Four Mares No Money Blog Hop: The Fear

I will admit that I have only recently started reading Four Mares No Money, but I'm glad I did! It's a great blog, and she raises a very poignant question in this blog hop:

What is the most fearful moment you have ever experienced with a horse?

Um, where do I even start? Riding is a sport that requires us to basically take our lives in our hands every day as we climb up on a half-ton beast with thousands of years of survival instincts that tell it to RUN AWAY NOW whenever it feels that its life is threatened. Which is pretty much always. So fear - and learning to cope with fear - is a huge part of being a rider, like it or not. This blog hop has opened my eyes to the fears of other bloggers who I used to think were absolutely fearless... Like Lindsey or Carly. I didn't think anything could rattle them. But reading about everyone's fearful moments has helped me come to terms with my own fear, and I feel a little more okay about having to deal with anxiety about riding. Especially just getting started in eventing, sometimes it feels like I have to be Superwoman and never, ever afraid in order to be cut out for this sport! Knowing that riders I admire get scared sometimes too is actually quite empowering.

But, on to my own story.

I started riding at the age of 10, and up until I was about 18 or 19 I knew no fear. I'd get on anything. I'd get on horses I probably SHOULDN'T have gotten on. I honestly can't remember a time on or with a horse up until that point in my life where I was truly, really terrified. Sure I fell off many, MANY times, but I never got scared.

In college, as you may know, I majored in Equine Studies. For some people in the program who came from show barn backgrounds, or had good trainers growing up, the college riding program was no great challenge. But for me, having learned to ride on whatever crazy, lame thing happened to come in from the dealer with piss-poor instruction to boot, and the other half of the time being let loose to ride on my own, I suddenly became a very small fish in a very BIG pond. I now knew what I didn't know, and I was being pushed to the limits of my admittedly-lacking abilities.

My first big fearful moment happened in a freshman year riding class during which we were having a lunge lesson. No stirrups, no reins, and I was riding Buddy - the best school horse in the entire universe - being lunged by Lisa, the best TA in the universe. And out of the blue, the perceived lack of control that came from not having my reins to hold onto absolutely paralyzed me with fear. I froze. I started bawling uncontrollably in front of my instructor, Lisa the TA, and all my classmates. For the first time ever on a horse, I was terrified, and the gate to fear was opened.

Buddy and I. Loved this little horse! 
Since then, I've had other scary moments. Like the time I was in a group lesson post-college riding a horse that bolted and bucked without warning. I almost ran over a small child on a pony that night. Several times. Again, the feeling of being completely out of control was petrifying, but the experience wasn't life-altering. I've been on a few hair-raising trail rides in my day, too, but until recently I didn't have another scary experience that rocked me as hard as that lunge lesson did.

Fast-forward to my first show season with Dino, and the Horse Show From Hell. You can read the gory details in the subsequent blog posts, but in summary I had a nasty stop & crash in front of a warm-up fence, followed by two absolutely frightening, barely-holding-it-together jumper rounds during which I'm pretty sure my pony was possessed by one of Satan's minions. There were tears, and swearing in front of the judge, and it was not pretty.

While I wasn't physically injured that day, it completely wrecked me mentally and emotionally when it came to jumping. I was scared to jump, and there was no way around it. I was so paralyzed by fear that I was riding my pony to a stop in front of every fence. But almost worse than the fear was the frustration that came with it - I LOVED jumping, I WANTED to jump, I used to be GOOD at it - being afraid to jump was maddening.

My blog follows my progression from Horrified by Crossrails back to jumping 3'+ without anxiety, but it's been a long, hard road. It's taught me a lot about fear, how to cope with it, and the fact that we never truly "get over" our fears, we just learn to manage them. I think I'll always deal with some sort of jump-related anxiety, and I don't know if I'll ever be truly excited to jump downhill. But in a way I'm thankful for my fear and for the life experience it's given me - at the very least I can now help other riders through their own fear, and that is a gift in itself.


  1. These fear posts have been so interesting for me. I was a pretty fearful kid, even though I did eventing. I was terrified of being run away with, and had to be coaxed to jump most wide jumps. I could see in my mind my horse coming down halfway on a wide plank. (We're talking Beginner Novice sized jumps here!) Somehow, I lost that fear as an adult. I think part of it is having a horse I have total confidence in. He might be a sensitive dick, but I know he's going to take care of me, and that he has the scope. Even though we don't jump any more, the time we spent jumping taught me to trust my horse and know when we could and couldn't make it. That was such a good lesson, I don't have the fear any more. Turns out, filling up your head with problem-solving tools makes the problems seem much less imposing. I'm pretty fearless now, but I try to keep that fearful little kid's memory around to remind me not to be stupid. Fearless can often turn dumb.

  2. Love your post,and you make some great points about how fear must be managed :)

  3. It is so strange how fear can be so awfully paralyzing. Thank you so much for sharing your story, and I am glad that I found your blog too! :)

  4. thanks for sharing your story! i think we riders frequently do ourselves a disservice by believing that 'fear' only arises from bad accidents or bodily harm - esp as i'm learning that much more often it's a mental game, and the things that 'undo' us might seem like nothing to an onlooker. there's no logic to it - fear just is what it is. but talking about it helps, i think. love your point about managing and learning from it.

  5. I think the whole lack of control thing is really what gets to me the most, too. I started following your blog right around the time of the Show From Hell, and it's crazy to think back on how far you and Dino have rebounded since then.


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