Starting Over – I Don’t Want To Fall

“I don’t want to fall.” That’s the thought that was at the base of my freezing up, not wanting to move forward.

It’s not a very directive or helpful thought. I know that. I know better… but there it was rattling around in the back of my mind as my half ton partner started going a bit wonky in the canter… crow-hopping a bit to keep her balance.

Nothing mean.. she wasn’t trying to ditch me. For all I know she had the same thought running around her horse brain, “I don’t want to fall.” Geez… I’d infected her.

And so it goes…

I’ve come back to riding with a beginner mindset. I have knowledge, my body has some kind of memory, but I have no doubt that those memories have atrophied. So I start afresh, knowing it’s also an opportunity to rebuild with better habits and the wisdom of the years between when I first started and starting now.

But what I didn’t expect was the fear of simple things, the fear of stuff that I’d never batted an eyelash at before.

The first crow hops were kind of funny, I was elated to be back in the saddle at all. But the more fatigued I became the less stable I felt and the more everything fell apart.

I was not the 43 lb, 3’7” exuberant 6 year old starting out. I was well over 3x that in weight not height…eh.. more than that in age; it felt horribly unfair to put that on my horse that was also working on coming back into her full balance and strength.

I wasn’t just unbalanced and out of practice, I was unbalanced and out of practice and big enough to do some damage.

I knew it was going to take some time and actual practice to get my balance and flow back, my confidence. Riding in a lesson one time a week was slow work. I could feel myself improving every time, yes…. but… not as much as I’d like. I’ve had too much to compare it to… years of my youth and young adulthood riding fearlessly, despite falls and mishaps. At least not the kind of fears I was having now.

Now my fears seem based in my own innate human frailty, I felt old.

And yet…

This is something I want, that I love, that gives my life a bit of wonder and excitement and joy that I love embracing again.

So how to overcome the obstacles holding me back? The ones that I didn’t even want to admit out loud.

Sometimes when I’m afraid a stubborn clear voice rings out (usually silently in my head), “Fuck that.” It’s helps me to get a little mad, with a clear place to direct that energy. And from that place it’s most helpful to move into what I DO want: Balance, Harmony, Flow with my horse and in my own body.

There are other differences to when I started riding when I was six and me starting again now. I’ve got a rather large amount of tools at my disposal. Tools that I’ve used in my life and never connected to my equestrian self.

These tools changed my life as a young adult, after I’d given up riding and horses, to explore the vastness of my other interests.

At college I discovered, Neuro Linguistic Programming, hypnosis and the power of our own neurology to create habits. Sometimes these habits are good (stopping at stop sign automatically), sometimes they are counter to our ultimate goals (eating sugar automatically when stressed). Either way, the skills and tools I learned as an adult and in my career have been about shaping habits with intention. Taking the learning and moving into a positive and deliberate outcome, even while acknowledging and processing the wanted outcomes.

So, duh. Why not employ them here?

Feelings follow thoughts, and thoughts can become habits.

I began practicing what I want in my rides outside of when I ride. Using the techniques I’ve learned to practice and remind myself of what I love about riding. What being in flow with my horse looks, smells, feels and sounds like.

I’ve recorded them so I can listen again and agin, in a relaxed and comfortable state, where my unconscious can listen and absorb and where my I can practice in my mind the same way I used to go over cross country courses and dressage tests the night before an event. Imagining it how I wanted it to go, practicing until it becomes the habit of the response that is most helpful when those crow hops happen.

I’m more able to play and be curious about those movements that don’t go to plan. To remember that this is lovely and fun and curious. And all about improving, knowing not every day is going to be  grand, but that it’s all part of the process.

What do you do to make your rides everything you want them to be?

Happy Riding!

P.S. You can find my recordings here:


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