Confession: Today my normally confident daughter showed me her timid side.
My eldest daughter has been riding therapy horses since she was 4-years old. Now, six years later she is incredibly confident on a horse even going so far as to win ribbons at the Horse Park of New Jersey and brag about her blue ribbons. She is fearless. But therapy horses are special in many ways. They are forgiving of small mistakes, less reactive, and internalize everything.
Even the boldest souls experience fear from time to time. Click To Tweet
Cameron asked me to ride Ferrous, which she has not done in several months. Although forgiving of her imbalance, she has Cerebral Palsy, and he is quite sensitive to the lightest of aids. So I rode him first to warm him up and make sure his back was nice and loose.
The lesson began well outside with Cameron steering Ferrous in a circle at the walk both directions, keeping him to the rail. She then progressed to Figure 8’s with a halt in the center, practice that we do for horse shows at my barn. All good. But Cameron feels nervous trotting on Ferrous. He does have a big trot and he is better off lead, where at SPUR (Special People United to Ride) she trots on a lead or in a round pen. The outdoor arena was deep so I had trouble running next to them. Instead we went to the indoor, to better help her feel comfortable. In the Kentucky-style indoor the horses are trained to come to the trainer when they walk into the track and stop. It’s a safety measure which Ferrous is quite good at doing, bringing the twins around in their own lessons.
Ferrous began to trot as requested but he has a big stride and a bouncy trot she really needs to post out of the saddle to comfortably ride. Immediately she became nervous, tensed up, and began to lean toward her stronger, left side. The imbalance made Cameron increasingly more nervous, especially because Ferrous took that as a direction to move closer to the wall. He did only what she asked. The second she said, “Whoa”, he slowed to a walk. But Cameron was tearing up and upset. She scared herself.
Unwilling to allow them to end on a bad note I asked her to walk him in both directions, changing directions a few times, and feel like she had control once again.
But the damage had been done. My daughter felt unsure, unsteady, and dare I say it? Timid.
I know that she will progress and there are things we can do to help her feel more confident at the trot. But this is just a shining example of an incredibly confident person having a timid moment. Did the horse do anything wrong? No. Did she do anything wrong? Not really. She didn’t understand her small movements created a reaction, and that is a learning curve. But feeling that you have no control is upsetting and can set anyone back. She felt unbalanced and because she put more weight on her stronger, left side he moved over as she inadvertently asked him to.
My goal as her mother is to acknowledge how she feels, give her tools to move forward, and help her gain better experiences. All this, while teaching her that how she moves her body directly affects her horse in the smallest of ways. She needs to understand horsemanship better as well so she realizes that she was in the control the entire time. He did only what was asked after all.
I’m not a trainer or riding instructor. Sometimes I think it is harder to get them to listen and understand as their mom, which is why I’m so glad the twins are back with Robin and Cameron rides with her instructors regularly. But if anyone can understand a momentary lapse in confidence, it’s this woman right here.
So, Cameron and I will work on balance. Goodness knows that I can improve in this area as well!
Confidence itself is a delicate balance. It can slip at any moment and can often be hard to regain. But I am hopeful her love of horses will prevent this being a big hurdle. While Ferrous may intimidate Cameron, I am glad that she will occasionally ride him and learn that not all horses are therapy horses to teach her better horsemanship.