the other side of fear

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear”    –unknown


I was teaching a “saddle club” group lesson the other day with my teaching partner, a lovely lady who is passionate about teaching “riding lessons”. She does not, however, have the background I have in working with children, children with special needs and in the counseling/social work field. She has a 1:1 student-we’ll call her Jane-who also participates in our weekly girl’s group “Saddle Club” riding and education class. My partner has expressed to me frustration in teaching Jane. You see Jane is ten years old, but presents as somewhat slow, unfocused and doesn’t seem to progress in riding skills. During the group lesson, Jane was having difficulty and really holding up the class. She was on a new horse, and could not even get the horse to MOVE. My partner expressed quietly to me that she was increasingly frustrated with Jane and simply losing patience…she expressed that she doesn’t know how to “get through to this girl”. I suggested that we split the group and one of us could take Jane individually so the others would be allowed to continue on with the group lesson. I told my partner that if she wanted I would be willing to work one-on-one with Jane today. She said “yes, please!”. I took Jane to the far end of the arena and started working with her. After some time I picked up on some patterns she was displaying. And I picked up on some tension in her body. I picked up on her fear. I asked her about it and she expressed that she was terrified. So we broke it down, took it literally ONE step at a time. I did some focus excersices with her that I do with my riders who have special needs and/or fear trauma issues. I find it really brings them into the moment, gives them a focus and reduces the anxiety build up. Jane then began to relax and by the end of our time together she was circling her horse around a barrel and back to me, over and over. Thus-as I pointed out to her-showing her that she has control and knows what to do, even beyond her fear. With intention, her horse will respond. It was an amazing 20 minutes. Later, my partner expressed to me that she wishes she had my patience. And that she feels like the parents are “wasting their money” on lessons. I responded back that, perhaps she was looking at this wrong. No, it’s not a “waste”. My partner is focused on “riding lessons”. She wants to see Jane progress in her RIDING. Sometimes, I told her, when I have a child like Jane who has some special needs (in this case, fear), I realign my intention-this is where I firmly believe that riding is therapy. Ok, I do have my “regular” riding lessons. And, yes, I enjoy seeing my girls win their ribbons at shows. My passion, though, is with the deeper stuff. What Jane can do and learn through horseback riding is priceless and worth far more than those ribbons. She is an extremely timid, shy, insecure girl. I suspect, but don’t know (and won’t address because she isn’t my student) that there may be some disability (alter-ability) such as mild Autism or something developmental. Jane is gaining so much more from this experience than my girls who bring home the ribbons are. I promise you that. Strength, focus, confidence, assertiveness, perserverence…. Just getting up on a horse for her is more brave and amazing than you can imagine. AND this is a form of therapy that she LOVES to go to and participate in. Do you know how many kids tell me they hate going to therapy??? So boring! And, all while they sit on the back of a horse in my therapy (office) arena. It really is a beautiful thing.

Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyways”….John Wayne


Blog 6

I ended up buying a horse that changed my life. Literally. He was a challenge and many times did I think about giving up. But I didn’t, I couldn’t. I’m a gluten for punishment and apparently, I have been told, I sought out this challenge as a reflection of my own insecurities. Even though, all I said I wanted was an easy, fun trail horse. I guess we just are who we are even if we try to be better. But the lesson in this, is that’s not necessarily always a bad thing. We face head on who we are and then we see why and where we may want to change. Then we have the free will to make that change if we wish, if we are willing to do the work. If we are willing to look at our messiness. My sweet boy, what a challenge he was. He taught me self confidence, assertiveness, focus, to STOP caring about what others think and say, to forge my own path and believe without worrying what the outcome may be. Because it was just he and I in the end, making it or not. In more ways than one, because I have the on-going neck pain from this path! Dare I say, a HORSE changed my life. Yes, I say it. A horse greatly changed my life. Today, he is my best friend and we are getting along beautifully. Still a challenging moment here or there, but really no worries. The therapeutic value of horses is so hard to put into words. And, Im not one of those “airy fairy” types that believes in Tao type deep energy connections. And, I don’t not believe in it either. It’s just not totally and completely “me” to go there. I will say my truth though, and that’s that there is indeed therapeutic value to horses in so many ways. A creature who can quite literally feel your feelings, hear your heartbeat and smell your fear. A horse will synchronize to your heartbeat, breathing and emotions. This may sound deep, but as Monty Roberts teaches, it’s nature. Horses are herd animals, looking for a leader. It is a survival technique for them to synch with the herd. When the herd leader becomes frightened of something, a predator say, it is the immediate syncing of the herd that alerts and saves them. Take a horse out of the wild, and, well they still need a leader. If that’s you, then they sync to you. Be afraid, they smell fear. Increased heartbeat, faster breathing? They sync to you sending their heart rate and breathing up. Keep yourself calm (even in the midst of fear or nervousness) and you can keep your horse calm. Breathe deep, focus, visualize and your horse will come with you. As John Wayne says “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyways”.