Do something every day that scares you, and riding horses

Riding horses is good for my anxiety.  It lets me expose myself to things a little bit scary in a relatively safe way.  Also, you really MUST be calm around horses, so you have to regulate your physiology.

I’m not afraid of falling off (very much) because I have fallen off and it was ok.  (N.B.:  always wear a helmet!  always!)  Falling off sucks intensely for a relatively small number of seconds, but within a few minutes I’m back on again.  I have been lucky not to be injured, and also I fall off less these days.  Mostly when you fall off you’re not seriously hurt.  When the consequences would be worse (such as you would fall on rocks or off a cliff or something), then ride more conservatively.  My mom’s worried I’ll end up like Christopher Reeve but I can’t think about that; also I take reasonable safety precautions.

But I also feel free to try new things because falling off isn’t that bad, even the nastiest fall I had that scared me and the teacher.  My teachers can coach me through a hairy situation and they calibrate challenges to my skill level.  They wouldn’t ask me to do something that they honestly thought I couldn’t do.  Yet also I know that I can always say no and refuse to try the thing they asked.  So therefore I always say yes and try it!  It helps that I don’t care if I look really dumb.  There’s not much room for worry on a horse: you just have to ignore your anxiety and breathe through it, so as not to rile up the prey beastie or just make yourself tight and everything harder.

Of course, there’s also the part that riding is extremely fun, and I enjoy learning new skills and getting more competent, which will never happen if you don’t stretch yourself.

#2 adds:  The helmet is so important to this metaphor.  Calculated risks, measured risks, these help us grow without killing us!

Do you do things that scare you?  What is your helmet?

33 Responses to “Do something every day that scares you, and riding horses”

  1. Carolina (@braziliancakes) Says:

    It has been way to long since I’ve done something that scares me physically. Professionally I’ve got that covered though especially with working on leaving academia (I’m a postdoc) and going to business school starting in the fall.

  2. becca Says:

    I think a lot of non-scary things scare me right now. Maybe intentionally scary things would help. Something to consider, for sure.

  3. Linda Says:

    My first fall from a horse happened during my limited riding time as a pre-teen. I was actually pulled off the horse. I was in a group in the arena and the horses got too bunched up. My stirrup got caught on someone else’s tack somehow and as I was moving away from the bunch I got pulled off. I had the wind knocked out of me, but I got back up and on the horse again.

    My first fall as an adult re-rider (if I can call myself that since I barely rode as a young person) was actually a funny one. The horse wasn’t even moving and I was dismounting. Both feet were out of the stirrups, as this was in English tack. I swung my right leg over and was at that point where you sort of slip down the left side of the horse, except I flipped forward over the right side of the horse. I ended up landing on my back wondering why I had done that. I pulled a muscle or something since I was a bit stiff for a few days, but other than that I was fine.

    My next fall was off the big 17-hand guy I share-boarded for a several months. He was a gentle giant, but spooked once at something outside the arena and I slid off. Again, I just had the wind knocked out of me. The only really scary bit was when the trainer came dashing over and asked me if I could move my legs.

    I was quite proud to stay on the back of the next horse I leased when he got all difficult once and started bucking. Damn, I miss riding. *sigh*

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      If they buck straight up it’s sometimes ok because you come back down in the saddle. If they buck while moving, that’s me falling right off. With my previous horse I got pretty good at staying put in the sideways-juke.

  4. chacha1 Says:

    I am extremely risk-averse when it comes to physical activity. I have never been in a position where being injured badly enough to be out of work would not be fairly difficult to manage (also have never truly been in a position where I had a potential caregiver at home; two adults who have to work full time to meet their inflated expenses cannot really be counted on as full-time caregivers as well) or where disability would not be catastrophic.

    So I don’t mess around with high-risk activity.

    Also, most high-risk activities are expensive. You are either paying for equipment or for transportation to/from the location or for coaching/training/safety crews. Even horseback riding with a by-the-hour horse is not cheap, especially in a city like L.A., so even though I would LOVE to learn to ride, it’s highly unlikely I ever will.

    Ballroom dancing is also not cheap (if you’re competing) but the risk is low, it’s a very social activity as well, and is something I do with the husband rather than by myself. I already do enough (too many) things by myself.

  5. Revanche Says:

    You’re brought out all my wistful I Miss Riding feelings again. I had to give it up when the fibro took over and miss it all the time.
    Riding was my scary thing I took on as a kid. It was a romantic notion when I wanted to try and somewhere along the way of having to find my own instructor and a way to get to lessons and after all that work it became a thing I was determined to do well. Then, mounted for the first time and realized I was terrified, and spent the next several years learning to do it better.

    Now I can’t risk most physical challenges as the body doesn’t cooperate with even routine things. Though pregnancy and childbirth was damn scary. Professional public speaking remains a thing I tell myself I have to keep doing but hate every second of it. I may make myself try something entrepreneurial once I build the proper helmet for it.

  6. J Liedl Says:

    Every day that I walk my Rottweiler, I do something physically scary. This only doubles in the winter time since I just have a theoretical understanding of where the ground is likely to be as we lope through the snow.

    I miss horseback riding. Sadly, the economics of maintaining savings while also sending Eldest off to live away at university of her choice means I can’t justify the additional hundreds of dollars a month for lessons (and travel time/costs to and from the stable).

    There was a saying we learned back in my regular riding days: “Throw your heart over, the rest will follow.” You can be scared. Sure, you probably always are, whether the challenge is your first canter or a four and a half foot tall oxer. But if you believe in your mount and yourself, you seat yourself strongly, put on some leg and make it all work. Get feedback from the trainer, the judge or a friend (and your horse, of course). Strive to do better next time!

