In the photo above I am riding my aunt's mare for the first time. I have seen this mare be great on the trails, but have seen her go fast in the arena which made me just slightly apprehensive. But once on her back and heading down the trail, I was fine.
I left a comment on HorseCentric's blog recently about trail riding and fear. I had a scary incident on My Boy last August on a trail ride. It was an awful ride, actually. To this day I am still shocked I didn't dismount and lead him the 2 hours home rather than stay on his very unsafe back. I attribute the bad ride to faulty equipment because I have not had those issues on a trail ride since. Regardless, every time I go out I am a little on edge.... will that behavior resurface?
I was telling Ranch Boy the other day that I actually feel safer riding ranch horses, or riding horses I don't know. Why is this? I will try to explain it. My Boy is my horse. Any behavior problems or changes are mine, to find the cause of and deal with. If My Boy starts tossing me on the trails, I have to sort out why, get on his back again, or find a trainer to help me. It is a huge responsibility, and it is mine. Let me clarify that I am not afraid to ride my horse and I don't sit up there an anxious mess!
When I am riding other people's horses, I am putting faith in that they are saying the horse is safe and won't hurt me. And if I have a great ride, then great. If I were to have an awful ride and get tossed or scared? Well, I never have to ride that horse again, right? I can say thank you very much for the ride, but I didn't like that horse and I'll pass on that one next time.
Ranch Boy and I on a trail ride in California. You will notice on this blog that RB and I are wearing helmets 99.5% of the time we ride. It is his story to tell by RB sustained a serious head injury from a fall from a horse when he was a teenager so a helmet is a necessity. For me, it's just a personal choice to save my brain. By the way, check out the mane on RB's horse! Woo-ee! It was a windy day!
I'm not saying every little thing a horse might do out of the norm scares me. For example, I will ride a horse again if once in a while he spooks at a deer on the trails. I'm talking about a horse that exhibits dangerous behavior such as bucking, bolting, rearing, or just being completely unresponsive and generally out of control.
I'm riding a large variety of horses these days and I am learning a lot about myself and horses in general. Fear is a funny thing, isn't it? Some people seem to crave that adrenaline, that edge of fear. They want to ride all the challenging horses, the crazy ones. I recently read in a journal I kept as a teenager that my pony was being prancy and jiggy on the trails and that "I loved it." Nowadays, I don't love that behavior.
It's just not my thing. I've always played it a bit safe. I like my bones, I've yet to break one. I'm okay not being a huge risk-taker when it comes to horses. I still have fun. I enjoy my moments in the saddle. I challenge myself and constantly learn, such as when I took saddleseat lessons two years ago on high-stepping Saddlebreds in a very flat saddle. And even playing it safe, there are no guarantees that something won't happen with any horse I ride. I am not unrealistic.
I am going to try to find a mobile instructor to give me some lessons this summer, and I'm saving up to participate in a clinic. I think I will benefit from some professional advice on my own horse, and someone to really push me and help me grow in my confidence.
What kind of rider are you and how does fear play into your experience with horses?