Looking in the mirror and the person staring back is me.

I think I have been putting some unnecessary baggage on Phoebe. We all anthropomorphize our animals to some degree and unfortunately I am guilty of that in a way that has been detrimental to both of us.

Derp pose. Also, whoaaa winter woolies are coming. 

I have this image of Phoebe as this super hot, reactive, spooky, anxious horse. And maybe when I got her that was true. When she had been injured in a less than ideal training program that put way too much pressure on her. But…that’s not really the case right now and I need to stop thinking of her like that you know? I’M the one with the anxiety now. Ok, I have dealt with anxiety my whole life soooo not like it’s recent or anything. However she’s been totally sane and good more days then not. Phoebe hasn’t really been nervous about the neighbors or the dog running around but I have.

That’s not to say she has magically transformed into some dead quiet mare, she hasn’t. There are still “special” moments, like all of last night for example. There were kids on bikes kind of behind our arena that you couldn’t really see since there are a few trees. So that of course warranted some seriously impressive snorting and giraffe impressions. There was also a mysterious chair on the lawn that WASN’T THERE BEFORE AND OH MY GOD IT MIGHT KILL ME. However the differences from before she went to training and now are pretty obvious. Her freakouts are shorter, way more controllable, and she mentally doesn’t check out so we go back to work or are able to stay on task and work through it.

Scared of the weird chair? Now you can live with it.

So what does that all mean for me? I’m the one having the issues basically. I’m the one who is nervous to canter, nervous to really insist on moving forward under saddle, etc. It’s me. Honestly realizing that has been a major relief. I can work on myself. As I said, anxiety has been an unwelcome guest in my life off and on for years now. I have healthy coping tools, I know when to seek help and there are resources/friends/etc at my disposal.

The plan right now is to just be kind to myself while at the same time sitting on my horse as often as possible. I need to realize that she is green, and green horses are changing constantly, and so far all of Phoebe’s changes have been for the better. I can’t sit on her and just radiate stress and anxiety when she is having a really good day, that would be 100% counterproductive. Like with anything, repetition is key. I need to have more positive experiences while my butt is in the saddle. And I need to be able to do that without unintentionally creating a situation where Phoebe bucks or bolts or what have you. So on the days when Phoebe is acting like the superstar I know is in there I will ride longer, do more, etc. On the days when no one is home, or when Phoebe is acting more tense, or just if I am in a bad head space, I will lunge and just walk. Or I will just mount up and sit on her for a bit. I won’t beat myself up about not doing more for right now. My anxiety, while triggered in part I guess by Phoebe (though I hate using that word, triggered) isn’t only about horses. It’s my brain chemistry and I am dealing with in all areas of my life, not just riding, so yeah. Being kind to myself while getting my butt in the saddle as often as I can. That’s where I am right now and honestly it kind of feels good in a way. My horse is young, she just keeps getting better, and we have nothing but time.

6 thoughts on “Looking in the mirror and the person staring back is me.

  1. Lucky for you that you realized that sooner rather than later! I am totally guilty of this as well, even know. Baggage is a real thing and it sucks. Loved your FB post last night of that last picture!

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  2. I went through this with my young horse this last winter and kind of had to decide to either step up to the plate and control my nerves or get off of him. It helped SO MUCH. Like you said, horses don’t know the difference between you aiding for a problem behavior and you anticipating a problem behavior. The moment I stopped anticipating the problem behavior, they all but went away. In addition, with him at least, it really helped me to think about his nervous behavior in a group of horses. If he got scared of something and the entire herd also got scared, he gets validated for that response and is more likely to be scared of that thing in the future. If the whole herd just ignored him, he doesn’t get validated for his fear and it will go away. So currently I try not to react at all even when stuff really scares him. And it’s been working! It’s so hard, but he’s really turning out to be a lot more bombproof than I’d ever expect him to be. But ugh, so hard to change that mentality. Good on you for recognizing it now! It took me way too long.

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    • So true! Though I feel just articulating it is the easy part. But yes, I would MUCH rather get off the horse too soon, before I accidentally create bucking or whatever because of my nerves. Now I have to just keep doing the thing until its less and less of a big deal.

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  3. ugh anxiety is the worst. like you, tho, i find a lot of relief in just sort of acknowledging that anxiety is part of the equation and moving on to figure out the best way to cope and continue moving forward. it’s a huge pain in the ass, frustrating, and absurd in that the anxiety follows no rules of logic or anything like that…. but it’s not insurmountable! being able to reflect on it honestly is a big help!

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    • Exactly! I can’t work on/fix something when I don’t know what the issue is! Even if it’s totally dumb and irrational and illogical there are tools out there and as you said, it is not insurmountable.

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