Horses · Mindfulness

Beating the Avoidance

It had been a while since my view was from behind those ears.

Adding to what was already a difficult year, I have also faced a fair few challenges with this little mare, leaving me feeling that I did not know how to move forwards with my confidence, her confidence, our partnership or our progress.

*Enter #MindfulRiding*.

Whilst I am a Brand Ambassador, this is not a post to brag and say within a couple of mindful sessions, my confidence is sky high and I am now aiming for the Olympics… because I can assure you, neither is true! But what Mindful Riding has done is even better for my journey. The lovely lady behind it has questioned my mindset and my negative thoughts, and in her group Anchor Your Anxiety just this week, I learnt about Performance Anxiety which can lead to the avoidance of doing the things that you want to do, for the fear of it going wrong, and a realisation that I am so guilty of this then followed.

Coincedentally, perhaps a day later, I was asked if I would like to take my little mare for a hack in company, something I have not yet been able to do. My first instinct was to say no, coming up with all the possible reasons in my head as to why this would go horribly wrong, trying to avoid failure as I felt I had failed before. However, being aware of my feelings for avoidance and with it fresh in my mind, I said yes and agreed to go out for the hack. I was terrified at the idea of it, not knowing how she would be as I took her fresh from her field for the first time in a couple of months, but the excitement really started to creep in once I had agreed.

It was really windy on the day of the hack, another factor that I was aware could heighten both my worry and hers! I continued to saddle up, but despite that we did have a fairly spooky start! Throughout the time we were out though, after spooking at a sheep, we got past it – success! We walked past a cow (which I couldn’t believe!), through woodlands, past big hairy dogs and little yappy dogs alike, families, children, buggies – all things that I wasn’t sure she would, and there she was proving me wrong. I had moments of really focusing on the breathing techniques that I have been learning about, and visulisation as well so that my own fear wouldn’t creep into her. We came across a big german shephard x husky that I was particularly concerned that she may not want to go past, so I tried to visualise simply walking past without problem, and that’s what we did!

We were asked to trot, another thing I was nervous about but she did so and was listening to me the whole time. Better yet, we cantered through a meadow! Cantering is something we have really struggled to get together so we haven’t done much of. I wasn’t sure if she had ever done so in an open space and being part Thoroughbred I struggled to shake the feeling that if I got started it could go on as though I was participating in the Grand National… it was nothing like it! For me, cantering in the open isn’t something I have done for years but I loved it! I really couldn’t believe how amazing she was, how steady she cantered, how well she listened and how hard she tried for me, and I didn’t stop smiling and patting her for a long while afterwards.

It gives me hope that by learning Mindfulness techniques and how to cope with my fears and anxiety that I will learn to deal with how I am feeling, rather than feel as though I need to avoid things due to the fear.

Another factor that I has played a really important role in me getting back in the saddle is the help and support of my awesome friend, with whom I am on this Mindful journey with. Do not underestimate the importance of your support network and having people in your corner! Our fun rides out have helped give me the confidence to go out again, and were the reminder that I needed that we do this for the enjoyement of it. I hope those rides will continue for a very long time, and maybe one day, with both horses!

I am very aware that my ride was just one, that on a not so good day it could have gone very differently. When this little mare is in a bad mood, it can be bad and we can end up in heated discussion! On the other hand, when she is good, she is awesome… and my goodness, she was awesome! I think at first, we were probably both feeling out of our comfort zone, but it really highlighted to me that actually she probably needs me to feel confident just as much as I need her to feel it, perhaps even more so.

I am proud that I did it despite feeling as though I shouldn’t, and I am proud of her, for totally exceeding all expectations! Another thing it made me realise was that I should try have more faith in my little mare. It may not be easy because of the challenges that we have faced, but how we recover is more important, something I am hoping we can work on mindfully because I am also proud of us, and how far we have come.

I know I am one to get carried away with future plans (not quite the Olympics!) but eventually I would like to compete for fun, maybe a clear round class to get into it (the dream since I was about 12 years old!!)… but knowing this, I am trying to stay open minded and not think about that just yet. Now is all we have. And in that now, I am simply going to enjoy that feeling of pride, unbelievable pride for our achievement and the step we have taken x

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