Brave on Horseback

Last week, I was taking care of a horse named Dom for a friend of mine. It entailed me going out every day to ride, clean his stall, and provide lots of treats. I’ve taken care of this horse for a long time, whenever my friend goes away, and I even used to ride him before my friend bought him, when Dom was just a school horse at the barn. So I’ve known him plenty long enough to begin to understand his quirks and personality.

I’ve also ridden him long enough to notice my growth as a rider.

I’ve fallen off Dom at least once… probably two or three times, really. And I’ve been on his back when he’s spooked and run around like crazy before I could settle him. But the scariest time I’ve ever had to ride him was while doing cross-country jumping out in the field. There were two key problems with that situation:

  1. With his original owners, he was taught to fly over jumps as fast as he physically could. That in itself is terrifying.
  2. He’s also a very shy horse and is nervous out in the field, where a rabbit could jump out of the bushes at any time. Being on a skittish horse’s back in a place that makes them scared is also terrifying.

Combined… it was the jumping lesson from hell. Seriously, I have nightmares of that day. I remember one jump in particular, made of car tires lined up and standing upright, that he was afraid to jump. So not only did he reach a breakneck pace approaching it, but he also unexpectedly tried to swerve away from it. I miraculously didn’t fall off, but there were a couple times when I was clinging to his neck, staring at the ground with horror and struggling to stay on his back.

But that was years ago, and even though he’s still very much afraid of being out in the field and still tries to speed over jumps, I’m not afraid to ride him in those situations. Because I’ve learned what he does and how he handles his fear, and have subsequently learned how to deal with it.

And I expect I’ve become a little braver too.

I’ve been riding for nine years now, almost a full decade of my life, and I started when I was in grade three–just a small little bugger clinging to a massive horse’s back. I remember being so afraid in those days. I didn’t like cleaning the horses’ hooves because I thought I’d be kicked, I didn’t like putting the bridle on because I was afraid of being bitten, and I was afraid to canter or jump because I thought I’d fall off. And when you’re scared, the horse becomes scared as they sense your unease and are wary of it.

But after nine years, you learn a lot of things. You learn to watch the horse’s body language, so you don’t get kicked or bitten. You learn how to keep centred and balanced, so you don’t fall off. You also have to learn to trust yourself. You must stay calm and collected, you must conquer your own fear, so that your horse will be a little braver.

I’ve done all sorts of wonderful things, too, like riding bareback and sidesaddle, and vaulting (gymnastics on horseback), and riding through trees and creeks. Things my eight-year-old self would hate to imagine.

So riding Dom in the field last week, feeling his nervous energy, I stayed calm. I knew he wanted to run but I knew he was obedient and sweet–he would do most anything I asked. I knew that if a bunny spooked him, he would run towards the barn, and I knew that I would be able to sit it out, like I had many times before. Dom had taught me to trust myself, and I had learned to be braver.

I often criticize myself for not being brave. In a lot of ways, I’m right to do so. But it’s encouraging, to see a part of my life where I’ve got this bravery thing figured out. Where I’m able to trust myself as much as I trust my horse.

I’m glad I started riding when I did, partly because it’s a really cool hero-ish thing to do, and partly because I would never have had this opportunity for bravery. I would never have proved to myself that I can do it, that I’m capable of conquering my fear.

Perhaps there’s hope for me after all ;)

What makes you feel brave?

May you never lose hope in being brave.

-Alex

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9 thoughts on “Brave on Horseback

  1. Aw, pretty Dom. Beautiful creatures, horses are. Noble little spirits.

    You can learn about yourself from horses.. But hey, you’re braver than I am, since you’re still riding them! I’m just a coward, to be honest, and I let myself tremendously because of it. And horses made me realise how much of a coward I actually am.

    Being on the back of spooked horses is quite the experience, though. Ugh. I never fell off a horse, though, when I used to have them! Not sure how I managed that one, to be honest, especially since a horse I was on reared while spooking once. *shrugs* But riding bareback is also quite the experience. That’s special, yet terrifying. I also rode bareback without a bridle, and I genuinely thought that was how I was going to die. But hey, I did it! (:

    I was thinking about my old horse just the other day, you know… and how she used to follow me around the field. Jeez. It’s such a kick in the heart to think about horses these days. Gaaaaaahhhh, life. *shakes fist* I miss horses terribly, yet still I cannot go back to them.

