Want to land with your fine booty still in the saddle? Play pretend.
Horses are sensitive creatures. They are also big and tend to speed off in unexpected and unplanned directions when scared. Therefore, when your 100-plus-pound self is riding on its one-ton frame, it’s imperative to stay calm and controlled and confident. One day I was riding, and feeling squirrelly too, while headed off on a serpentine jumping course.
I did not feel things would end well in my current state. I tried a bunch of pleas with Kate the riding instructor to avoid completing the course. She responded with a “Yeah, you’re not getting off that horse until you finish that course.” She was also holding a riding crop.
I looked up at the empty stands that circled the riding ring. I pretended it was show day. I pretended the stands were filled with supporters and friends, all cheering me on and smiling their familiar smiles. I pretended I was on a winning streak and nothing could go wrong.
I smiled, straightened up on the horse and focused.
Since horses feel everything, my four-hooved buddy took notice and started gliding in a more amenable, attentive way. After all, we had a ribbon to win! We buzzed through the course and by its end, I had actually begun to enjoy myself.
It built a new history of jumping for me. One of exhilaration, not fear. I built on this baseline of confidence in subsequent sessions.
What does this have to do with you?
● Use a bit of pretend the next time you are out and about, and feeling squirmy or dorky or seriously not up to the task at hand.
● Pretend you are calm and confident and completely in control. Feel it and believe it.
● Breathe it in and smile. Lift your shoulders. Your friends are all around you. They love you! They think you’re great! They are cheering you on!
Try this. It works. (At the very worst, it will keep your anxiety from deepening.) At best, well, you’ll fly around the ring with ease and a big ole’ smile on your face.
The other option, of course, is to be hurled into a muddy paddock.
[Related note, kind of: I loved riding the horse that’s in the above picture. He was championship-level and smooth as vermouth in the ring. What I call a point-and-click horse.]