I put muzzle on the Fear Bird! Using guided imagery to improve my riding...
So happy - need to share, of course. I hope this can help someone else. Has anyone else used imagery to help?
After I posted on another thread about being angry about not being able to get over fear when I know how very lucky I am to have so many other things going for me and horse, a few days ago one of the very kind souls on this board (I won't out her without permission, but she is more than welcome to out herself here and I hope she will!) took the time to send me a very kind email regarding fear and allowing the fear to be there, sitting on my shoulder, but working with it, acknowledging its presence. It was more detailed than that, and VERY helpful.
Well, WOW. This morning was my first ride since her email. I made the fear into a tiny little bird sitting on my right shoulder. I acknowledged its presence but told it that I was in charge (no, I didn't say this out loud, and I am not crazy), and that we were going to ride along together. He could ride along as long as he kept his opinions mostly to himself. What a difference that made! Horse looked at a few scary things (a horse unloading from a trailer right beside the arena, a truck or two going by, horses in a neighboring arena, etc.), and was pretty insistent that he needed to look at these Very Scary Things. I was pretty insistent that not only was he NOT going to look at these things, but he was going to go past them without any drama, and in a relaxed manner. Fear bird was attempting to tell me all of the things that could possibly go wrong, and I simply made it be quiet. At one point I actually used this guided imagery to put a muzzle on the da*n bird because he wouldn't shut up. And you know what? It WORKED. I knew the fear was there, but I didn't let it overpower me, nor did I let it run the lesson.
As a result, I was able to really ride horse. I made corrections in a more timely manner, and I even experienced a trot lengthening for a few strides for the first time EVER with horse because when Fear Bird told me to slow down I muzzled him. By the end of the lesson, horse was, even at the walk, completely round and listening ENTIRELY to me. He thought about lifting his head a few times, but put it right back down and was a very good boy. He's always a good boy, but I was a much better rider and leader for him today, and it showed.
Trainer was very pleased as well, and I confessed my secret and asked trainer to remind me about Fear Bird if I get tense and afraid again, which I'm sure will happen. And Fear Bird will DEFINITELY be accompanying us to shows.
It's AMAZING what a difference this made...I was ok with having the fear today (versus being angry with myself and thinking I shouldn't be afraid of anything), but I put it in its place, which was, for today, on my shoulder, as a passenger who needed to be quiet. Maybe one day Fear Bird will be put in my pocket, or invited to hang out with trainer while I just ride. But for now, acknowledging the presence of fear, and offering to let it ride with me as long as it didn't interfere, meant all the difference in the world!!
So thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!! Truly, an amazing difference that made an immediate change in our partnership. You turned my into !!
Last edited by right horse at the right time; Jun. 12, 2013 at 05:10 PM.
LarkspurCO: no horse's training is complete until it can calmly yet expressively perform GP in stadium filled w/chainsaw juggling zombies riding unicycles while flying monkeys w/bottle rockets...
How awesome!! I love the idea of making fear an ally and companion instead of a source of control and restraint. Everyone works in different ways and sometimes it just takes the right person to say the right thing for a big concept to fall into place. This seems like an idea that could be applied in many settings outside of the ring as well.
You mentioned in your last post having some fear issues so here, on the off chance it may help but not presuming to be The Perfect Solution Bestowed Upon You, is what I tell my students who have fear issues:
#1 Fear never goes away. This is actually good news, because it means that even the very top riders ride with fear. I have heard people at jumper shows saying "the triple was big enough to live in and she went back to the tack stall after walking the course and cried that she didn't want to do it." She still went in and made it around though, so that means when you see high level riders cantering in looking like they don't have a care in the world, they may be riding with a hefty dose of fear on their shoulder and have just finished wiping their tears in the tack stall. They haven't made fear go away, they have simply learned how to ride with it and ignore the chatter.
At the recent Hunter Derby finals Jen Alfano won it and was interviewed and said she and all the other riders were in a complete tizzy over the drop bank, which turned out to not be so bad after all.
So it's not a question of waiting for fear to "go away" and then you will be a real rider. It never does. It is a question of letting it just ride along on your one shoulder and go along for the ride with you while you get your stuff done regardless. If you don't fight it and just let it ride along and understand that everyone else has the same little friend on their shoulder too, you will realize that you can still carry him around the course or dressage test with you and still do just fine.
So the next time fear shows up tell him "Hello!" Then pat your shoulder and say, "You can sit right here while we try this trot lengthening. Are you comfy? Good, because here goes!" Don't spend energy fighting him or negotiating with him, just give him a place to sit quietly so that he can hang out while you work. He'll always come along but you will be riding your trot lengthenings and doing just stellar regardless. You are one of the posters on COTH whose posts really show that you have the right attitude ingredients and work ethic to climb up the levels so I am absolutely positive you can do it, even with your little friend riding along. You can high five him in your shad one day!
Hope it helps!
I'm so glad it helped, and maybe it will help someone else now too.
Bravery is not never being afraid. Bravery is what you do anyway when you ARE afraid. You have to be scared to be brave!
Pony was a pistol the other day, and I dealt w/ it well...but now the thot of getting back on is making me kinda queasy.
Yikes! If you're riding with that much fear on your shoulder chances are very good that you're accepting way too much! It's one thing to go outside your comfort zone at times, or push through some anxiety, but if the fear is so strong that it's causing physical symptoms then it's probably time to start thinking up ways to decrease it.
Or as someone told me, "if your brain is telling you you're in danger it's probably telling your the truth". And yes, sometimes we get lucky and push through it and it all works out, but sometimes it doesn't, and I can tell you that you really don't want to get older and find yourself with all kinds of physical issues that you have to overcome before you can get yourself into the saddle, because overcoming inertia is hard enough without having a bunch of aches and pains to go along with it.
Kande I so disagree. This is all about being positive and strong and harnessing fear. It sounds like you've had some bad experiences with physical problems and your belief that these are due to your fears. There are ways you can cope with your own fears that don't involve somaticizing those fears.
As an eventer, I can so so appreciate this thread and am printing meupatdoes lovely write up.
Fear comes about whenever we are pushing ourselves.... For me, when I have a really tough cross country course, I am always fearful. Over the years, it has been all about how that fear will manifest itself... Physical pain, thankfully, has not been part of that. Fear can help sharpen the senses and if harnessed, it can make us better and more in tune.... This is a wonderful thread and I am learning a lot from these posts!