    These have been good lessons for me as an academic and as a person. Being paralyzed by fear never helps. Giving it a try, going through a fall, getting up again: those are the experiences that change us for the better.

  7. bogart Says:

    It’s funny, I think I’d have something to say about this, and yet, and yet…

    I learned to ride as a (fearless) child. When I was no less than 10 but no more than 12 (at which point I had been riding for about 6 years), my mom and a friend’s mom used to drop me and said friend off at the farm where we kept my pony and where the friend could borrow a pony.

    Just drop us off. Two kids (well, often two kids + a dog or more). This “facility” was an old cow farm, maybe 250 acres. It had 2 barns, 2 ponds, cold running water, no phone, 3 residents (who might or might not be home, but often weren’t during the day), and ~10 horses. Unsupervised, we would catch our ponies, bridle them, put on our helmets (yes, helmets), climb on bareback, and race around wildly for an hour or so (in the same fields where the other horses were grazing, loose).

    It was nuts. I am astounded that we were allowed to do it. Even as a fearless kid, I knew that some of what we were doing was stupid. Also: fun!

    Nothing bad happened (not true: one day one of our dogs got hit and killed by a car on a road adjacent to the farm).

    I’m really glad I was allowed to do that. It gave me a sense of balance (I mean that literally rather than figuratively) that serves me well to this day. I am really glad nothing bad happened (to us kids). The odds were in our favor (kids bounce) but real injury was certainly entirely possible.

    I don’t do that kind of thing anymore (but I do still ride. With a helmet.)

    My dad (and his family of origin) was afraid of everything. My mother (and her family of origin) are afraid of pretty much nothing. Or not unafraid, but diligent about the YOLO part of fear … not wanting to forego doing things they enjoy because of fear.

    My mother was a much bigger influence on my way of thinking in this regard than my father, for which I am thankful.

  8. oil_garlic Says:

    I had a similar experience to you with horseback riding. I loved it but I wasn’t a natural at it. It definitely challenged me beyond my comfort zone. Right now, I’m not riding regularly but I’m tackling some challenging projects at work that sort of scare me!

  9. omdg Says:

    I stopped riding when I was 15, and basically every fall I had involved the horse also falling, sometimes on top of me, as I had become agile enough not to fall (for the most part) otherwise. I became afraid I might die. I don’t think this was unjustified as every competition I went to featured a fellow rider being carted away in an ambulance.

    That said, I think the advice to do something that scares you is good. As long as that thing isn’t *actually* life threatening.

  10. Mrs PoP Says:

    Bicycling is probably my horse equivalent. I used to be more scared of it (though now I’m more scared of driving). Actually when I fell off my bike and broke my arm on the same day that Christopher Reeve was thrown off a horse. As a snarky 12-year-old I said I would ride again when he did… and that didn’t turn out to be the case. Biking is one of the things that makes me feel alive and connected to the earth, like running or some other outdoor activity. If I don’t get something like that in each day I just feel off, but I don’t think they scare me.

  11. Thisbe Says:

    So interesting. I don’t know why I’m not more scared of riding; I know multiple people who have had serious back and brain injuries secondary to riding. (The worst of these among my acquaintance was the woman who was found seated leaning against the side of the arena with the horse wandering loose. Nobody was there, so nobody knows what happened. It was months before she was anything approaching normal again. Riding alone might be a bad idea.)

    I don’t know why I’m not more scared of dogs and cats biting me, either. I guess I have a high level of trust in my assistants (that they WILL NOT let it happen) as well as a high level of trust in my own ability to read animal body language. The weirdest part of that is that I’ve BEEN bitten, multiple times; but never professionally, and not in the last ten years.

    On reflection, I also think that I have an informal rule for myself that if I identify “fear” as the primary reason I don’t want to do something, that means I am required to do it. I’m not sure what that says about me.

  12. Cloud Says:

    What a great, interesting post! I honestly don’t know my answer- I tend to be pretty conservative with physical risks, but maybe there is some other area of my life where I do things that scare me? I’ll have to think about this. Thanks for the prompt!

  13. Confronting fear | a windycitygal's Weblog Says:

    […] over at Grumpy Rumblings had a post yesterday titled Do something every day that scares you. It was very timely for me because I’ve been meaning to write about how my recent move to the […]

  14. MutantSupermodel Says:

    Hooray for horses!!

    I tend to be pretty open to risk. There was that one time I got on a skateboard and fell pretty hard on my ass. I avoided them for ages but got on one again last weekend and clung to my boyfriend for dear life. But yeah I’m generally ok with thrill-seeking adventures. My kids all ride roller coasters because of me. And a lot of things on my bucket list are thrill seeking things like rock climbing and zip lining and sky diving. I wish that I could do more of those kinds of things. It’d be nice.

    • MutantSupermodel Says:

      Oh also Karaoke because when I was younger singing was something I got teased about. But then I realized that they teased me about everything and there are always REALLY bad singers so eff it. Most recently I gave the most epic performance of Benny and the Jets in my life.

  15. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    If you’re interested in posting more details about horse riding, I think it would be super interesting to hear about it: why it’s fun, technicalities of doing it, etc.

  16. Donna Freedman Says:

    I’ve also heard it said that you should do at least one thing a day that scares you. In the past few years I’ve come to believe that I should do at least one thing a day that scares someone ELSE…. ;-)
    But seriously: Writing scares me, yet I do it all the time. Hey, so do you!

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