While there are many things that just don’t scare me anymore since I helped to load a friend dying from a violent, criminal act into a helicopter, generalised anxiety has taken advantage of my bruised psyche from time to time lately. I have no idea what I am fearing; all I know is that I know the touch of that old and worthless demon.
Yet I rejoice. Not because of anything but because perfect love casts out fear.
I have so long been asking God why He would tell me to be strong and courageous when I have tried everything in my power to do so and failed. How could He demand of me to do something that is entirely impossible?
It was recently that I finally heard His reply. “Daughter, I commanded light to be, and it simply was. Do not take my command as an order to your mind. Just as I said Let there be light and there was light, I speak to your soul now: Be strong and courageous, and you will be strong and courageous because I said so.”
I certainly don’t always feel strong and courageous. But I am: strong enough and courageous enough to take the next step. To cling to my God in the next moment.
Perfect love casts out fear not only because I must love perfectly (although I must, and will never lose that last vestige of fear until I do) but because I am perfectly beloved. Perfect love casts out fear because perfect love is bigger.
Perfect love is bigger than my sin. Perfect love is bigger than my pain. Perfect love is bigger than anything I could face tomorrow. Perfect love is bigger than everything I fear. Perfect love has an answer for every inconsolable question that rises in my weary soul.
And I am loved perfectly, and on this Good Friday, I will think of the only One Who loves perfectly, and I will see the proof of His love in the blood on His hands, on the naked, wounded, bleeding, beaten, stripped and humiliated figure that dangled on the cross for me. There is no greater love than that.
I will look at that love and I will understand what it means to me here and now. I will see that I am loved perfectly by the God Who brought the earth to life. I will know that the Hand that holds mine shaped the stars, the Voice that speaks to me brought forth the sound of the tidal waves, the Arms that hold me wrap the entire aching universe in their embrace.
Not even my own failures can destroy me now.
And I let the Voice that commanded light to be, speak the sound of courage into my very soul. My mind and body might betray me, but my heart and soul are still and know that He is God. I trust His plan. I believe I am loved. I can’t wait to see where He goes with this, because I know the direction we’re heading.
Further up. Further in.
And it’s in moments like these, moments in the saddle when Thunder pops that flying change like a bursting bubble under me, moments around the dinner table laughing at the delirious wit of four exhausted Hydes, moments in the arena with a little girl’s soul shining so brightly it almost leaves trails of light on the long diagonal, moments on the very top of Heidelberg with the lyrics of Rooftops ringing all round and the man of my prayers’ solid warm presence beside me and the whole world rolled out at my feet –
At those moments I taste the perfect love that made heaven.
And it is all because the Son of God died on a cross for me.
Suicide prevention awareness month is here, and this topic has been stewing in my head for a long time.
I’ve long held that horses are among the most emotionally complicated of all domestic animals; possibly the animals that come closest to our own emotions. We relate more easily to dogs, who are generally more expressive and whose body language is universally well understood. But very few of us can ever hope to attain that permanently happy outlook that seems to characterise the canine psyche. Of course dogs have phobias and develop problems with bad handling or circumstances, but on the whole, if you feed and walk and snuggle your dog enough he’s as happy as a clam.
It is yet to be determined if cats know that people have feelings. (Joke). Either way, they’ve got a pretty good handle on theirs and don’t need much of our input, thankyouverymuch.
Well cared-for cows are by default deeply content creatures; if you don’t believe me, do yourself a favour and sit among a herd of cows at dusk when they’ve all gone to bed and lie there chewing cud and contemplating the mysteries of the universe. They’re so well grounded, you’ll feel your own soul being stilled.
But horses are completely different. Horses have the ability to be unhappy even when circumstances are excellent. That sound familiar? It should, because we humans have the same ability.
So today I’m going to talk about the anxious horse and how those of us who suffer from the wide range of anxiety disorders – and, crucially, those of us close to such sufferers – can learn from them.
The most insecure horse I’ve ever handled?
This is Champagne. Champagne was brought up at a beautiful stud, from solid pony bloodlines. She was purchased by my lovely client for her gentle, experienced child, a good match for the pony in terms of personality and ability. She was taken to a well-established yard and there fairly appropriately cared for, better than most horses. Champagne has consistently been handled and cared for by good, experienced horse people.
