My personal journey through fear began when the day before my 19th birthday I went for my first ever trail ride at a small resort in northern BC where I was working for the summer. The wrangler had saddled my horse a big 16H tall palomino and we started off around the staff bunkhouse. The cook at the time came out of the bunk house, shook out a towel and caused my horse to spook. The horse bolted, took off around the bunkhouse and bucked, reared then threw me off over his shoulder. I landed on my head, heard bones crunch as I hit the ground. I rolled to get out of the way and it took twenty years before I remembered that the last thing I saw was a hoof coming down to my face before I passed out. When I came to, my boss, the wrangler, and a fuel truck driver were standing over me and wondering if I was dead. They had seen the fall and thought I’d broken my neck. I startled them when I yelled at them to “get me up!” They were reluctant to move me but I just knew that if they didn’t get me up I wouldn’t ever be getting up. So they did. My boss’s wife helped me into the bunkhouse bathroom where she helped me clean up a bit – there was blood everywhere – I’d lost a front tooth and later turned out had also broken my nose, shattered and pushed teeth up and into my jaw. Until a couple of years ago – anytime I was even near a horse I would freeze, break into a sweat, my breathing would become erratic and I would shake like a leaf and be in a panic state. Anything that ever emulated the feeling of going over the horse’s front end – bike riding, motorcycle riding or even sitting on a swing would cause the panic to come on.
Over the years I’ve found that life is full of big and small challenges that we face daily. Because I’ve always loved horses and always wanted to be able to ride them, my biggest challenge has been in pushing through my own fears and to get over my terror of actually riding a horse. It’s taken me 36 years to get to that point.
I’m a firm believer that in order to be the best facilitator I can be – I need to have experienced and worked through my own fears, trauma and issues, before I can truly be effective in helping others through theirs. As part of a huge learning curve for me to certify in working with the horses and people with trauma in a modality called Equine Facilitated Wellness, I’ve experienced my own therapy sessions. After four sessions of the program, I knew that I needed to have my/our own horses in order to continue my training. The goal has always been to eventually get on my horse and ride, but I made the choice to take my time to do it. So over the past year I’ve been spending time daily with our two wonderful geldings, Gold Rush & Floyd, getting to know them and learning to just ‘be’ in their presence.
The past two weeks have seen the biggest change in me – I felt that I was finally ready to start riding. Since my own boy Gold Rush (Gold), is wise and crafty, I didn’t want my first time up on a horse in many years to be on him, so the trainer I am working with offered to let me ride one of her ‘school’ horses. So I did, with her help. Her horse is a big 16H high Standardbred, which means he is REALLY tall and quite different from my sturdy quarter horse Gold. Coincidentally he turned out to be the same size and shape as the horse I had my major wreck on as a 19 year old kid. My trainer walked me around her round corral so I could get used to the feeling of being in the saddle – which is what I had asked of her. That session was about fifteen minutes long during which I had several flashbacks to my big wreck, had a bit of an emotional breakthrough and worked through the sheer terror of being on the back of a horse.
Later that week our trainer worked with both my hubby & I for our first riding lessons on our horses. My hubby Tom is brand new to horses, is a natural animal whisperer and has wanted his own horse for years. Tom has taken to riding very easily and it has been great to see him developing a bond with his boy, Floyd. Of course he was able to get right on, follow the trainers suggestions and make it look oh so easy. Then it was my turn and through some comedic moments where I fell off. (I forgot to re-check and retighten the cinch so that when I started to swing onto the saddle it slipped sideways). I landed hard on the ground and lay gasping for breath because I was laughing at myself. I wasn’t nervous and after regaining my breath and tightening the cinch I got on Gold’s back and with our trainer leading me around I rode my horse for the first time. I had a few moments of panic but was again able to work through it and after about 15 minutes called it a day.
Yesterday, we had another set of sessions and I was able to watch Tom work through some issues with his boy Floyd. Mainly a poorly fitting saddle that made us try swapping saddles before Floyd settled down to being amazing under saddle and he and Tom had a great lesson. It was like watching magic happen as they began to work as a team. It gave me a great sense of peace and hope.
Then it was my turn. I wasn’t actually afraid at all, no nerves, just saddled Gold, climbed up and had our trainer walk him around the yard once before asking her to just let me have the reins. With that shift in energy, Gold tried to test me by refusing to do as I ask. But I worked through it, gently but firmly letting him know that I wasn’t going to be put off by his insistence on stopping. My ride lasted about a half an hour and I felt amazing. I did it! I conquered my big fears and rode my own horse. The sense of accomplishment is unbelievable, and I am looking forward to today’s session where after we try a couple of different style saddles, I hope to ride around most of our 10 acre pasture.
On so many levels this a huge turning point, both personally and professionally. Personally because I have faced and conquered my own trauma and professionally because I KNOW how it feels to go through the program and feel I am now more able to help my clients work through their own issues.
The take away from this:
In order to facilitate changes in your life – you need to be READY to commit to your own healing, find the support of someone you feel comfortable enough with and trust to work with you through your deepest, darkest fears. It can be done. And the freedom you feel afterwards… defies words.