is Star is both a Thoroughbred and a Mare, with all the ups and downs that go along with both that breed and her gender. Some days she’s easy and perfect. Other days are pure wild, bucking and bunny hoping to avoid having to step up and work. How could I possibly picture getting back on, when I never quite know what I’m going to get?
In the end, the problem solved itself. I threw a leg over and had no time to consider whether or not I was scared. That “in the moment” requirement of riding took over. I was absorbed in listening to the fall of Star’s hooves, the rhythm of her movement as it swung underneath me.
She was off. Not in any way that is easy to articulate. There was a tightness, a stiffness in the way she moved. Not so much uneven, but stilted from her usual movement. Star was uncomfortable trotting on a round and balked, so we had to have a bit of a “discussion” about that. She loosened up more by the end, and we got back into our stretching routine afterwards. Here she showed a clear unbalance, having lost a large amount of flexibility on her right side. We’ll bring it back slowly, and get a chiropractor involved if needs be.
Before turning Star out, I got to watch my 21-month-old daughter get persistent head nuzzles from her. They both seemed to enjoy it, and how could I not enjoy watching such joy between them?
Maybe there is a genetic component to being unafraid of an animal that dwarfs you in both size and weight. Maybe I passed that onto my daughter. I’m not really sure I care one way or the other if she ends up wanting to ride. It’s nice think we may be able to share a hobby throughout our lives, but there is both a monetary and time expense to riding and it’s not for everyone. You can’t afford to have any fear.
Oh sure, a lot of people will tell you that you must have a “healthy fear” of the power of a horse. I disagree. As a very young girl, I had a instructor who once told me that saying was ridiculous. “Healthy respect is fine,” she said. “Fear is not.”
If you get up on a horse there’s no bad days or good days. There’s no significant other or family or outside life. There’s only sitting and listening to your horse. You cannot afford the time to fear.
One of my favorite places in the word is on a horse, looking at the world through its ears. How could that ever be a place of darkness? There can be only action in that place; no thoughts, no fear.
Christine Sharpe is a Canadian who grew up riding Hunter/Jumper in the Southern USA. Now living in Toronto, she is a thirty-something who is recently back to riding after four years off and having her first child. Christine is aiming her new Thoroughbred mare, Star, toward the Trillium Jumper Circuit in 2016. She struggles daily to juggle family, work, and her equine lifestyle, with occasional success.