November 05, 2021 3 min read
I stood next to my horse in tears.
I just wanted to ride, like I always used to.
Rocky was saddled and ready to go, but even though I was desperate to go for a ride, I couldn’t make myself mount. I was literally shaking with fear at the prospect of getting into the saddle.
My beautiful (non-horsey) partner found me like that, he held my horse and encouraged me up into the saddle, where I held on with white knuckles as he took me for a pony ride on the lead.
As a younger rider I had been fearless, often taking on the horses that nobody else would work with. Then an injury forced a break from riding, and then the kids arrived, and suddenly I had been away from horses for over a decade.
The obsession was still with me, bubbling along below the surface until one day I walked into a second-hand store. There was an old stock saddle, the smell of the leather and the old horse smell bought it all rushing back. It was time. I was incredibly excited to get my new horse.
I never expected the fear. It hadn’t been there before. Why was it there now? Even just going out and being with my horse in the paddock was not a comfortable experience.
I felt silly.
I felt inadequate.
I felt like I should just give up, that the whole riding thing belonged to my days before children and responsibility. I was too old. (I was in my early 30’s at this point). Then a couple of things happened.
A wonderful friend realised and started making “riding dates” she would ride to my house and we would go out together. I would be awake all night beforehand, worrying, but I couldn’t back out because she was there. And she wouldn’t let me. So we would go, and it was good and nothing bad happened. She would ride next to me and remind me every couple of minutes to “breathe” and at the end of the ride I would be elated that I had gone riding, but the fear was still hanging in there, refusing to go away.
Then I found Dr. Stephanie Burns book “Move Closer Stay Longer” It’s her own, personal account of being afraid of horses, and learning to ride. It’s a book about fear, but also how to understand the responses. And how to move past them. This book resonated with me so much, because it is specifically about fear and horses. There have only been a couple of books in my life that I would really call life changing. But for me, “Move Closer Stay Longer” was just that. When I first started to use the strategies in the book, I could see progress. But I still felt that it was going to take me forever to get to where I wanted to be with my horse. I kept with it, and where the steps I was taking were teeny tiny steps to start with, they got bigger and faster. For me it took about three months to go from paralysed with fear when it came time to mount, to mounting up without even stopping to think about it. I got back to riding being Fun again!
Over the years I have loaned my copy of this book numerous times, it’s now dog eared, and it’s helped many riders to feel more confident in the saddle. To get back to where it’s FUN. Because riding and spending time with our horses is supposed to be fun.
I’m so grateful, to my friend Alison for helping me in such a wonderful practical way. And to Dr. Burns for giving me the strategies to work through my fears and get back to having fun with the horses. I look at all the wonderful times I have had with the horses in the last 15 years and I am so glad I didn’t give up. I hope that you won't give up either, because you are not too old, or too fat, or too anything else that you're telling yourself. Please keep going, find the strategies that work for you, because one day you will be so glad that you did keep going.
I had the immense pleasure last year to meet Dr. Stephanie Burns, so I got to thank her for her book, and how it helped me.
I am proud to stock this book. It’s the only book I sell, because I know how good it is, and I want it to be in the hands of every rider who is nervous or fearful and not enjoying the time they have with their horse.