Since my accident my relationship with fear has changed. It’s become tactile and dimensional, I can taste it and feel the coils of uncertainty sometimes tighter, sometimes looser. At its worst, my breathing gets shallow and my body tenses.
Fear has boundaries. It lets me go just so far, and not a step further. I can be out on the trail, feeling fine. Right until it tells me I should turn around. Mostly, I do. The realization that you can be fine one minute and broken the next has persuaded me not to take unnecessary chances until I’m so bored, so ready, that I can’t stop myself. Years ago, I broke my hand when my horse slipped and fell into a jump. I swore I would never jump again. But after a few months, I got bored. Lured by an inviting stone wall, I popped over it with my heart in my mouth. Once the genie was out of the bottle, it didn’t take long before my fear was forgotten.
This time, too, fear is loosening its grip. When I first started to ride again, I chose to ride a smaller, kinder, more predictable horse. Curly was like a security blanket. It only took me a handful of rides before I was ready to get on Zelda, but longer to ride Freedom. I still mostly ride him in the outdoor arena, not trusting him to be level headed if dogs, or deer, or mountain bikers jump out of the woods.
I can ride further than I used to. I have ventured out on trails that I’ve missed and gotten almost all the way to the end. Each time it gets better and I can remember that the experience used to be ho hum. Repetition is rebuilding my muscle memory (and that includes my brain).
Some of my fears were pure superstition. I didn’t want to canter at the end of the arena where Zelda fell. Until this week, I didn’t ride in the saddle that she wore that day. None of those things caused her to fall, but somehow the idea became planted in my mind that I’d be safer if I avoided them. Guess what? I survived both.
My goal this fall is to hunt before the end of the season. But if I don’t make it, I’m going to cut myself a break. Pretty soon I’m sure that I’ll be back to a place where I can enjoy galloping through the woods, and Zelda will be ready for me.