Monday, April 21, 2008

Addressing Fear - Part I

Fear of horses, or at least fear of what a large, powerful animal can do to us, is something that has come up in comments and in other horse blogs. This has led to some soul-searching on my part. My heart goes out to those individuals who are just starting out working with horses and are afraid to ride, as well as those who have suffered accidents that scarred their confidence. I have a poem I wrote years ago that sums up the fear that I was feeling at the time.

Mountainous Passes

A full year passes

and I haven’t ridden my horses.

My neighbors are out

every summer evening

confidently mastering a seat

and reins of leather

while I cower with my poems

in my fold-up chair.

The old, once-infected slice

down the inside of my arm

blinks like a Reno-neon

light in my face.

Two metal plates and twelve

pins reshaped my forearm

from and “S” into an “I”.

Others don’t question the intention

of horses, they just ride

when they’re good and ready.

I must check my horses’ moods,

study the weather, measure

hunger, allot enough time to not

feel rushed – but that time

never arrives. Another year

will pass without perfection,

another year overruled by fear.

I’m ashamed that an eight-

year-old girl’s parents

allow her to ride nightly,

easily as some people say

“Pass the peas,”

yet I can’t bring myself to

take another chance

to be the fly on my best friend’s


Obviously, I, like most horse people, had an accident. Once you break a bone, you learn the true concept of time. It seems to take forever to heal. During the recovery, you have to change how you do things, like how you move, how you sleep, how you type or write, how you drive -- if you can drive, how you pick up things, how you open a jar. You adapt, but the entire time you are healing, you are feeling anger over the loss of time and functionality. You can no longer ride your horse. You lose your entire year's vacation time at work to sick leave. In a blink of an eye, you go from being a healthy, free, functional person to being handicapped and in pain for three to six months. It takes a toll on your loved ones, as they often have to take care of you and your responsibilities.

I think that for those of us who have healed from horse accidents, we fear the recovery more than anything else. Maybe we don't avoid riding because we fear the horse. Perhaps we avoid riding because we fear our own fate. I will be running a series of posts addressing fear. Stay tuned.


onthebit said...

I can't wait to read the rest! I broke my finger last year riding a greenie (it was free) and while I did not loose my nerve that time I did l have to take a lot of time off of barn work which really hurt my fincial situation. It took me a long time to get my nerve back after a bad spill. I look forward to more about it!

Beckz said...

OMG they wrote a poem about me! lol. No seriously I feel like that sometimes, but then sometimes a healthy dose of caution is a sensible thing.

sue said...

that was a great poem... I fell and broke my ankle.. I was months in a cast!!! and with small children at the time, was very blessed with a patient husband who had to take on a number of extra chores... an excellent trainer and a lot of time got me back in the saddle.. though the thought of falling still occurs to me when my horse begins to act up....

Mrs Mom said...

Excellent post and topic NM!!!

I have to wonder just how many of us have some fear issue buried down deep, that we just are not willing to own up to? I sure do- and it isnt buried down deep! Since having the boys, getting up on a young horse is cause for BIG pause. Getting up on a fresh young horse, or even one who is older and had time off makes me stop and think. While we have worked out a way around things, by doing some ground work for a few days before mounting up, there is still that voice that says, "If you come off this horse and get hurt, who is going to take care of the boys?"

Maybe it has made me more aware, and smarter about how we do things?

Really absolutely can not stand that feeling of doubt though, and that odd little buzz in my belly before putting a foot in the stirrup...

Looking forward to the rest of your series here!

Callie said...

Nice post!

Val said...

I can still remember that day like it was yesterday. I decided to take a break from training and head out on the trail. The view was spectacular, and we both seemed to be enjoying ourselves. It happened so fast though. He jumped into the air, and since I was not anticipating this, I lost my balance and fell hard....on my shoulder. He just stood there like the good boy he was. I reached up to grab the reins and noticed my left arm was just kinda dangling.
As it turned out, I broke my collarbone. The next day I noticed my best friend was lame. Out the vet came and after some x-rays it seemed he tore his suspensory muscle, which we figured was why he bucked....from the pain. So we both were on 6 weeks of rest.
At first, I could see your point...just how fragile we are. But then, so was he. We were a team and when one was hurt, the other hurt too.
We took that time to catch up on our tending to him and him understanding that with one usable arm, things would take extra time. I loved that time...I would take the pain again to get it back.

Jamie said...

Can't wait for the posts. This one hit my nail on the head. After 2 concussions, foot broke in 9 places, and many many scars - all in the last 2 years....I am sometimes scared to death. I know my horse can tell, and I carry my non-confidence over onto him. It is getting better, but wish I had a pill to take to make it all go away. They are probably out there but am sure they are illegal..LOL
Thanks for the post and I am loving your blog.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Thanks for your input, everyone. I've been writing this series of posts in advance, but I'm sure your comments will bring up aspects I will want to add to future posts. When I write about my accident, I plan to cover every mistake I made. I don't care if I make myself look like an idiot as long as I can prevent others from making the same mistakes. In my case, my accident was 100% my fault, but sometimes accidents just happen and there's nothing you can do to avoid them.

Rising Rainbow said...

Boy, my fear is right up near the surface. It's not buried anywhere, sometimes I wish it was, I might get more done.

Twinville said...

I am sitting her transfixed reading your posts on Fear. Your writing is so thought provoking, eloquent and honest..and raw.

I so appreciate you sharing your personal experiences, thoughts, ideas, and feelings concerning the fear that many of us have around our beloved horses......

Katee said...

I've been lurking on your blog for a while, but this post really hit me on the head. I left my riding stable in tears last week because after tacking up my horse, lunging him, and then asking him to stand next to the mounting block for a good 5 minutes, I simply could not force myself to get on.

I hit my helmeted head so hard a year ago in a fall off my horse that I knocked myself out. I came to, talked to people, walked into the hospital on my own two feet...and don't remember any of it. I remember putting my foot in the stirrup and then nothing until they were putting my in the CAT scan machine. Some days I have great rides and feel relaxed and happy. Other days, I simply can't force myself to even climb into the saddle.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I do want to say that though I'm starting this series talking about horse accidents, my goal is not to scare anyone off from horse ownership. I am merely chronicaling my progression through fear regarding horses, and it does end on a happy note -- I promise. I mainly aim to encourage discussion of how we horse people feel, and then follow it up with ideas on how we can increase our safety and confidence.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Katee - Head and spinal injuries are the scariest. I suspect that the fear builds on itself as time passes. If you know what caused the accident, you can correct it next time, but if you don't know, then the fear over whether it will happen again is always there. Take your time and take whatever safety precautions are necessary. If you are not afraid to ride some days and afraid on others, I'll bet you are picking up on some subtle clues from your horse or environment. I cetainly back down from riding if I can't get my horse settled down after longeing, or even if I've get a gut instinct that it's not a good day to ride.

enlightened horsemanship said...

The timing of your post could not be better. While I'm dealing with the pain and aftermath of what was essentially a minor fall, the memories of past falls (including a couple of bad ones) are returning, and together they are planting a little seed of fear.
I'm assuming that the pain is kind of "fertilizing" this seed, and that once I feel better, the fear will decrease. Maybe I mean, I "hope."
Thanks for tackling this subject.
I look forward to reading more.

Flying Lily said...

Great post. I have muscle memory of my last bad fall (4 years ago) that still causes me to stiffen up when certain things start to happen. And we all know! the horses know when we get antsy. I look forward to your next post and the details. Then we can talk about strategies to deal.