I had a birthday last weekend, and I got the most incredible gift. It was given to me by Sammie, but when I really think about it, the gift was made possible by Jane Savoie. (For those of you who have been living under a rock, Jane is one of the most well-known names in dressage, with a list of accomplishments too numerous to detail here.)


You already know that I have had my share of challenges with Sammie, and it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that recent setbacks in my confidence are grounded in fear. Fear, and mistrust. I have had a hard time trusting myself, mostly, to do the right thing in all situations, particularly those where Sammie is expressing her more "opinionated" side. That, of course, leads to fear of the unknown: what will Sammie do if things go south? Buck? Bolt? Rear? My imagination was painting some ugly scenarios.

Luckily, the planets finally aligned and I have been able to have regular lessons again. My last two lessons were wonderful, and as a result, I floated the idea past Meg that maybe, on my birthday (when she would be away at a show), I would ride Sammie alone. All by myself. (Why did talking about it make me feel like a small child asking to cross the street for the first time without Mom holding my hand?) Meg felt confident that there would be no problem, and recommended using the time to work on transitions to keep Sammie listening to and respecting my seat and leg.

I would love to say that Saturday dawned bright and full of promise. But of course, the weather gods deemed Friday night and Saturday to be worthy of another rainstorm. Not to be deterred from my mission, I enlisted my hubby to come with me and keep me company. I explained to him that everyone would be gone, and riding alone was scaring me. I pulled the "birthday" card and told him I would consider it one of my presents if he came along as moral support. And I reminded him to put his cell phone in his pocket. In the event of an unplanned dismount, I told him job #1 was for him to catch Sammie. Job #2 was calling 9-1-1. He was not amused.

Anyway, we arrived at the barn and noted the outdoor arena looked more like a small lake. No longeing any excess energy out of Sammie. Taking a "fake it 'til you make it" attitude, I confidently tacked up my girl and walked up to the covered arena. Though the sky was gray, the wind was calm and there was presently no rain. I hand-walked Sammie around the arena for a few minutes as an attitude check, and she seemed calm enough, so I hopped on. (OK, I just turned 47...I supposed "hopped" is a bit overstated...let's just say I crept into the saddle without too much creaking of joints.)

After a few productive minutes of warm-up, we started in on transitions. Walk/halt. Halt/walk. Walk/trot. Walk/trot/walk/halt. Sammie was being so good! After about 15 minutes, I heard something. "Did you hear thunder, honey?" Nope, hubby told me it was my imagination. Less than 5 minutes later, I heard the rumble again. Hubby still disclaimed hearing anything, but when you are on top of 1200 pounds of young horse, well, your hearing has to be sharp. Sure enough, we came around the long side of the arena and Samba spooked. It was one of those "jump away from the scary monster lurking in the tall grass" kind of spooks, and though she broke into a canter ("I'm gonna run, Mom, really I am!"), I sat deep, told her to come back to a trot, and then immediately put her on a circle.

Now if this had happened two months ago, I would have crumpled into a timid mess and jumped off. But not on my birthday. Instead, I heard Jane Savoie in my head, reminding me that fear and gratitude cannot co-exist. (No, I have never been fortunate enough to actually meet Jane in person, or ride with her in a lesson or clinic...but she generously shares such nuggets of wisdom on her Facebook pages.) So I said a quick prayer, thanking the horse gods for my wonderful baby, who actually seemed to look to me (for the first time!) for reassurance, instead of losing her little mind.

There would be one more good spook a few minutes later, but it was justified. This time, I knew the spooks were about the rapidly changing weather. There was a flash of lightening in the distance, and the "scary" side of the arena was turning quite dark. I again rode the spook, and Sammie again calmed quickly. I walked her around in the center of the arena for a few seconds to clear her mind, and hopped off. (This time, I really did hop...I felt 20 years younger!)

No sooner did we walk back to the barn aisle and get Sammie situated in the cross-ties, then the sky opened up with a loud bang and rain poured down. And my girl? Stood there like a statue, waiting for me to finish taking off her saddle, reminding me to be grateful for the wonderful bond we are continuing to build.

Jane is so right. When you have gratitude, fear just can't take hold. Thanks, Jane, for putting me in the right frame of mind to accept Samba's generous birthday gift of a great ride, all by myself.

From my blog: Green on Green

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Comment by Karen Murphy on March 3, 2010 at 12:35pm
That is so awesome. Congratulations on a great ride. Sometimes we forget to be grateful for the small successes. I have Jane's cd's and dvd's on Freedom from Fear and they are awesome. Worth every penny.
Comment by Deborah Hopkins on March 3, 2010 at 9:01am
Boy, can I relate! I'm working through worry-fear-trust issues too, and follow Jane Savoie's posts religiously. I really appreciate the concept of gratitude. I came off the horse I ride last weekend in a clinic.
Reason? Falling snow off the roof and lots of negative emotion in me. Too bad I didn't remember the concept of gratitude. Thanks for the reminder!
Comment by Ferrous on March 2, 2010 at 11:49pm
Yay!!! Happy belated birthday! I can't think of a better gift. :)

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