Monday, May 25, 2009

Charm’s Antidote for Jumping Fears: Shining Your Calm, Confident Sun

"At its finest, horse & rider are joined not by tack, but by trust. Each is the selfless guardian of the other's very well-being."
- Author Unknown

I’d like to share with you one of my own healing journeys, as a rider.

Let’s put it this way, my previous horse- a spooky, athletic guy who thought the bogey man was hidden beneath every jump- left me a bit of a basket case. Why I bought Charm, a 3 year-old, barely broke mare as his replacement when my nerves were shot, I’ll never know!

Teaching Charm to jump was mostly a joy, except for the background fear that kept creeping in, and sometimes felt overwhelming. She never did anything to provoke it- it was just fear left over in my head, heart, and body from the past.

Not really fair to her, I knew it got in the way of giving her the confident ride that a green horse deserves.

Fast forward to Charm’s first cross country jumping lesson this spring. Charm acted like she’d never seen a jump before. As a result, my fear crept up till I finally asked our new instructor to have a sit on Charm to give us both some confidence.

Boy, when I got back on Charm, she let me know she had not been pleased with my decision. Worse, back at home, she didn’t want to “talk” to me for 3 days! Repeatedly, she ignored my overtures for affection.

By the 4th day, I knew it wasn’t just a mare mood she was in. She was upset about something. It felt to me that she was mad that I didn’t “trust” her. She seemed to say, “Why didn’t you trust me? I’ve never really done anything! You need to get over yourself!”

She was right of course. So, I decided to make amends. I stood looking at her in the paddock, wondering what gesture would signify to her that I indeed was willing to extend my trust to her.

It only took a moment for me to know what I had to do: Ride her bareback. Charm often watches over the fence as I take one of our other 2 mares for bareback rides- something I do comfortably because I trust them implicitly.

I strode over to her and informed her of my plan. She stood in silent agreement as I awkwardly got on her in the paddock (It’s not easy lifting yourself up onto the naked back of a 16.2 hand, sensitive horse!).

Before taking her for a ride, I decided to work on healing this issue of trust and fear by taking myself through the Equestrian Harmonics Exercise called Body Wisdom Method.

Sitting atop Charm, I tuned into where in my body I felt that familiar fear. Immediately I knew it lived in my upper chest, around the heart area. As I focused in on that space, and felt the tight sensations- the image of a closed, restricted fist came to me.

Believe me, riding with that kind of constriction doesn't help you or your horse!

I engaged in the Dialogue process, discovering how to release this pent up fear that was lodged in my body. Soon, I saw that closed fist in my chest opening and relaxing.

Taking the Dialogue further, I wondered what healing image I could replace the fist with. Suddenly the image of a warm, powerful, but relaxed sun came to me.

It was clear that I was to reclaim my power by allowing the symbol of the warmth of the sun to reside in my chest and radiate calm, confident strength all through my body and outward.

Next I wondered out loud to Charm how I could remember this image when I was out riding and I got the idea, “Just look up at the sky.” Indeed- that would be simple enough!

I wrapped up by questioning how Charm herself could help when I became fearful in the future. The thought came to me, “Remember all of the fun we had together!”

I wasn’t even sure what fun we were referring to! But the statement had a powerful emotional impact on me and I burst into tears, collapsing over her neck, crying away years of fear, doubt, and mistrust.

It was in that moment that our relationship was healed. And I FELT deep down for the first time that I could, that I should, trust her. That we had each other’s backs.

When the tears dried, I led her to the round pen, where I rode her bareback briefly before venturing around our unconfined yard. She was the perfect lady the entire time. We had begun rebuilding our trust.

Since then, we’ve had delightful bareback hacks around the property (Well, except for that prominent whither!) and have even done some saddle-free dressage. Always, she’s behaved lovely.

And our jumping has improved! I discovered that the sun image held profound power.

If I shone that relaxed, yet confident energy forth from my heart space, I could ride that energy up and over the jumps, allowing it to guide us both safely, with joy, over every obstacle!

THAT’s the healing power of heart-centered coaching with horses as your guide! In one 30-minute session I was able to melt old fear, rebuild trust, and increase a heart-felt sense of partnership with my horse that had long-lasting benefits.

I invite you to give your own version of a relaxed, confident sun a try the next time you ride!

Readers: Let me know how your sun, or other image, assists you to overcome obstacles!

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