Champagne also has a terrible case of anxiety. When faced by any of her numerous triggers, she starts to breathe in rapid, shallow flutters, punctuated by loud and ripping snorts as she desperately tries to use every sense she has to identify the threat. Her topline becomes rock hard. She is hyperreactive to any stimulus, specifically my aids, and any touch can send her deeper into the meltdown. She begins to sweat profusely and shiver violently.
The anxiety attack she had when she arrived lasted, with fluctuating severity, for almost a week.
Champagne has no “reason” to be afraid. But she is.
In contrast, this is Trooper at his first show. Trooper grew up in a township somewhere, where he spent the first two and a half years of his life half-starved. Nine horses were rescued from the same property as he was; he was the only survivor. His herdmates all died. He almost did, too, suffering from septicaemia in all four his legs and his sheath. After nursing him back to health, his rescuer sold him on to me.
Trooper is one of the most trustworthy ponies we have in the school. He is patient, kind, and never frightened by anything very much. In the field, he’s a happy and content little chap despite rejection from his herdmates, and he loves people.
Trooper has every “reason” to be afraid. But he isn’t.
You see, for Champagne, it’s all in her head. There isn’t really anything that’s going to hurt her. Cows are not out to get her. Birds do not eat horses. It’s all in her mind. And that’s a very valid and noteworthy place for something to be.
Let me repeat that. “In your head” is a very valid and noteworthy place for a problem to exist.
I was told so many times that my riding nerves were “all in my head”, or that I should “just get over it”. And you know what? So was Champagne. Her previous trainer was a better one than me by a very long shot, but when the pony spooked the trainer put her gently but firmly between leg and hand and got back to doing what she wanted. Which works for 90% of horses out there.
With the merely spooky young horse the dialogue goes like this:
Horse: Eek! What’s that? [wiggles and looks]
Rider: It’s nothing. Look, I’m not worried. Let’s do this. [Half-halts, bends the horse away from the spooky thing, reapplies the aids]
Horse: OK. [forgets the thing]
But with an anxious horse, the conversation becomes completely different.
Horse: Oh no, no, no, no, no, it’s a bird, it’s a bird, it’s going to hurt me, it’s going to hurt me! [Loses rhythm, topline becomes tense, breathing changes]
Rider: It’s nothing. Look, I’m not worried. Let’s do this. [Half-halts, bends the horse away from the spooky thing, reapplies the aids]
Now before we go into the horse’s response, let’s look at two characteristics of most deeply anxious horses that are still rideable.
They are intelligent overthinkers. Things can be blown way out of proportion in their heads because they are smart enough to imagine things and go one step further than simple animal reactions.
They are very hard triers. They generally want so much to please their riders and are well aware that spooking does not please them. These horses are exhausted from trying all day long to please people despite their struggles; when they fail, it creates a downward spiral.
So here’s what this type of horse responds with:
Horse: I can’t, I can’t, it’s going to hurt me, it’s going to hurt me but you’re saying to go past it so I’ll try but I’m so scared! [Moves forward, but with choppy steps, losing the headquarters, begins to snort]
Rider: Get over it. Come on. Don’t be silly. You’re fine. [taps lightly with the whip]
Horse: I can’t breathe. I feel funny. I can’t do this! [Freezes to the spot, tries to run backwards, holds breath]
Rider: Do it now! [Firm reapplication of aids]
Horse: [explodes – runs back, rears, spins, bucks, bolts, or all of the above]
The thing about this conversation is that both horse and rider are right. There is nothing that will hurt the horse. It is all in her head. She is fine.
But the horse is stating facts, too. The horse is genuinely terrified. The threat is not real. It doesn’t have to be. Her fear is real, and that’s valid.
Let’s go back to Champagne. In her introduction, I described her anxiety attacks as they were when she arrived. These days, faced with more than what pushed her over the edge initially, her anxiety attacks last under two minutes. Even when pushed too far (as I admit to having done by accident) I can talk her down in five minutes or less. She no longer sweats or holds her breath for extended periods. It has been weeks since she last ran backward or reared. She looks at things and then deals with them.
She’s better, and here is how I changed the conversation to try to help her.
