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.
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.
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.