Going Steady with Fear

I rode Bridger today.  You’ll understand something about that if you read this earlier post.  It means a lot.

Last summer, Bridger and I hit a big glitch in our progress.  I asked him for a little more than he was ready for, so he gave out a little buck, which was enough to unseat me, which was enough to crack my ulna.  Neither the buck nor the crack were such a big deal.  The killer was the fear that immediately colonized me.

Fear has not been a big thing with me.  Not on a conscious level, anyway.  I’ve had plenty of dicey moments on mountain bikes, on snow-covered slopes in the backcountry, with lightning on the alpine tundra, in class 4 river rapids after I fell out of the boat.  I’ve unexpectedly come much too close to male moose and grizzly bear cubs.  Each event had its adrenaline-soaked excitement and some hindsight shivers, but each easily became a great story to revisit over a beer.  Not so with my fall off Bridger.

I am inherently, helplessly scared of heights. I grow dizzy and watery too close to a precipitous fall.  I feel compelled to go over — if someone forced me to spend too long on a tiny ledge, I might have to plunge over.  So I do have that fear, but I handle it by simply avoiding the situation.  I tried rock climbing, which would have been a good match for my other mountain hobbies, but there wasn’t enough in it to overcome the visceral fear, so I left it behind.  I admire views from a safe distance.  I can’t leave Bridger behind or stay at a distance.

After my fall off Bridger, pictures of people riding horses made me queasy.  Being around my horses at feeding time gave me all-over prickles.  After my arm healed a little, I got on my older horse, Jack, who is as reliable, slow and calm as they come.  I felt sick and loose-limbed.  I shed tears.

I mostly got over it.  With the superb help of friends, a couple sports psychology books and patient Jack, it eased up and left me.  Meanwhile, Kathleen was busy helping Bridger get over his own problem.  Six months after the fall, I was riding Bridger in the backcountry on an unfamiliar trail, having a good time.

This year, we hit another glitch, but on a smaller scale.  You can learn more about that here.

Again, I backed up and brought Kathleen in.  Again, it got better after only a few weeks of focused effort.

So today, I went out by myself and rode Bridger.  I fought back butterflies before I got out to the corral.  I talked out loud to myself when he wiggled his head and slewed his ribs the wrong way and acted like there was a mountain lion in the bush.  It worked out pretty well, but I think I have begun a long-term relationship with fear.  For (maybe) the first time, I have a thing, and a family member, that cannot be denied or left behind and that evoke a new kind of fear.  I’m very happy I got myself out there and had a nice little ride today, but there is much more to understand.








3 thoughts on “Going Steady with Fear

  1. Pingback: The Om in Horsemanship | On Elk Meadow Road

  2. Pingback: In Praise of Small Bites | On Elk Meadow Road

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