Champagne: [sees a bird] Oh no, no, no, no, no, it’s a bird, it’s a bird, it’s going to hurt me, it’s going to hurt me!
Me: OK, love. Let’s back it right up. [Halts, goes down to walk, or even dismounts] Just pause here and have a good look. I’m right here for you. [Even when nervous myself, control my breathing. Sigh, shift the weight, keep contact with one hand on her neck. When mounted, relax the lower back and shoulders. Breathe into diaphragm].
Champagne: OK, I’ll try. I can go a little closer now, maybe. [Volunteers a step further. Sniffs at the bird.]
Me: That’s fantastic. Well done. [Gives vocal praise, keeps pressure off except for slight rein contact in case of emergencies].
Champagne: Hey, you know what, I think it’s actually fine. [Licks and chews, looks away, sighs]
Me: Good job. Shall we go back to work? [Leg on again, contact, half-halt]
Champagne: Yep, that’s cool, let’s do it. [Obeys the aids]
It’s not the heroic approach. It doesn’t look very good, I can tell you that much. My clients pay me an awful lot of money to sit on their pony scratching its neck and not doing anything for several minutes at a time. I don’t astonish anyone with my ability to sit through drama and there is no magical quick fix. The process takes months – years, even.
But there is no horse that will try harder for you than the anxious horse, who has been trying harder for you than you know.
So in honour of suicide prevention awareness month, let me say this to everyone close to someone suffering with anxiety: Thank you for trying. It can be so frustrating and heartbreaking. But please remember that you can’t really fix it. Trying to fix it will kill you. Fixing it is between that person and God. Just be the safe place, be the place where the pressure’s off, because anxiety is living under unrelenting pressure. Be the break from that.
The only reason why I can help Champagne is because, perhaps to a lesser extent, I am Champagne. (Except not so leggy and blonde). I heard all those voices telling me to get over it and that it was all in my head for so many years and it was killing me.
And then, one day, I heard that Still, Small Voice, the only One with the right to really condemn me for the way I am. And the only One Who never did. Because God stepped in, the God Who keeps me safe, the God Who gives me a spirit not of fear but of power and love and a sound mind, the God in Whom my faith should be stronger than anxiety, the God Who said so many times not to be afraid, the God Who should have thrown me aside for my doubt and disobedience – and He is the only One Who never devalued the way I feel.
God stepped in and said, “I’m here, daughter; I love you anyway; I have a plan with this; My grace is sufficient.” And because He loved me anyway, I could finally breathe and watch Him work in me again.
Let’s all change our words and speak life like Him.
The first time I remember being afraid on a horse was the first time I rode a horse. For those keeping track, that was sixteen years ago. Almost my life, practically speaking. I was a nervous kid from the start; the type of beginner that could only ride two or three of the school ponies, and never got back on any of the ones I fell off of.
Then came years of riding the most random wild bush donkeys. I think if I hadn’t had old Skye, my ever-reliable island of solid ground, the cornerstone of my confidence, I would have quit then. Spooky youngsters. Stallions that bucked and bolted. My second pony spooked relentlessly. My first horse overjumped, stopped, bucked and had frequent meltdowns. (He was also four years old and fresh off the racetrack. Go figure).
Add on top of that all the teenage angst of being an insecure young girl, all the nasty falls and the mistakes and the inexperience that led to accidents, the hit-and-miss, trial-and-error learning, the lack of understanding guidance, the cowboy mentality I forced on myself, the collection of psychotic animals I found myself on in a desperate bid to prove myself – well, I dug my own hole and I was stuck in it for years.
Then I dug it deeper with every attempt at overcoming my demons on my own strength, every effort to overwhelm them with my own demonic qualities: pride, insecurity, dishonesty, cruelty.
Nobody could have fought and lost harder than I did. I hated that fear. It went against everything I wanted, everything I dreamed of, everything I stood for, everything I believed in. It brought me slap-bang against the agonising reality I refused entirely to believe:
Every throb of adrenalin felt like betrayal. Jesus died for you and you can’t even jump 85cm for Him. He said 365 times not to be afraid and you’re afraid 365 days a year. We haven’t been given a spirit of fear.
