A New Relationship with Fear

Your Biggest Fear

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.

"Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain."
It seems fitting, when riding in Estabrook Woods, to take Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words to heart. “Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.” Certainly, it’s important to remember that most rides are without incident. And even when there are incidents, they are mostly not a disaster.

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.

Enjoy the moment
When everything around you is so beautiful, it’s easy to just enjoy the moment.

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.


6 thoughts on “A New Relationship with Fear

  1. I’ve learned…through experience…about riding with fear wrapping it’s cold fingers around your heart. I know I don’t have to explain to you that your horse feels it from you. You can’t lie to a horse. If you’re afraid, they become so, too, because they can’t figure out what you’re afraid of…so it must be something Out There. So be cautious but understand that fear is normal.
    You are on the right path. it’s the same one that you use with a fearful horse: habituation.
    Do you know what ‘vedic’ breathing is? My acupuncturist taught it to me and I’ve found it so helpful to calm my nerves, allow me to settle down, restore my ”inner harmony.”
    It’s very simple.
    There is a spot right behind your top teeth, the front incisors. Let’s call it the vedic spot. You will need to place the tip of your tongue on that spot while doing this breathing exercise.
    Place the tip of your tongue on the vedic spot.
    From your core, exhale forcefully til your lungs are fairly empty. Breathe out from the depths of your belly adn with an open mouth in an Oooo shape. I’m told one must exhale ‘noisily’ but I don’t, I just breathe out.
    Do this for 4 seconds.
    Then…keeping your tongue on the v spot, inhale through an open mouth.
    Inhale for 7 seconds.
    Stop inhaling, close your mouth, keeping the tongue on the vedic spot, and hold your breath for 8 seconds.

    repeat this cycle 4 times.

    I’m told that once you ‘get good at it’, you can do this up to 7 times but no more than that, and honestly, I’ve never needed to do it more than 4 times.
    Because, for me, at least, it seems to hit a ‘reset’ button on my mind and emotions, and the feeling lasts for a while. It works. I will do it when I’m sitting in the dentist’s chair (fear) or I’m feeling angry (not something we want when we’re around horses) or just upset.

    1. Thank you. I’ve never heard of it and will definitely try it. I do worry about transferring fear to my horses because they for sure can tell. Mostly, once I’m on there solidity is calming, but when I’m pushing my own envelope I don’t want to transfer my concerns to them.

  2. Whoops, forgive me, I made some mistakes. When you’re doing this, inhale from the depth of your belly through your nose, with mouth CLOSED. IF you can’t breathe in through your nose, it’s okay, but try through the nose. And do it four times TOTAL, with an increase…should you want to,, of no more total of 7.

    Hold the breath for 7 seconds and blow out ‘noisily’ for 8.

    Sorry I screwed it up, but i’ve been doing it for years and this is the first time I’ve actually written it down. The nice thing is you can do this anywhere, at any time. I’ve done it on horseback when something scares me, like going trail riding. It really works to calm my nerves.

  3. One more try at this unexpectedly complicated obstacle:::
    Exhale forcefully from the depths of your stomach.
    Stop. With your tongue on the vedic point behind your top front teeth, and with your mouth CLOSED, Inhale for 4 seconds.
    Stop. Keeping your tongue on the spot, Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
    Open your mouth and exhale forcefully for 8 seconds.
    REpeat three more times and never more than 7.
    Sorry, Liz, but I get scatter brained at times….

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