I’ve been riding since I was three years old. It is without doubt my favourite hobby. My father was in the Cavalry which made learning to ride ‘par for the course’ in my childhood. My sister and I had a Dartmoor pony when we were little and then a gorgeous grey pony when we grew a bit bigger. When we hit our teens we transitioned to riding some of the Army’s horses in some amazing locations such as Windsor Great Park, Hyde Park and around the streets of London. We were very lucky!
In terms of technical skills, I am not a brilliant rider. I certainly wouldn’t win any prizes! Actually, that’s not strictly true…I have a little collection of rosettes from gymkhanas that I competed in during my childhood. The truth is that I always hold my hands a little too high and I can never keep my lower leg still enough. I don’t really understand ‘leg yielding’ or how to transition from ‘inside leg to outside rein’ and I don’t know what they mean by ‘engaging the horse’s topline’.
And yet strangely, in the saddle is the one place that I feel good enough. I can acknowledge that I’m not as good as others, but for some reason I don’t care. I am not perfect, but it really doesn’t matter. I do it for the pure enjoyment. That’s a rare thing for me because I pretty much beat myself up about everything, every mistake, everything that I should have done but didn’t (or did, but probably shouldn’t have!)
I feel confident that I know how to ride and it is such a relief to feel content with my skillset. I can’t explain it. The thing that really stands out to me is that horse riding is the only thing that I do where I don’t feel any fear. I don’t worry about falling off and hurting myself (although I’d rather not!) In every other aspect of my life, I am worried about failure or looking like an idiot or rejection or embarrassment or a million other things.
It is the only thing in my life where I genuinely don’t feel any fear.
I often wonder why it is this way. Do I feel fear in pretty much everything else I do because I don’t love those things? Maybe it is because I started riding when I was very small and I didn’t understand the concept of ‘not good enough’ back then? Did I learn at an early age when I didn’t realise comparing yourself to others was a thing? When I was still young enough to fail (i.e. fall off!) and get back on without being deterred?
I have fallen off plenty of times and whilst sometimes a little winded or shaken, I always get straight back on the horse. I’ve been in the position where a horse slipped, fell and landed on me, trapping my leg underneath but after pulling my leg free and checking the horse was okay, I got straight back on…as if it was no big deal! It happened in front of other people, but I didn’t feel any embarrassment or shame. I didn’t question whether it was my fault or if I had done something stupid or if I made a mistake. It was just something that happened and I was content to leave it at that.
Oh how I wish I could take that attitude into my every day life! How much easier and more relaxing would my life be if I didn’t worry about ‘falling off’, if I wasn’t constantly judging myself and I was confident in my abilities. If I had no fear of failing, if I knew that I’d just ‘get back on the horse’, accept that I’d be a little bruised and sore but I’d heal. If I could just find some acceptance that sometimes things just happen…I don’t always need to seek to understand.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I apply my fearlessness with horses to other areas of my life. After all, it is proof that I can do it. I can be fearless and I can trust or be confident in my natural ability. I am not quite sure how I am going to do it yet, but I know that I am going to try and keep trying.