One of the topics that I find many riders can relate to is talking about that moment when you lose your confidence. For some of us it happens early on in our riding career, whereas for others, they might go right into adulthood before they develop a very real sense of self preservation of fear.
For me it was a moment. I had always been the crazy, cowgirl, chasing cattle and galloping out of control across my farm in Australia. Falling off was just one of those things, and while it happened sometimes, it was never something I thought about much afterwards, and it certainly wasn’t something I stressed about before!
When Batialo was young, many people, (mum included), thought I was mad just for getting on. He was not at all a mean spirited horse, but he was a very HIGHLY spirited horse none the less, with an ego and intelligence, matched with a power that I had not experienced.
I have had horses that spin, but they typically lift off the ground ever so slightly first, and then turn, whereas Batialo sort of pushes himself to the floor and pivots, using his lowered position as a launch pad. Yet, my loss of confidence came on a horse that one day just switched over and went, well nuts.
Normally when a horse looses it’s cool I’m thinking “how do I get back in control?”, but on this day, I was thinking “how on earth do I get off without being killed?”.
I ended up eventually throwing myself off and missing the arena wall by 2cm, a tidy landed had it not been for the fact that the horse turned around and stood on me, pushing my leg back to reveal the bone.
From that moment on I had fear. Fear of being hurt, fear of losing control, fear of knowing that we ride animals, and we cannot ever predict what they might do.
So how then do we recover after a loss of confidence? Some riders never do, they give up. Riders who cannot imagine not riding (me), keep at it. Some days are harder than others, but the very real truth is, you never go back to the way you were before. You can become a better, more aware, and far more realistic rider, but you will never have that carefree, “I am untouchable” feeling again.
I miss that. I miss galloping off on the farm and feeling so free. I still have days now when the wind is like a tornado, and I sort of creep out onto the arena waiting for the gremlins to jump out.
I started competing internationally this year, and I was hugely proud of myself not because I was doing it, and not because everyone said I couldn’t, but because I was doing it on my terms. Batialo was lunged well, I was careful, I avoided the horses that were obviously crazy, and I tried just to keep in my own bubble, push the quarters, shoulder-in, calm, relaxed.
Recovering from a loss of confidence, is about being honest! Don’t pretend you can when you know you shouldn’t. If you want to lunge the horse, lunge the horse. The person telling you you don’t need to, is not going to feel a thing if you fall off! Be honest with yourself about what horse you can handle, and when you need to ask for help.
Still now, having competed in huge atmospheres, I have days when the wind rattles me, and when I’m not ashamed to say, I feel afraid. Not of falling, but of never getting back up.
Truth is, once you admit it, and you can share it, you will find that there are many others just like you. We are not untouchable, we love our horses, we trust our horses, but there comes a point in every riders life when they discover…falling off hurts!