Saturday, July 25, 2020

Anxiety - A choice to live in it or defeat it.

I never expected have have anxiety.  Sure, I've experienced that anxiety before an event, the nervousness, butterflies in your stomach, kind of anxiety.  However, I've never had true anxiety. The kind that stops a person in their tracks, takes hold of their life, and doesn't let go. The kind of anxiety that you never know when it was going to hit or how it was going to.  From crying, to trembling, to hyperventilating to blacking out; when it hits you, it hits you right between the eyes. Yes, that is the anxiety that I faced after my accident June, 2019.

It's not that my accident was so traumatic that it warranted this level of anxiety.  However as I've came to find out, that's not how anxiety works.  It doesn't care of the circumstance, it just takes hold of any insecurity it finds and digs it's claws in.  No one gets to make the choice for you if what you've dealt with in the past is bad enough to have anxiety or not.  That's up to you and sometimes like in my case, it's out of your control.

It took me two months to physically heal enough to ride again, but still 13 months later, I'm battling to heal emotionally.  Some days are easier than others, while some days it takes all I have to saddle up.  The last month has been a huge break through for me and slowly the anxiety is losing its hold on me. I refused to let anxiety be the end to my story. To let it change me or the passion I've had all my life. 

I've started to share more and more of my story the last couple months.  In doing so, I've realized just how many other people are also battling this same fight. In life we like to keep our struggles to our selves, to only show the highs and highlights of our life, but that doesn't help others in times of trial.  With that in mind, I've decided to talk about some of the vital things that have helped me literally get back in the saddle.

  • Don't wait.  The longer you take in taking action, the harder it will be to defeat your anxiety. 
  • Get back on the horse, but the right horse! At first, I knew I couldn't get back on the horse I had my accident with. It actually took the greenest colt I had to help me through my anxiety. She was forgiving and did not take advantage of my emotions. She was priceless in my time of need.
  • Small steps are better than no steps. Sometimes just saddling was a struggle, but it's better than nothing. 
  • Find your trigger. For me, my biggest anxiety was stepping on and those first few steps. 
  • Ask for help.  My husband helped me back on my horse. Since we knew my trigger, he literally held my horse while I stepped on and walked me around the corral like some kid on a lead line pony. 
  • Be mindful of negative energy. Those rodeo wrecks or bloopers seen posted all over social media are not something you need to be watching right now. 
  • Energy flows where attention goes.  Don't dwell on negatives or the past or that's where you'll end up. 
  • Let go of the fear of judgement.  Remember, NO ONE has walked in your shoes, therefore, they don't have the right to decide how you should feel. 
  • Find and understand your horse's trigger.  Learn from your horse and try to understand what caused him/her to react the way they did.  This will help you better prepare you and them for the coming rides. 
  • Breathe and be ready for detours. Anxiety doesn't keep a schedule. If you find yourself in a position of anxiety, stop, breathe and regain your composure.  But, KEEP GOING! 
  • Create a Goal, preferably with a timeline. For me, I wanted to ride my horse within a year.  Had I not set that goal, I might never have gotten back on her and just settled for riding something else.  Getting back on the horse in question might not work for everyone, but for me, it was vital.  
These are some of the key things that have helped me regain my life and love of riding. Please don't get me wrong, there were more times than I can count that I was just going to sell my horse or never get back on her.  There are still times that I have to mute the negative self talk and force myself to saddle up.  With work, EACH. DAY. GETS. EASIER.

No one wants to be vulnerable; to show their faults and weaknesses.  However, everyone has something they struggle with. That's life. As a whole, the horse industry stays silent about anxiety. But I won't.

Disclaimer: Each individual and situation is unique, so what works for me, might not apply to you.  However, I hope that this helps those that need it or those who have not experienced it, receive some insight to help others.  

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Holey Jeans

Throughout the years, in my slow work I had made a habit of making a small effort to praise after every barrel.  A simple pat on the neck and a "good job" were all I'd do.  I wanted my horses to know they had done well, beyond the release of getting to go on to the next barrel.  I'd done this so much that I didn't realize I was even doing it. It became second nature.

Several years ago, I was at a barrel clinic with a horse that I felt oozed with confidence. When sitting at the gate, he had this air about him, a feeling that was palpable through the saddle.  He felt unshakable and he knew his job.

As I was doing my slow work at the clinic, the clinician stopped me. She said that I should reward my horse with a praise like that after they did something more significant.  Not something as simple as turning a barrel at a slow trot or lope that at that point, this particular horse could do in his sleep. I took her advice and saved my praise for the really "significant" breakthroughs we had.

When I came home and started making more runs on this horse, I felt him second guess himself.  His booming confidence dwindled.  It took some time and trial and error before I realized what was lacking. Praise.  That little pat on the neck of reassurance meant more to that horse than I or the clinician could ever have known.

Just like a kind word, a praise, or acknowledgement is often overlooked, something so simple can mean so much to the person or animal on the receiving end. It can have an impact that can reach far below the surface. In this case, an outside look saw a touch of a neck, but the horse felt something so much more beyond that.

I thought of this story as I was cleaning and came across a pair of jeans. These jeans have a small hole in the leg. How that hole appeared, was a result of an accident when a horse stepped on me.  My husband was with me at the time.  At first glance, he thought a band aide or at most a little vet wrap would fix what was beneath the surface.  When beneath the surface (my leg) was revealed, he saw that the impact was much greater than what the surface (my jeans) had originally shown.

This visual is the same for horses and people.  However we aren't often able to go beneath the surface.  Don't underestimate the value of something small.  A good word, a pat on the shoulder, a smile, all can go a long ways and will spread well beyond, just like it did with the hole in my jeans.

Viewer discretion advised.