PostHeaderIcon The Big Fear

November 29, 1997
 
 
I’m always on missions. The mission for this column is FEAR! I’m talking to new:
 
Women Adult Riders Inspired by the Option of Retirement or WARRIOR!
 
This is for the WARRIORS who have discovered the unforgiving hardness of the ground and developed fear. The WARRIOR buys a horse and it bolts, bucks or shys and the WARRIOR hits the ground. The ground whispers to you…death, broken bones, pain. Your continuing mortality becomes a great concern. Your self confidence goes underground!You are not alone. You are in the great majority. Fear can be conquered and bested! Listen WARRIOR…read my story and keep chipping away at the enemy.Year I: THE TRAIL RIDE STARTS THE YEAR OF FEAR

In our last episode, I hit the ground and my life was saved by trainers Jenny Copple and Karen Moulis of Pine Dell Farm, Pleasant Hill, Mo. Jenny trained Sage and Karen trained me. I ride nice safe “farm horses” and developed my riding skills. Sage and I met after two months of separate training. I wasn’t scared of the gentle farm horses, but my body was as stiff as a board when I climbed aboard Sage. Sage hated my frozen body and refused to move, tried to bite my legs, and cow kicked. My immediate thought “My life is over. Surely Jenny will take me off this creature! But no, Jenny was telling me to squeeze her with my legs, spank her rear with my hand, spank her rear with the lead rope. Finally, she made a step and we started all over again.”

Jenny talked me through this like the control tower guy in the movies helping the passenger land the airplane after the pilot dies. The only difference was that I wanted to be the dead pilot! About half way in the ride (we progressed about 5 yards), we started to move slowly about the arena with mad, disgruntled horse things happening. I decided that I should cry because I was a tremulous mess. I needed to cry. I teared up and thought, “I’m going to tell Jenny that I want off!” But Jenny kept talking to me…talking me through and finally the hour was over and I was alive! I was wringing wet with sweat. There were a lot of people in the arena that night…of course I couldn’t see them; I only sensed them! They all came over and told me I did really well. Jenny told me I did really well. I felt better then, especially since my feet were on the ground. It was a one wine bottle night!

I continued to work with Sage on the ground and had the weekly riding lesson. The 2nd lesson I was much more confident; but Sage was worse. I had to get off and Jenny got on, and made Sage very uncomfortable about not moving. I got back on again with more confidence and made Sage move. It was a banner day. Several more rides and I had managed to ride her by myself. About two months later, Sage, husband and I went on the week long Eminence Trailride–in the Ozarks Mountains with only 4000+ other horses. My husband is a social person, not a rider and I intended to ride only in the parking lot and campground. But NO, my good friend told me “No-you’re going on nice short daily trail rides. You can’t come to Eminence and not ride! After you ride a week at Eminence everything else will be easy!”!

Sage did great. She wasn’t scared of anything! She walked two inches beside clangorous diesel trucks. We rode around the campgrounds filled with horse eating sights. We participated in a horse show with a record number 60 horses in the arena at the same time. She was great!

I was a nervous wreck the 1st morning and cried making certain no one could see that I was crying. I had tears streaming down my face, but my face was absolutely frozen in a noncommittal nothing. I went for 15 or 20 minutes at a time holding my breath…maybe less. Sage and I did lots of ground work to get me prepared for riding!

We crossed water; we climbed hills. I survived! I didn’t have fun, but it wasn’t torture either. Every morning when I got up, I wondered if I’d be dead or disabled by the time the day’s trail ride was over.

Thursday was the start of the year of fear. My friend erred in judgment and took me up and down a mountainous steep hill where the path consisted of rock ledges littered with loose rocks. Going up was frightening but the descent was beyond agony. I was frozen with fear going down. When I expressed some verbal dismay to my friend, she told me just to relax and lean back! HA! We did make it down alive, and even though I’m not a Catholic, I did the Cross Gesture! I couldn’t get off to kiss the ground because I couldn’t easily mount my horse.

We came to a river and two year old Sage was hot after climbing that horrid mountain. We were drinking and pawing to clear the dirt from the water and my friend yelled. However, I was intently watching Sage’s front leg sinking into a hole. It just seemed to sink down farther and farther. I was patiently waiting for her to pull her leg out of the hole when my friend’s frantic voice yelled “JUMP OFF!” This was a very loud and demanding voice! My body responded just when Sage sank down on her belly. I got up and waited for her to get up. “Quicksand,” I was thinking when she didn’t get up. She’s caught in quicksand!” I was running in circles around her in the water around her trying to figure out how to get her out of the quicksand when my friend’s voice penetrated my brain again. “Slap her; Yell at her! She’s going to roll!” “Roll? I thought….not quicksand?” I yelled, jumped and flapped my wings and Sage heaved herself to her feet. I got the lecture about sweaty horses and pawing water!

At that time I couldn’t mount my horse without a big natural mounting block and none was available within sight. My friend had to get off her horse and put my muddy wet foot on her leg so that I could heave myself on. My jeans from knees down were sopping wet and 20 pounds heavier. We made it across the river and I started thinking about our water adventure when we came to the part of the trail that was deep warm sand. . . .

Without any warning, PLUNK!…down we went. It was a broken record. No slouch in the learning not-to-die-experience, I was smart enough to leap off as we were going down. I dove into the deep sand in my sopping wet jeans. Yummy! 100 more pounds packed on my body. I was saved by my friend’s husband who had come to join us. It took all his strength to get my weak,quivering, dead weight back on Sage. On the short distance home, including a wide river crossing, everyone rode very close to Sage ready to beat her if she even blinked a lay-down eye! I felt like a steer being herded by cowboy drovers!

After we got back and I had semi recovered, my friend’s husband took me aside and had a little talk with me. “I am really worried about you and your “little, slight fox trotter! If only you had purchased a blocky horse—not necessarily a quarter horse…I’m certain that there are blocky fox trotters that could handle your weight. Sage isn’t strong enough to handle you on these hills. If she would have tripped up there on those mountains and started to fall, she couldn’t have recovered. You need a blocky horse.”

Instant Bad Brain Image: I imagined that horrid ride down the loose rocky ledges, Sage and I falling; Sage with bones sticking up out of her. Sage dead of a broken neck. I love Sage. … THE BIG FEAR OF DOWNHILL HIT. I managed to contain the fear so no one else knew.

Sage, the 2 year old, wasn’t afraid of anything in that camp of 4000 horses! Susan, the 49 year old, turned into a battered shell with zero self confidence. I made up some excuse about not wanting to stay, and we left the next day.

I was able to ride Sage around my property because it is mostly flat. I was so proud of Sage that she wasn’t scared of anything in the world! This was the first of the major assumptions I have mistakenly made about Sage. This is when she started earning the nickname, “The Horse of No Assumptions”. We were zipping by some bushes and heard a “tiny lion rattle sound”. Without my permission, Sage took her saddle and leaped ahead about 5 feet. I was like those cartoon characters that run off a cliff. “HUH…there’s only daylight underneath me,” and…thud. I met the unforgiving ground again! I had to lay there for a while waiting for the intense pain to go away. After my tremulous mass of flesh calmed down, I was able to determine that I was not broken.

I was too hurt to climb back on. Riding was only pretend after that. It was too cold, too late, too hot, I felt too bad. Winter came…no riding and I was grateful.

Here’s what I was left with in my 1st Year with Horses:

DOWNHILL FEAR: If the ground were sloped enough so a golf ball would roll downhill, I was major scared.

RIDING DREAD (RD) That’s when all the excuses for not riding are made. It’s a disease called RD!

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