Welcome to my blog about horsey life in the North East - the good bits, bad bits, endless coffees and plenty of mud!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Face your fears and reap the rewards

Confidence is a funny bugger - it seems to ebb and flow like the tides.

There are days when Cady is tacked up and I'm so full of adrenalin that I've got the shakes.
Other times that feeling's just not there and I can hop on like I did when I was a teenager who would get on anything. I don't think it's my age that has made the difference either...
Having your own horse is a wonderful thing but it introduces some complex psychology into the sport of riding.

As a teen I couldn't afford my own so if I wanted to ride I had to take whatever was on offer. And we all know that the horses you can ride for free are the ones that no one wants to get on! I was lucky enough not to meet anything that really wanted to see me in hospital so the whole situation was a no-brainer: My desire to ride was much stronger than my fear of what could go wrong.

Lovely to look at in the field...but who wants to get on first?

When you finally get your own horse, it's a wonderful day. I don't think I will ever forget seeing Zu, a 16.hh black ex-steeplechaser heading up to the road to my old stables. He was an absolute gentleman and looked after me for two years while we galloped around the local countryside looking for scary things to jump.

But in all my daydreams of having my own horse I had never anticipated the days when you don't actually want to ride. You've got time, they're not even particularly muddy but somehow you just can't quite summon the enthusiasm. I think it's something to do with the fact that once you own a horse it's your duty, your responsibility to ride, rather than a rare opportunity you have to seize.

These days my situation is slightly different. Zu could spend a week in the field and hack sensibly whereas Cady requires daily attention. Much like a high-maintenance girlfriend she does not take well to being ignored!

Since January I've gradually learned to ignore my jitters and get on whether I feel confident or not. I was recently lucky enough to interview Charlie Unwin, a performance psychology coach who works with four of the UK's Olympic teams. He pointed out that even the very top riders get nerves, it's what they do with them that counts. I find this thought strangely reassuring.

For me, it comes down to a question -
Do we listen to our gut and opt out or accept our nerves and put our foot in the stirrup anyway?

Everytime I've done the latter it's been a small step in the right direction for Cady and I. In the early days our schooling was worse than terrible and many times I would barely venture out of a walk. We've come a long way since then, mainly through lots of tiny little victories - hundreds of days of facing our fears and finding out they're not so bad after all. 

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