Friday I met DH's Mom and we rode in the huge front paddock. It was busy. Lots of riders taking advantage of the nice weather. It was a good ride. I am trying to practice loping and Gem and I went around the paddock a couple of times. My arse was up in the air on occasion and there were times where my hands/arms were flapping around. I am hoping that practice will give me a more consistent seat. :-) As I was untacking, LA asked me when we were going out on the trails. She made some jokey comments about getting me wet in the swamp and how Gem was going to swim the pond. I could feel anxiety starting in the pit of my stomach. When we confirmed Sunday morning, she invited DH's Mom and another boarder to come along. Now my anxiety really started to build. It's one thing to work one-on-one with LA, but to have two others on the ride puts pressure on me to "perform". I was starting to feel a little claustrophobic and sort of like the kid whose parent throws them in the water to teach them to swim.
Sunday arrived and I did my best to relax at the barn. I didn't want Gem picking up on my nervousness. My muscles were tense. Vodka soda wasn't really an option at 10:00 in the morning, so I opted for 2 extra strength Advils instead. :-) DH's Mom knows of my mud anxiety and was kind and supportive as the four of us started out. LA was leading with myself second and DH's Mom and the boarder bringing up the rear. The chatter actually relaxed me quite a bit and as we walked through the muddy entrances to the different fields and the wet spots in the forest without incident, I was feeling better about the ride.
We exited the forest on the swamp side. OK, my heart rate started to increase. I took a couple of deep breaths. The ground was still quite wet and spongy. I gave Gem a bit more rein and let him lower his head to see where he was going. Then we came to a very wet, squishy black mud patch. He stepped into it and then "popped", as DH's Mom described it. It was sort of a hop over the mud. Now my heart was really racing. But you know what? He didn't go racing off like a lunatic as I had envisioned when I think of mud encounters. And, my butt stayed in the saddle!
While I was still trying to get my wits about me after Gem's pop, I watched LA, who was a little ahead of me, make a sharp left off the soggy path and start across the creek. Wait a friggin second!!! No one said anything about a creek! I watched her cross, the water coming up to her horse's belly. I froze. DH's Mom went next. Gem stood and watched his turnout buddy trot through, splashing water everywhere. Now, where we were crossing the creek wasn't very wide; maybe 10 -12 feet. But the banks were sort of steep. LA was loudly encouraging me to come across. I just stood there and it was on the tip of my tongue to tell her to go fly a kite. Then she said something that was like a slap in the face. She told me I needed to trust my horse. I took a couple of deep breaths and then asked Gem to walk on. He lowered his head, gauged the slope of the bank perfectly and we walked through the water and up the other side without issue. Everyone clapped and yahoo'd. LA reminded me that I could smile now, which and I did. :-) Gem got lots of "good boy" and scratches. The boarder came across and we all stood and chatted for a minute.
There is no trail on this side of the creek, so we had to go back the way we came. I was to lead, so I turned Gem around and tried to get him to walk through. He resisted and started to back up into the other horses. My heart rate started to increase. LA pointed out that my anxiety had me pull the reins up to my mid-section and when I applied pressure with my legs, I was asking him to back up. Duh. I took a deep breath, relaxed the reins and he walked forward and through the creek without issue.
LA's Australian Cattle Dog was with us on the ride. He was in constant running mode the whole time we were out. The energy this dog has is incredible. As we left the creek and headed back into the forest, the dog bounded out from some shrubs and basically ran under Gem's head. We were both caught off guard and we both spooked. Gem did a couple of BIG side and front steps and I know I made some sort of noise. But he calmed down immediately and I stayed in the saddle.
When we got to the loping field, I asked the others to wait while Gem and I walked by ourselves around the field. Again, this is to help me with MY separation anxiety when out on the trails. :-) No problemo! We continued on to the orchard side of the property and we all waded into the pond and stood for a few minutes, letting the horses drink. The pond was a piece of cake after the creek. :-)
It didn't hit me until I started untacking. I survived mud, a "pop", a creek, a spook, riding a small field solo and a pond. I faced my fears and I stayed in the saddle. :-) Facing fears is always the hardest the first time. I know it will get better each time I face them. And, Gem was awesome the whole ride. I heard LA talking to someone outside the barn. I walked up to her, gave her a hug and thanked her. She smiled and I returned to my awesome horse to finish untacking him....the perfect ending to my Sunday ride.
Have a good week everyone!