Friday, December 23, 2011
As much as I absolutely hate to admit it, I have some fear issues with horses. I've fallen off, lost control and been bit, kicked and trampled enough times to know that injury is a given-- the only wild card is how serious. I'm also discovering that my 30-something year old body is not as resilient as my teenage body was, and falls which I once would have classified as anecdotal now develop into weeks or months of nagging pain and unsightly swelling. On top of everything, I've set out to do something-- train a green filly to be a 100% dependable, bombproof trail horse-- that I honestly have no idea if I really can do and which many people with a lot more horse experience than me have advised me not to try.
So yeah, I have to deal with some fear. In a lot of ways, this is good, basic survival mechanism stuff and I sure am glad I'm not as death-defying as I was at 18. But from time to time I'll notice that I don't really feel like working on the "spooky" side of the arena, or walking Starbuck past the barn stallion when she's in heat and he's feeling studdy. Or we'll take a few too many "vacation" days without actually working. And when I really start soul-searching, I'll figure out that it's not usually laziness, it's fear. Fear of her spooking and running away, of the stallion breaking out of his paddock, of either of us sustaining a disabling injury, of not preparing her well enough, of losing my motivation... even of what people might think when they see us doing an exercize that's not going as planned.
This type of fear camouflages itself as laziness or apathy and leads to procrastination, excuse-making and justification. It's insidiously demotivating, since it's oh-so tempting to tell myself that I've had a long day at work and that she could use some rest anyway to get out of a workout on one of those days where I'm sure all those invisible horse-eating monsters will abound. But admitting that I don't want to work with her because I'm afraid... well, that's not so acceptable. Not to mention that it sets a horrible example for Starbuck, who needs to be exposed to as many "scary" situations as possible as often as possible by a calm, responsible leader. So how to deal with it?
Well, I think the first step is acceptance. I need to accept that there are some things I'm afraid of and admit that some of these are perfectly valid. After that, I need to set an internal alarm so that every time I say "Oooof, I really don't feel like doing so-and-so" I look deep inside myself to see if my reluctance is really motivated by fear, and decide whether that fear is rational or not. And when I recognize my inner 'fraidy cat, I need laugh at myself for finding one of my own personal invisible monsters, go ahead and do what I didn't want to do and then make a note to do it again, and again, and again.
In other words, I need to sack myself out the same way I do with Starbuck: figure out what freaks me out and then keep doing it until I'm no longer phased by it.