A rider who provides me with much inspiration,Ingrid Klimke said to me recently, “Try to foresee the things that can happen and do not wait until it is too late.”
I started thinking about all the ways that this can be applied to dressage, and the mindset that we must carry into every training session.
Quite often what happens after the too late scenario is that you or your horse, or both, lose your confidence.
I have spoken about a loss of confidence before, but I think I never fully delved into just what that can really mean for horse and rider.
If a horse loses their confidence, or their trust in their rider, it can in some cases take years to get it back. I know horses that have become so terrified of their rider that they end up not even letting people pat them on the ground.
This sort of loss goes deep into the animal, and only a horseman with patience, compassion, and more patience and compassion, can help the horse slowly find his trust in us again.
When a rider loses his or her confidence, it can be equally as detrimental, and what is sometimes underestimated, is the impact this loss can have on the rider’s entire life.
You know those days when you have a good ride, and just everything in life seems better. The sun is brighter, people don’t piss you off, you can burn the toast three times and it doesn’t matter, cause you had a good ride ;).
So what happens to the world when suddenly, the thing you have done possibly all your life, your natural passion, and in some cases your reason for getting up, becomes a point of fear. Fear to the point of nervous aches, and anxiety at just the thought of falling off, or getting bucked about, or being out of control on a horse heading flat out into chaos.
We see children who start off their riding career like this, petrified, and their parents push them to do it, and perhaps some overcome it, but more often than not the kid ends up more afraid, and the horse will of course pick up on this fear, and if they are a smart pony, well, it’s a party.
However, if you started off as a rider who was not afraid of anything, who would gallop flat chat through the Australian bush jumping anything and everything, racing the other horses, feeling free, and untouchable, then the change in your attitude can be quite devastating.
For me it happened slowly. Suddenly I realised I wasn’t invincible, falling off hurt, and getting back on got harder, as the horses got bigger, and more powerful.
Admitting to myself I was afraid, was the hardest thing to do, and then trying to make others understand, was even more difficult.
The second element though, is what that means for your life outside of horses. You know those great ride days, well imagine that the thing that is at the heart of that peaceful joy, is suddenly associated with fear.
Quite possibly many of you have gone through this at sometime, and trying to explain what you are going through to a non-horsey person can be rather difficult.
You may have a good job, good health, a horse to ride, family, and all seems fantastic, so what is wrong with you?
It’s important in these moments to talk to other riders that may understand. Not the crazy cowboy who thinks falling off is fun, but someone who gets just how much that will impact you, and how much you will feel that as a failure.
Truth is you can get through it, by making the right choices, the choices for you, and not the choices that other people will respect.
No you cannot just ignore it, and push through, but admitting it is the first step. Then you must take action to solve it, little by little, day by day, until you can finally say to yourself, well I’m not invincible, but I am damn well enjoying every minute of it!!