I felt unworthy. I felt like I’d let God down. I felt like I was inadequate, like I’d never earn my way into the Kingdom of Heaven since I couldn’t even kick my riding nerves.
I was right. I can’t. I’m inadequate. I’ll never earn my way to heaven.
And it’s OK. It doesn’t matter. I don’t have to. Nobody can earn their way to eternal joy; it’s a free gift.
My fists were clenched so hard on fighting they couldn’t open to receive the gift that was waiting.
Somewhere in this year, the tide of the battle against my demons turned. It was subtle at first, but now it gathers momentum, thundering onwards. Obliterating the inevitable setbacks as they come. Rushing forth to crush every new onslaught. Something changed, something fundamental, something vital.
I did the one thing I swore I’d never do. I gave up. I quit. I threw in the towel. I had fought too long, too hard, all for nothing. I lay down my arms, and I let it go. I brought it up against God and realised that on a scale of one to God, it was a pretty tiny problem. I brought it all to Him and laid it down at the cross because I couldn’t bear the choking weight of it anymore.
I admitted defeat. I told Him I couldn’t beat my fear.
You know what He said? He said, I love you anyway. He said, I’m so glad you finally brought this to me. He said, I forgive you. He said, I’ve got this.
He said, Be still, and watch what I can do.
And then inside me, the Lion of Judah rose and roared. And now instead of fighting I walk through a sea of demons with my open hands lifted high, looking past them as they fall before us. Barefoot and defenceless and surrounded by the majesty of my God.
I will never beat my fear. But I surrender to the God Who knew fear intimately, and I watch Him conquer.
Today our yard was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
This week everyone progressed in leaps and bounds, which is wonderful; we had a really productive, steady week and I feel ridiculously blessed. And I don’t use that word lightly.
Eagle went on his first little hack. I played it safe, as I always do with Eagle, and it wasn’t necessary, like it never is with Eagle. We did ten minutes around the bales, but it does involve cows, pigs, tractors and my arch-nemesis, the washing line. Eagle handled all of this with aplomb, strolling along with his topline floppy and ears to the side.
I bought fantastic red boots. They’re actually Jamaica’s, but if you’re the dragonbeast, you get to wear everyone else’s cool stuff. Arwen schooled Elementary 2 and 3 in preparation for a show on Sunday and her simple changes are streets and streets better. The leg-yield FX is quite nice, but the leg-yield back XM tends to have trailing quarters. The shoulder-in is better but still rather lacking. Either way, hopefully we get grading points.
Jamaica and I have done fine lately. (Also, how incredible are those boots??) We jumped a few exercises at 80-85cm and even installed lead changes over a fence with minimal trouble. He’s so honest. I’m so enjoying the novel experience of having a horse that will just canter right down to the fence and jump it every single time, no questions asked.
His flatwork remains mediocre but the addition of the market harborough has helped somewhat.
Faithy got in the box. I used the bum rope at first, and because she’s such a baby I didn’t spend long on it, but by the end she was strolling in without pressure on the bum rope. Every little session like this teaches me more about her personality. She’s trainable and responsive, but quite different from the ponies and hacks; there’s a sharpness here, an opinion. I rather like it. She’s a strong woman.
I clipped a shooting star on Vastrap’s butt because his kid asked. The clippers clipped half his other side and gave up. Now he’s running about with one butt cheek adorned by a shooting star and the other completely hairy – a situation I promise to remedy ASAP. Or at least before SANESA Q3.
One of my kids built me this and persistently attempts to rent it out to me. I countered this by constantly asking for improvements, which backfired badly when he then raised his price. Outsmarted by an eight-year-old.
This would be so much easier if he wasn’t gorgeous and talented. I lunged him over a little fence, about 80cm, and his technique and scope give me goosebumps.
Trooper now has canter circles firmly installed and is becoming easy to ride. His cute tiny gaits are comfortable, if boring to look at. We also trotted over his first itty bitty cross and went on a hack, which was utterly uneventful.
Working student L writes module one in July, so we’ve been hard at work. Ash helped with the ultra-fun points of the horse exercise.
She was not amused, but L did brilliantly and much fun was had.