    By the way, who is that on Dom? You or your friend? :P Either way: *waves hello*

    • He’s such a beautiful horse, but he gives me the most unimpressed looks sometimes :P

      I disagree that you are a coward–scared maybe, but true cowards don’t admit their fears :) But wow, you’ve never fallen off? It’s a real treat, you’re missing out ;) You were on a rearing horse? Yikes. The bareback without a bridle sounds amazing though :D

      Mm… :( Perhaps one day you will be ready to return to them. No point rushing yourself though, in a process that takes times :)

      Haha, that’s me! *waves back*

      • Haha, horses can be good at that. My old pony used to look at me ‘unimpressed’ all the time. She was a little sweetheart, though, just terribly shy and wary of people. And she was terrified of bits and things in her mouth, ’cause she was a rescue and she had a really bad experience. So, bitless bridle it was ;)

        Aw, that’s a lovely thing to say.. Maybe, eh ^^ But nope, never! I feel awfully left out… Yeah right, rearing horses = not fun. In fact, being on a spooked horse at all is not fun. That little dance they do on their hooves. Ugh. STAAAHHHPP.

        Maybe one day… It’ll be exactly a year since my accident on 5th! What a horrible anniversary that is. Very sad, but what can ya do?

        *gasps and squeals* THAT’S YOU?! HI ALEX!!! *waves enthusiastically*

        • Hehe, silly girl :P Oh, that’s so sweet though, that she was a rescue. She certainly found a good loving home with you :)

          Maybe maybe :) Hahaha, yes, the dance! The dance of doom, I swear!! Oi, what skittish creatures they can be!

          Ah, yes, that’s me, hiding my baby face from the camera :P Honest to goodness, if you compare the pictures of when I was riding at age 8 to me riding now, I look the exact same. I have the exact same little kid face. Doesn’t help that I’ve had the same red and black vest for all that time too, haha.

          • Aw, well hopefully, eh ^^ Bless her. She was such a darling. I miss the both of ’em, her and my other girl.

            Hahaha, ‘the dance of doom’ <- YES. That is it. They're hideously skittish, but then we can't really blame them, being prey animals in their minds and all.

            Hahaha, I'm sure it's not that baby-fied. Ha, have you not outgrown it?! That's adorable :P But hey, at least it keeps the cost of things down! Think of the positives ;)
            A friend of mine (Meggie, of course) saw a photo of me from when I was 11 once, and she said, "You look exactly the same. You are like an ageless goddess" <- hilarious. I think my face has certainly 'matured' over the years, but I know what she means when she says it hasn't changed. Silly things faces are, eh.

          • Aw yeah <3

            Yeah… I always seem to forget they're prey animals, considering how many times I've been stepped on and pushed around and squashed against the wall. I certainly wouldn't make much of a predator if horses were my prey, jeez!

            Pfft, yes, I think it is baby-fied, my mother reminds me quite frequently. Ha, no I haven't! It's expandable so it just grew with me! Oh man, but when I was 8, the Velcro/elastic strap that went over the zipper was too big, so I had to tie it in a knot, but that stretched it out so I still have to tie it in a knot to this day for it to fit which makes me feel even tinier than I actually am. But yeah, I'll never have to buy a new vest again, ha :P

            "An ageless goddess." My, what a compliment! Yeah, it's so strange how some people's faces change dramatically, and yet others just don't. A puzzle, for sure.

          • Haha, ah yes, being squished again the wall is always a fun one. I was walking my horse through a narrow alleyway once, and a noise from behind her spooked her to death, and she just barged me against the wall and bolted away, so I just let go of the lead rope otherwise I am quite certain I would have been trampled, but when she got out the alleyway, I saw her stop and turn around and just look at me totally blasé with an expression that said, “Well, hurry up then.” She stood there and waited for me though! She was rather polite, considering everything.

            Hahaha, what are mothers for? ;) Oh wow, really! Haha, that is unfortunate, but as you say, at least you haven’t got to worry about getting a new one :P

            Ha, I suppose it is quite the compliment!

  2. i didn’t know that you could ride, that’s amazing! :) I know for me, being brave and being cocky sometimes go hand in hand, so whenever i do feel brave, I try my best to be silently confident afterwards, or maybe even happy and appreciative. In recent performances at school and stuff, and i did this at Grad too, I would clap a little to the audience while they clap at me, and i just do it really in the heat of the moment without really thinking all that hard. I want them to know that I am just as appreciative of them for listening as they are of me for playing. :)

    If being brave is a trait of being open, then I would probably have a touch of bravery at my work as well. Not everyone you meet is smiling at everybody around them, and I do that all the time at my work. That’s a little scary to me, because our community is so secluded, and we don’t really have a village vibe, but more of an ethical and reasonable, yet minimal display of pleasure and respect when we’re around people here in Cambridge. I would love for the city or town I live in one day to have a sort of village vibe, where everyone really knows each other and doesn’t have to be secluded, especially secluded as a whole and can branch out to other places :) Bravery is often found in these sorts of honesty :)

    • Haha yeah :D Mm, those are both such good habits to have! I admire the bravery you have for going on stage and doing what you love, it’s awesome. And I totally get what you mean about the village vibe. It’s strange to think that everyone’s lives are so similar, living in the same area, going to the same stores, and yet when we see strangers doing the same thing as we are, we tend to ignore them. So good for you for not ignoring them and smiling at those around you :) Even a gesture as humble as a smile can have immense bravery.

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