Turning Fear Into Courage

Updated: Jul 3, 2020

Horses and riding have been a lifelong passion for me. From my earliest memories, I played with Breyers and played horses and later I played school and all of my students only did horse worksheets and then there was school. Every project, art or otherwise, and every book where we were allowed to pick, was horses. To say I had a "small" obsession is an understatement. My every thought was horses. Then, when I was 13 years old I was lucky enough to get my own beautiful horse who was amazing. Her name was Impressible Jodie, aka, Jodie and she was everything to me. I spent uncountable hours at the barn with my horsey best friend and my people best friend. I was so fortunate to have the very best of both worlds.

I had my sweet girl until the day she died. That was also when I got out of horses. It took a long time before I could go back out to the barn. I just missed her too much. Then after a while, other aspects of my life (my kids and my job) filled my time, and required my focus. Even though I have been away from horses, they were always still part of me. I am completely convinced there are little horses stamped on my DNA. There is no other real explanation for my lifelong passion for these animals. Anyone who has had horses or grown up with them and then got away from them, I am sure can relate. These magnificent animals are part of our very being.

My mare died when my two oldest boys were still very little. My son who just turned 18 and my 11-year-old twins have never known the horse life. They were never a part of that world and that always made me sad.

A couple of summer's ago my daughter, along with her Girl Scout troop, got to go camping and trail riding. I was fortunate enough to go with her and ride with her on the trails where they were camping. It was AMAZING and reignited the passion that was always there just on low flame the past several years because I hadn't had an opportunity in those years to be around horses.

The same, however, can not be said of my daughter. She has always liked horses and had always wanted to ride. When the time came for her to ride she was utterly terrified and through her tears, begged to be let off the horse. To our horse leader's credit, she did not comply with my daughter's wishes and had her stay on her horse and led her around several laps until my daughter felt more comfortable and decided that she could go on the trail ride.

The trail ride was just the right length of time for her to get comfortable and she had a really great horse, named Zara, that she could handle. The trail ride went really well and by the end of it, she was so excited and in love with the horse rode. I was so excited to see how much she had loved it and that she had overcome her fear. When we were done she got to lead her horse through the barn and out to the pasture after she had finished brushing her. She absolutely loved it!

After the camping trip, I had wanted to get her lessons but time and the fact that I was having a hard time finding a place to take both the twins to get lessons, prevented us from getting back on a horse in a timely manner. During the next couple of years, Brieanna still loved horses. She would often talk about Zara and the trip and how much fun she had and how she wanted to go riding again.

A few weeks ago, I saw a friend of mine was starting riding lessons for her daughter. The farm was local and I asked her if the place she was going would be a place where I could take the twins for lessons. I contacted the lady and the following Wednesday the kids were heading out for their first lesson.

I was concerned about the length of time it had been since she had been around a horse, let alone rode and I was worried that Brieanna would not be as happy as she was anticipating at getting back on a horse. When we got out there and their instructor got the horse out for them to brush and get ready, I knew things were not going to go well when she was standing more than an arm's length away when attempting to brush her horse. We got through that with a lot of help and encouragement that she was not going to get kicked (the flies were making her horse stomp her feet every now and then). After some discussion, she decided she was going to go first. When we led her horse, Star, to the arena and positioned her next to the mounting block. She took the first step and was now in tears and was vehemently stating she did not want to get up on the horse. I felt really bad for her but she had come this far and been really looking forward to it, so we made her take a few deep breaths and get on. I was afraid if I let her walk away, she would never get back on. The mind can convince us of a lot of things, whether they are exactly true or over-exaggerated is sometimes indistinguishable. Another factor working against us at this lesson was a severe storm that was popping up. When she first got on, the wind had just started kicking up. We were in an indoor arena, so getting rained on wasn't much of a concern.

As the lesson began and her instructor was leading her around, she was holding on tightly with both hands. She was still very upset. About five minutes later, we all decided to discontinue the lesson because the storm was building in intensity and we figured it could be a recipe for disaster.

I was scrolling through my phone one evening after this lesson and found something that I thought may be encouraging to her. I was not home at the time but texted this to her in the hopes it would at least help a little.

She told me really loved the message and took it to heart. She said it really helped. So at the next lesson, she was really trying to be brave. She found out when we got there she was going to be on a different horse this time so it was a small set back because she had mentally prepared to be on Star. When it was time to brush, we worked at standing closer and trying not to be anxious about being next to her. Lexi, her lesson horse this time, was a bit bigger than Star so that was a bit of a worry for her. I do understand, when you are pretty small, horses can look even bigger.

When it came time to ride, we all agreed that her brother, Ashton, would go first this time. He was a little anxious but got right up in the saddle and after the first few laps was really enjoying it. He did well and was asking questions and having fun. He also started out holding on with both hands but he had also never ridden before, so definitely understandable. When it was Brieanna's turn, she was still afraid, but thinking of the little message I sent her and seeing how calm her brother was, gave her the courage to get back on for her second lesson. She got up on her horse and by the middle of the lesson was really enjoying it as well and was asking questions and getting to know her horse.

We are now on week three. Their instructor is phenomenal with them. I could not have hoped for anyone better. She is so calm, understanding, and encouraging. She makes them feel at ease and answers all their questions and makes them realize they CAN do this. They have both done extremely well. With a lot of courage and encouragement, they have overcome most of their fears and anxiety about these magnificent creatures. We still have some work to do but I am so hopeful that these lessons are the beginning of a life long love of horses and riding and that they want to continue. I am so excited to see where this goes for them. There is such an amazing world out there in the equestrian universe.

P.S. There is one last picture that Ashton would like me to include. We have found we also are in love with their barn kitty out at the farm. He is so funny and LOVES the attention the kids shower him with. If we aren't petting him and he thinks we are neglecting him, he sits up to tell us we need to be petting him! (This picture makes us laugh!)

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