Thunny is working so beautifully lately. He does Prelim 2 and 3 on Sunday and you know what, if he behaves like he does at home I think we might even place again. His weak points – left bend, keeping “jump” in the canter, and stretchy trot – have all improved hugely. Left bend matches right bend, I can keep the canter three-beat most of the time, and he stretches down to his knees. Such a clever baby.
Of course, he is a baby. So it’s rather unlikely that he’ll be perfect and score like 70% and more probable that he’ll scream the whole time and spook at C and get 40%. At least I know he has it in him.
Blizzard is ultra-cute. I’m going to start working him next week, and I’m rather looking forward to it.
Magic has gotten wonderfully fat, lazy and laid-back. He’s happy as a bird lately. Of course, he still has his little moments (case in point: was ground tied outside the stable, spooked at a goose, shied, spooked at his lead rein, stood on his lead rein, spooked at himself standing on his lead rein, yanked up his head and got slapped on the nose by the lead rein), but he comes right back to me these days.
He’s settling into a happier place than he’s ever been. He’ll always be quirky and sensitive and sharp, and some scars just don’t heal. But he can be happy and he can be meaningful, and right now, he’s both. More so than ever before.
Mr. Destiny and I came to an agreement: he’d spook wildly and I’d ignore him. Not much of an agreement, but at least we managed to jump a little and work on his canter transitions. His mom also rode him today; a giant storm was on its way and the wind was enough to make anything spooky, but he was no worse than normal.
He also went on his first hack. I dressed for the occasion because I thought I might die, but he was actually really good. Tense at first, but he just followed the older pony L escorted us on, and on the way home he took the lead and marched confidently forward with nary a spook in sight. Good brat.
Eagle got in the box, too, and it was a total non-event. I walked in, he stopped at the ramp, I stood there and let him figure it out, and in thirty seconds flat he got in too. No fuss, no bum rope. That’s my good boy.
Zorro’s kid has been in hospital (nothing huge), but he’s not had an uneventful week. We clipped him, one of the rising stars rode him, and then he developed a massive crush on Skye and broke all the fences. Seriously, Zorro?
Vastrap’s kid’s mom handmade the most amazing blankets. Doesn’t he look fetching in camo? Rather like a distinguished old lieutenant if you ask me.
Lessons with coach K have just been amazing recently. I got to ride the incredible Skrikkie today. I was hoping to ride through my Elementary tests but he wouldn’t go into the dressage arena because there was a hosepipe across the path. I think I love him so much because he’s what Magic would have been given the right circumstances. The biggest wuss ever, but also with the most courageous and generous heart you could ever ask for.
I also rode Troy, a schoolie I’m not familiar with, and felt a little bored jumping the EV70 fences (can you imagine? Me, bored?). So I asked K if I could jump the EV80 house, and then we were galloping through water and jumping banks down and the most ridiculous EV80 related distances and guess what? It was fun. I had fun on xc! On a horse I’d never ridden! At 80cm!
I’m eternally grateful to K and her schoolies. God is doing something truly mighty inside me, something I had tried so hard and for so long to do for myself. My deep struggle is being turned into a long and beautiful chapter in the shining novel that is the story of my life; that is, the love story about a King Who loved a peasant girl. And for the first time, I can’t wait to read the next page.
Today started with Revelation 1, and goosebumps down my arms at the terrifying description of our King with stars in His right Hand and a two-edged sword blazing forth from His mouth. Yet this majestic Person, this almighty Ruler of all that is and was and is to come, the Alpha and Omega, reached down to touch a lowly little worm of a man and said: “Fear not”.
This was the theme of my humdrum little day too, apparently. I’m a little shocked at how much God really has achieved in me, how far He’s taken me beyond the very limits of my courage.
I thought losing Nell and Rainbow would end the dream forever. Fear not, He said.
Faith is so fat and happy and shiny right now. And Thunder’s schooling today was amazing – I totally underestimated our big baby.
After a troubled little grey gelding called Dirkie bucked me off onto my hip, turning it several fascinating shades of red and purple, I thought I’d never start another youngster again in my life. Much less any sensitive or nervous ones.
But, Fear not, He said.
When I was hanging in the saddle over Eagle’s back like a sack of potatoes today, he gave this beautiful body-shaking big sigh and I knew he was ready. So I threw a leg over him and he slept for a few minutes while I patted him.
