Courage is like a balloon

estabrook hunt
IF—-you always jump little jumps, say, lower than three feet, and always have little jumps scattered around the place where you ride, it may be that both your sense of what constitutes “normal” and the scope of your comfort zone will shrink to coincide with THAT version of reality.

IF, however, you keep stretching your comfort zone, your courage will grow right along with the size of the jumps. In other words, I think courage is like a balloon, you can expand it or shrink it by your actions and perceptions.In other words, I think courage is like a balloon, you can expand it or shrink it by your actions and perceptions.

I read this on Denny Emerson’s Facebook feed and it really struck a chord. I know exactly how this happens. It’s like scope creep in reverse. Small things become big. Your comfort zone shrinks and before you know it, you are talking about the “good old days” when you were younger and braver. It’s certainly happened to me. The cross country jumps on our hunts are pretty much all the same size — small to medium — and when I set up jumps in the ring, I don’t push myself if I’m not in a lesson. Although some people might think that I’m brave because I foxhunt, I’ve actually become quite a conservative rider. Fences look bigger to me now, even when I know they are only 2’6″ or 2’9″ they give me pause.

I was watching a lesson today and my friend was jumping a triple bar that was about 3’3″ and I wondered whether I would canter down to it with as little angst as she did. I used to do it without a second thought. I know Freedom can do it, but when did I get to be such a chicken? Is it a function of getting older? Or do I need to inflate my balloon and push my personal envelope a little more this summer?

How about all of you? Is your balloon full? Or does it need some more air?


One thought on “Courage is like a balloon

  1. Have been thinking this lately, and the quote succinctly defines the issue. I’ve become so obsessed with “seeing the distance” in hunters that if I do a 2’6″ round and miss 1 or 2 distances I doubt my ability to go higher. One rider told me, though, she thinks its easier to see a distance when the jumps make the horse sit back a bit, like at 3′. So perhaps we surreptitiously raise the jumps a hole every month?! 🙂

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