I haven’t ridden Lady very much for several months, but the last 5 rides have had elements of good progress. While taking a “vacation” from dressage lessons on Rocky, I wanted to start riding outside the arena again. So, my riding instructor rode Rocky last week while I rode Lady, and we went on the trails behind the pasture and down the road. Usually, Cindy rides Lady whenever we go onto the road because I’ve been too scared. I chose to ride Lady at first this time, planning to switch horses when we reached the road. At the last minute, I changed my mind even though I had already heard the sound of a riding lawnmower ahead.
Lady and I were doing quite well, and I was feeling pretty calm. After all, my courageous instructor was with me. As we neared the home where the riding lawnmower was working, I wish I’d planned better. We could have stopped just before we got there to allow the mower guy to make his turn at the edge of the road and start back away from it. Next time, I will know better! But, not thinking of it, we walked on, Rocky and Cindy closer to the mower and Lady and me in about the middle of the road. It was perfectly timed that Lady looked to the right just as the mower was coming straight at us. And yes, she suddenly decided to get out of his way. Anything noisy that comes straight at her must be some kind of mare-eating monster! I had a sudden fleeting image of things whirling, but we didn’t go far. I circled her in the driveway opposite the yard being mowed, and turned her back. The mower guy, a wonderful young man, had kindly stopped. I hollered a thank you and an apology, and he assured us it was ok. We walked on, and I tightened my reins a bit because Lady wanted to hurry away as the mower resumed his work. Near the end of the road, we circled a pond and then turned back.
This time, we passed the mower as it was going away from us. From a safe distance, we stopped and turned the horses to watch the riding lawnmower for awhile as the mower guy went back and forth. Cindy doesn’t get all shook about things like I do. She has the ability to keep herself and her horse calm. I’m trying to learn that ability, but it is difficult to remember when under stress.
We took our time going back to the barn, taking the long route through a neighbor’s field (with previous permission) and behind our barn’s pasture. It’s not wise to let a horse hurry back home after a scary incident. That first time I rode Lady on this road, when the big truck passed us and she spun with me, I did go back to the barn as fast as her prancy walk could take us. I was just as eager to get back as she was!
Six years later, I am still working to defeat that inner terror at the thought of riding this road. I finally realized that the more I avoided it, the more my fears grew. All I could think of was what if that truck came by again? What if a big tractor came down that road? What if I couldn’t handle it? My mind was always filled with fearful thoughts and negative visualizations. I had to learn to replace them with positive ways to handle the possibilities.
At first, I had to make myself ride to the first driveway. I did what I could do within my limited comfort zone. Gradually going a little further each time, we have made it to the seventh driveway three times. There are about 20 driveways on this one-mile road, and I may never ride it all by myself. But each driveway represents another small victory to strengthen my courage.
I see last week’s encounter with the riding lawnmower as another important step in my progress. I remember it without terror and I see how it taught me to handle a similar incident next time! I am eager to ride Lady again on that road, with Cindy by my side, as we defeat those fear demons, one at a time! I know fear cannot be demolished by one ride; it will take many rides, many steps to get there. But I am more committed to the journey than ever.