Losing the Dream

About two years ago I went through a period of non-riding – I had completely lost my mojo and it was taking an awfully long time to come back.

I didn’t have a huge accident or anything like that although I had had two small falls. Basically, I just fell off the side and in both falls I could see where I was at fault, but they were enough to shatter what turned out to be a very fragile confidence.

When I looked around, everyone else was quite happily tearing about the place on their horses, so why not me?

When I did venture out on my horse, it would always end in tears. Mine and my mare’s. It was unfair of me to inflict my anxiety on her just to keep up with the others.

So, I gave up riding for a while, actually, it was about 12 months or so.

What I was finding it very hard to come to terms with was that I had my dream – I owned a horse – yet I wasn’t living the dream as I imagined it. I wasn’t riding, I wasn’t enjoying myself immensely, I wasn’t going on outings or to competitions with her and I certainly wasn’t riding off into the sunset.

My dream was quickly turning to dust. It was a giant dose of reality and it had knocked me on my feet.

And the only way back for me was to take it slowly.

I took small steps that I knew would give me the confidence to come back and try again. Steps that I could build on and I started creating a better foundation for me to get my confidence back.

Some days I just couldn’t ride. I was happy to spend time with her grooming and feeding and petting her, but the thought of hopping up into that saddle terrified me to my core.

Some days I made myself get in the saddle but it was all I could do to sit there. I could barely even lift my head up to look around me.

On days where my bravery was a little higher, I would ride in the small round yard at a walk, just sitting, learning to relax and feeling the movement as she walked, relearning her gait and motion. I was relearning how to be brave.

I had to take no notice of the other riders around me and just do my thing. I had well-meaning friends who would encourage me, telling me to just do this, just do that or just ride the bloody horse! And I can’t tell you enough how there is nothing encouraging about that line when you are in the midst of severe anxiety about riding.

No one understood where I was mentally at this time and that was crushing. I knew they wondered what was wrong with me, why wasn’t I riding and so on.

Some days I would leave my horse wondering if this horse thing was really for me, however, there was a part of me that wasn’t going to give up so easily.

I had to take myself back to basics and start again and it has paid off enormously in terms of my confidence levels.

Now, I’m not going to tell you that I am now gallivanting all over the place, being fabulous on horseback, because I’m definitely not. But I am more than happy to go and see my horse now and saddle up and go for a ride. In fact, I get quite grumpy if anything stops me from going on a ride. I’m not competing or going on outings yet but I know that will come. Slowly, but it will come.

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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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