I remember someone commented below one of my photos, and asked me: are you never afraid around Batman? And I think that is a very important question.
Because I can be very afraid, and I still struggle with anxiety after our many accidents. I am so far from a brave rider you can possibly get! I can be terrified of riding Batman in open, windy areas like fields or beaches. Who would think that based on the photos of us cantering in a field tackless? Well, the truth is that it is absolutely possible to have anxiety when it comes to riding in open areas, but be able to canter through a large field on a good day.
It all depends on how it feels that day. Batman can be spooky, and even through his nerves are better than they used to be, my mind remembers it so very well, back in the days, when a person walking down the road could scare Batman so much that he just ran away and I had no chance of stopping him. I remember it so well. I will never forget the feeling of losing control as the horse accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in the matter of seconds and it goes so fast that you can barely see, all you know is that there is no way to stop the horse because he is simply blocking you and everything else out. He fears for his life and he is running from the danger. That’s the most terrifying feeling EVER.
I can still feel the fear of losing control in open areas. I don’t feel very brave when I shake before a small canter in a field at home …
Batman stopped bolting many years ago. The past three years he has barely spooked with me. He is usually calm and relaxed, if he gets scared the worst thing he can do is to jump a few meters forward. No problem. But unfortunately, knowing that does not always help on my anxiety, as my body literally prepares to fall off and die every time I can feel his heartbeat go faster and I know that he is seeing or hearing something I can’t. We have had some pretty ugly falls together, and one of them was a winter when snow started to fall from the arena’s roof, and the door was only halfway open. Batman saw the 1 meter wide door and ran towards it. It was blocked with a tall barrel. He jumped over the barrel in panic, though the 1 meter wide door with me on. I fastened my leg in the door, and got thrown several meters in the air, halfway on and halfway stuck in the stirrup before I hit the ice outside. It was hard, thick ice. It literally felt like all my intensities came out. I could simply not walk or stand afterwards, and cried all night because of the horrible pain in my pelvis and back.
But of course, nothing like that happens anymore! It is years ago since last time. Batman is SO calm most of the time, and if he is not, I know that long before something happens so I can simply dismount. I am thankfully not scared of riding in arenas anymore, but if I can hear a noise from outside, I feel horrible anyway. Unsafe and scared, because I have injured myself so badly before and am aware that there is a limit on how many more concussions my head can take. I know Batman simply does not bolt anymore. He never runs away when he is scared. I will basically always manage to jump off if anything happens. I know this. But my body and mind remember so very well the feeling of being completely helpless as the horse starts running right into the dense woods and you know that you simply can’t stop him.
I really had to challenge myself and face my fear on our first beach ride. We had never been to the place before, it was a huge open area, the horses could run 5 km back to the trailer if they got loose or spooked and I cantered on that beach tackless. It was a huge step for me, and I was so proud afterwards. It went amazing.
I have been traumatized. But I can’t let that keep me from having fun with Batman, so I chose to challenge my fear every single day. I push myself, over and over again. And every time I do, I feel a little safer next time.
Most days, Batman is his normal self. Down to earth, calm and relaxed. Canter bareback and bridleless through a field? No problem. He is mostly easy to communicate with. He is also a horse who ALWAYS stands like a rock if he can feel me being scared. Sometimes I can actually shake while sitting on his back… And instead of getting nervous about that, he supports me; as I support him when I can feel him getting nervous. But some days, he can be spooky and highly sensitive to every single noise or movement, and on days like that, no way I’m taking the bridle off.
It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to take precautions. We are handling animals six times our size, with instincts. We have to be careful. I love Batman with all my heart and I trust him, we have a great bond, we know each other very well. You can have that and anxiety at the same time. And it is okay.
But please, don’t stop challenging yourself; the magic often happens beyond the comfort zone. Take your time. Breathe. Praise your horse a lot. Safety first. Take precautions. Have a bombproof fjord horse or something by your side. And try! And it is so wonderful when you dare to push yourself, and it feels amazing afterwards. And with time, the anxiety might fade out, and the fears will be an old memory hidden in your head.
«Try and fail, but never fail to try»
Do you struggle with anxiety when riding horses? If so, how do you handle it? Please share your thoughts below.
Peace, love and Friesian hugs,
Batman & Matilde