Fear = What if?

Jigs and I have been working on cantering.

My fear started years ago- in my thirties when, Mary, a crazy 17 hand appy-thoroughbred cross dumped me at the canter. And dump me she did.  I did a double summersault flip in the air before landing on my hip. It was not broken but badly bruised. 20 plus years later, my hip still aches when it is humid or if I don’t exercise.

Before that, I really didn’t fear falling. Yes, I fell. Fell from Princess. Fell from Freedom. But I was never a daredevil; it just seemed like part of the riding thing.  You ride; you will eventually fall.  Part of the deal.

It took me months to get the courage to canter Pepper. He had so many other problems, I didn’t worry about it. I figured it would happen. Then he spooked, bolted and bucked.  Off I went and my ankle broke.

I didn’t canter for months after that, but we eventually figured it out. My last (and best) riding memory of Pepper is cantering down snow covered rail road tracks. I can still smell the crisp snow and feel the cold on my cheeks. He was gone a week later.

Jigs was different. About six months into our relationship we were cantering on the trail and he spooked. I slid down his side in slow motion. I remember him looking at me as if to say, why are you on the ground?  The folks behind me thought it was hysterical. It was, and I was, fine.

But it was months before Jigs would canter with me. Even though I asked.

It was as if he knew I wasn’t ready. I probably wasn’t.

We got though it, but my cuing was bad. He’d canter, not canter, when I asked.  But then, was I really asking? Signals mixed with fear are not proper cues.

And if I held the reins too tight, Jigs wasn’t above a crow hop to let me know. Still isn’t.

I needed lessons “improve my seat”- to get through my fear.

Last year we learned to canter small circles in an indoor area. But I still had to run him into it. And it was too fast. No control.

This year we have learned to canter from a walk. It’s been fun. My confidence got better. Our canter improved. He’s starting to slow down.

Then tonight someone moved a barrel behind us, he spooked and bucked. I didn’t go off; I didn’t panic. (Although there was air between my butt and the seat.)  I made sure we cantered afterward. He was tired when we finished, head low, but clearly tuned into me.

But now the doubt has returned.

What if I am too old to do this right?

What if his saddle is pinching him? And it wasn’t the noise that spooked him?

What if it happens again?  What if?

The old fear has surfaced.

Breathe deeply.

We can start again tomorrow.

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