Also Destiny, to date one of the most remedial horses I’ve ever had on the ground, can now do walk/trot/canter large and circles in the dressage. He will reliably spook every session (only on the right rein and only in canter) but this has become rather half-hearted since I called his bluff.
I thought I’d never lead another hack with kids again, not after Jamaica chucked his kid off and broke her arm. The kid never missed a beat; I was thoroughly traumatised. But, Fear not, He said.
After years of falling off stoppers and dealing with poor old Magic’s nerves, I thought I’d never jump the required 85cm for module four, not even on a horse I know. But God said, Fear not, and today jumping an exercise at 85-90cm on Jamaica felt positively routine.
Arwen’s clipping last year was so horrific (like, going across the stable on her hindlegs with enough sedative in her to knock a carthorse flat, kind of horrific) that I thought we were doomed to woolly, overheating misery this winter. But even in this little thing, God spoke power and love.
She ate grass. I clipped. It took half an hour.
All I ever did was let go.
And watched my star-holding, flame-eyed, blade-speaking King landing the punches straight and square on the jaws of my demons.
I kind of hesitate to write this post because I really am not writing this for sympathy, though I know it may come across that way. But I know scars can only do any good when they’re shown as a symbol of hope and survival, so I write this for everyone who is where I am and was where I have been, anyone for whom it might be a glimmer of hope.
Because I know how alone it feels to be afraid.
It feels so stupid to have riding nerves, doesn’t it? It’s so easy to believe that nobody else feels the way you do. That there’s something wrong with you that other people just don’t have wrong with them. Maybe you’re just not cut out for riding, maybe you just can’t. That doesn’t seem like such a big deal unless it’s your living. Your calling. A part of you. Something you’re on fire for. People my age so often complain that they don’t know what they want to do. Is there any worse agony than to know what you want to do and be unable to do it for a reason as humiliating as fear?
It’s not just nerves. Everyone has nerves. Nerves are the little buzz I feel at shows; an added sharpness that can develop into tension if not managed. No, this is fear, borderline phobic. It’s paralytic. I come down to that fence and I can’t move or think. I freeze and mess up, and that makes it worse, over and over again.
I have screamed why. I have been sobbing on my knees begging to know why God would give me such a burning passion and such a debilitating handicap. Why can’t I be like the other riders I see floating over 1.20, 1.30? I’m willing to bet some of them haven’t ever taught a horse a thing but here I am, the horse trainer – a good one, too – freezing to the base of 70cm jumps. Through me God has fixed horses that you couldn’t touch, trained remedial buckers to dance, breathed the light back into the eyes of the broken. Why won’t He help me jump this fence?
It’s jumping, mostly. Young horses, even hacking are OK. Not as OK as I look; the silent battle remains – but OK enough that I can enjoy it and do it well. But jumping…
Today’s jumping exercise in my lesson with coach K was just a vertical of about 75cm, sharp right turn to a slightly bigger oxer, six strides to another oxer. I put up that kind of stuff in my lessons every day. I buried poor old Al so many times that eventually even he stopped. I was using every single trick I know to calm myself down and it wasn’t working.
Coach K is worth her weight in gold; she figured me out and remains endlessly patient. But from where I’m sitting, jumping 85cm on a horse I don’t know in my exam is looking like a very, very big ask.
I went home feeling exhausted from the battle. There’s just never a respite from it, no riding situation in which that dark clouds lifts completely. It’s so heavy sometimes and I couldn’t understand why.
Until this afternoon when I was helping my own little student with the very, very bad nerves. And I had to argue with him to let me put the lead on when we went for a little hack. And when I took him for his first little trot, he didn’t panic and squeal the way he used to when we just lifted him onto the pony. No. He laughed. He laughed and a smile burst over his little face like a sunrise.
And I could almost hear God saying, This is why.
He could lift this struggle from me. He could make this cup to pass away from me, but He leaves me to drink it because He’s got a plan. I don’t take it lightly when I say that God has made me a good coach for nervous riders. I can help them because I am them. I’ve been there and I know they can’t help it, they can’t just get over it magically. But I can help them get over it. Step by tiny step.
So I’ll drink that cup to the very dregs.
