Friday, March 19, 2021


 Some would say that its just a gate. And others would see it only as an obstacle to be cleared. And for me, it did appear like maybe I have to  jump Dante's 9th Circle of Hell.

"Be kinder to yourself." "Know that you are not alone... most adults have to jump regularly in order to be able to jump at all."  "It's time to stop saying that you're mind is broken." 

Turning my first ever trip to Aiken into my own private adult boot camp is just what this brain and body needed to begin releasing the demons determined to hold my inner Honey Badger hostage. I am a long way from banishing them and kicking some eventing booty but today, I feel closer than I have in 3 years.

We jumped today, outside on a cool windy day.  

I approached the lesson like a prisoner cuffed and dragging chains...  maybe I should just quit.  This is tooo hard!  The demons raged on in my head... torturing me with all my "failings".  And the sad, sad part about raging demons and "failings" is that they cut deep through any self-help book one may have read, causes all the therapy and sports psychology completed to disappear until you're a quivering mass of anxiety.

If you are prone to anxiety, you know what this feels like.  If you're not, be incredibly grateful because, for you, this is the adrenalin that keeps you safe and kicks you on.  For me, anxiety manifests as physical weakness.

We jumped today, outside on a cool windy day with a new instructor.

Warning JT that I wasn't sure I could do this (with maybe a hint of panicking tears), that just being here was success, she calmly said that she would lay down a pole to do figure 8's over and that would be good enough.  {{{Hmmm, we can do that.}}}

A good instructor has an instinct, a connection with bodies and brain that is not always visible.  And the really good ones are fluid in their methods with a touch of mysticism in their teachings - they make things happen and the student evolves...  JT is all of that.

We jumped today, outside on a cool windy day with a new instructor, over a gate.

"Let's get that nice relaxed trot and add the cross rails as caveletties."  "Just keep asking her by giving and releasing, no effort, just go with it." "Good, that's right, Good."

"Now add the gate."

WTF!  The gate? I haven't jumped a vertical since January.  WTF!  THE GATE?  (Apparently she didn't know that Sugar had gate issues and thus, I have gate issues and that, even though I know that Shanti doesn't have gate issues, what if she does?)

I stopped and told her that I wasn't ready for the gate and that we could do it later, like maybe next week.  She calmly stated, "I really hoped you would have just done it instead of stopping. Now, you can do the gate and be finished."

OMG!  This woman gets me.  The incentive to stop far outweighs my anxiety or past issues.  Hell, I will jump Dantes' 9th Circle of Hell to be finished.

So, I jumped the gate!

And I actually think the lesson really started.  That gate turned into jumping the verticals, the crossrails and then the gate over and over again.  

We jumped a gate today and I am in heaven.  I can't wait to do it again!

Sunday, March 14, 2021


Sigh, when I don't want to write and I keep getting nudged to write, I know that there are words that need to be said and a confession to be made...  I'm 60 (no that is not the confession) and I feel like I'm on the precipice.  I could come back, like really come back or I could just be a "natural horsemanship expert" always getting ready to do something but never actually doing it. (Shhh, I'm actually not good at natural horsemanship.)

I wish I was regaling you with an awesome tale of a wild adventure... over hills at a gallop, whipping around a cross country course or captivating the world with our stunning jumping.

Well, I'm not.

Today, for the first time ever, after traveling 16.5 hours and barely caring for our bodily functions, the Cowgirl and I landed in Aiken. with our horses.  One day we're locked in an indoor, whining about 18 degree (Fahrenheit) weather and the next day it's sunny, 76 and Shanti and I are heading to the outdoor "fully prepared" for our first lesson. 

And maybe all you young things aren't phased by anything and approach things like the Cowgirl...  "let's git ur done".  Ten years of off and on writing, I can still tell you that for me, that is not the case.  And it bothers me.

Landing in what feels like summer and being outside for the first time since November was mind blowing.  Oh, let's add a new instructor and the anxiety will just wash away.

Well, it did not.

I felt assaulted by all the stimuli - horses moving about in the pastures, a dog or two playfully checking us out, a stallion calling to all the mares on the farm, her pasture mate and traveling companion calling for her.  

I was the Lil' Country Bumpkin riding an upbeat, tense horse.  She was as unfocused as I was and while I did all the "things" to bring the focus back to me.  My brain ticked off - "Is she galloping way down there?"  "Why did the horses decide to gallop around their paddocks?"  "Is that a pony in the woods?" "Is she really going to cut the grass?"  "I wish her buddy would stop calling for her."

Finally, after breathing deeply, I could let go of all the awful things that would not happen.  Anxiety has its own life cycle and breathing deeply seemed to settle it long enough to let go of its hold on me.

It was a beautiful lesson under the guidance of a skilled and kind instructor. The best thing was finally slowing the brain down to actually feel like I can ride and that Shanti and I are ok.

Coming to Aiken, getting outside was a very good decision.  Now to just put the self flagellation away and live in the gratitude of how lucky I am and maybe, just maybe, this is exactly what I need to find myself again.

Maybe it is...