Baby Steps

What’s the first thing you do when faced with a new, big or scary task? Run away as far and as fast as you can? Yep, that’s my default setting too.

But I’ve learnt that the best way for me to attack it, is to take baby steps.

Think of a real baby learning to walk – faltering, wobbly steps, sometimes assisted by mum, dad or the furniture. Falling down occasionally and sometimes reverting to crawling for a while when it gets too much. Then they try again. And keep trying.

They take tiny little steps, one at a time, sometimes with help and sometimes on their own.

And this is the key to tackling something new. If you have any fear at all surrounding yourself or your horse, break each activity into little steps.

Break it down into the smallest steps you can imagine, even if you think the steps are silly. Especially if you think the steps are silly.

Write the steps down and keep a log of when you took them and how you went.

And when you take a step, congratulate yourself and celebrate your successes. And it doesn’t matter how tiny the step, celebrate.

And when it’s time to take the next step? You’ll know because you’ll feel it becoming easier for you and if you feel bored with what you’re doing, it is definitely time to move forward.

Don’t worry if you have to go backwards for a while – it can help to revise and go back over what you know you do well and build up your confidence again.

My system of baby steps came in handy when I wanted to tackle my anxiety around traveling with my horse. I had already used the system to get used to hitching up, driving and maneuvering the float (um…trailer for the Americans) but I had one more challenge.

There is a very tight gnarly hairpin bend on the road where I keep my horse, and this was my biggest worry. I could use a different road, but it adds an extra hour to my trip. To get around it towing a float, you need to go onto the wrong side of the road for a bit and then pull back in. It is a very tight corner and quite blind as there are rock walls all around and oncoming vehicles find it a little surprising to meet someone on the wrong side of the road. Thankfully there is a mirror there which helps immensely.

My baby steps were to just travel up and down it in my car (with no float), slowly and carefully noticing the road and how much space I really have. Sometimes I would get my husband to drive while I sat in the passenger seat looking more carefully at the road and surrounds. Sometimes I would (when it was safe) drive out onto the wrong side of the road (as though I was towing) and make the turn.

After that, the next step was to hook up the float and go. To say I was very nervous was a total understatement but I had done all my planning, taken my baby steps, and now it was time to take a bigger step.

And I’m so pleased to say that I did it well! And I did it a few more times until I was a lot more comfortable with it.

Then I loaded up my horse and took her down the road. And yes, that was a success too!

My baby steps had paid off! I felt a huge weight lifted from my shoulders – not only was I comfortable towing, but I had proved to myself that taking baby steps works.

The above might seem like overkill to some, but when faced with a challenge which causes fear and anxiety, baby steps can be a great tool to help you reach your goal.

What challenges are you facing that could benefit from taking baby steps?

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Allyssa Carlton

I’ve loved horses forever but only in the last few years have I owned a horse. Now I belong to a grey Arab mare named Aine. When I’m not horsing around, you’ll find me writing, cooking, reading and drinking coffee and wine. I share my home with my barista husband, one of my two daughters and her tiny dog Patrick.

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