I still hate the struggle. I’m still so tired of it. But I know I have to bear it for a reason, so I pray, Not as I will but as Thou wilt. Tomorrow I’ll shoulder the cross and march on and share the truth about the struggle because it can help someone. There will be haters who’ll think a nervous rider can’t be a good one. They will be wrong. I make a living out of something that terrifies me – that has to stand for something.
And one by one, I’ll watch my riders blossom. And with each one, I’ll continue to hope that someday, that might be me, too.
Electric fences are the best, when they work. Unfortunately, they’re also notoriously cantankerous. While our perimeter fence is fairly impenetrable, our inside fences don’t always hold up to the steady abuse they’re subjected to by creatures of all sizes, and Field A’s gate decided to fail me this morning. Thankfully, the only casualties were the jumping exercise I’d painstakingly set out the day before and our mounting block.
This was not my problem however as I merrily charged off to Springs for my weekly ride-big-horses session, leaving the poor grooms to sort out the epic mess. On arrival I was vastly relieved to be given a cute little grey pony to ride and felt like I actually achieved something on him, which made me feel better about flopping around on coach K’s amazing schoolmasters. Thereafter I got to ride a beautiful white Lipizzaner gelding. He promptly bucked, and I promptly hit him, but Lipizzaners stay Lipizzaners.
To my great delight I was also allowed back on Kardinal AKA Giant Fancy International Pony. I don’t know what it is about him, but despite his being like as big as a mountain and rather on the spooky side, he inspires endless confidence; he doesn’t worry me one bit despite having spent a total of about forty-five minutes together. We played dressage and I had to roll K’s stirrup leathers so they’d fit (the apex of humiliation).
My jumping lesson didn’t go so great today. I was on a different horse, who really wasn’t bad at all, but he had a teeny look at something outside the arena and I immediately melted down. I forgot every trick I’ve taught myself to get my guts back instantly and became a trembling little heap again. This did not sit well with the poor horse, understandably, but he did his best to bail his frozen saddle monkey out. I don’t even really know what went wrong. Kardinal spooked far bigger and I was fine. Coach K is worth her weight in gold though, she seems to magically know what I can take on the day and gets a read on me really fast which is invaluable. I was kind of disappointed with myself, but on the way home when I got to talking to God about it, I was filled with the overwhelming realisation that He’s not mad. His strength, after all, is made perfect in my weakness. I’m just gonna keep fighting until the sun comes up.
See, this is why I don’t get mad at Magic. How can I? I’m just like him.
Speaking of Mr. Quirkypants, when I got home I hopped on him and he was back to his normal adorable happy self. He did have a good long look at Tara when she decided to spook wildly through the arena, but he didn’t leave at all. We even trotted a few little fences and he could barely be bothered to pick up his feet. At least his meltdowns definitely wear off really fast now.
Sunè was in heat which made recent gelding Midas lose his mind, but I explained my opinion on that kind of behaviour (forcefully, with a jumping crop) and he decided she wasn’t that attractive after all. He went on to have a forward and bold, if a little tense and rushy, jumping session. We popped over a bunch of little crosses including his first combination and finished with a slightly bigger spooky oxer, about 50cm. Little chap was fantastic.
Sunè herself was blissfully unaware of the chaos she’d been causing. She has quite enormous wolf teeth, which I will have removed, but they made her very fussy so I tried my favourite starting bit on her in the meantime. It’s huge and fat and full cheek and it was a huge success. She went much better today. In sharp contrast to my usual task of reinforcing the aids, I’m almost having to desensitise her a little to contact and leg. She gets reactive instead of responsive and instead of thinking about inside leg to outside rein she just gets stroppy because I won’t let her do what she thinks she should be doing. Totally nonviolent, though, and doesn’t know what a spook even is. We finished with some better canter. She is still unbalanced but it’s gone from feral pony gallop to unbalanced baby canter, so we’re getting there.
After a brief round of lessons (srsly lessons please start picking up!) it was off to Heidelberg for a first aid exam. I’m trying to volunteer with some local (awesome) medics to help at events, thus gleaning more experience for when I have to scrape someone off the floor again, and maybe lending a hand somewhere it might be needed. Assuming I pass, obviously. But God’s will be done.
Glory to the King.