More Mental Mess

Over the weekend, I had a chance to sit on a nice horse to try a jumping saddle. Hated it. Not the horse. Not the saddle. I hated how nervous I was about the entire brief experience.

When the owner offered to let me sit in the saddle, I had my usual pre-mount panic. This time, it never went away. The horse did nothing other than walk. The owner assured me that the horse would do nothing other than walk. Didn’t matter. I kept imagining, ‘I don’t know what happened.’ and ‘She’s never done that before.’

Falling is not what occupies my mind at these times. Of course, I don’t want to hit the dirt. I have no more desire to fall off than I do to have a car accident or run up library late fees. What I worry about is being on a horse that loses his/her cool. The feeling of being on a horse who is not connected to reality is hideous, even if nothing dire occurs. (Ask me how I know.) It would be as if I was in a car that suddenly lost brakes & steering. Even if I pulled safely to the side of the road, the experience would rattle me.

Afterward, I wallowed in despair. If I can’t take a perfectly reasonable horse for a simple walk, how will I ever be able to gallop and jump? All I could think of was how this complete failure of nerve on my part indicated the impossibility of the only thing I’ve ever really wanted, which is to ride well. It still distresses me. I can’t see a viable way forward.

Intellectually, I am aware that my brain overreacts. It excels at putting up futures that are technically possible, but wildly exaggerated. Knowing this does nothing to lessen the emotion impact of these futures.

Sigh. One of the joys of being me.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

16 thoughts on “More Mental Mess

  1. Wow! That’s a tough one.

    First, “impossibility” could be replaced with “difficulty”.

    Second, maybe a return to a “mental mess” doc to get a professional opinion as the the level of difficulty. You pay professionals for lessons in the physical realm. This is a mental issue. There are professionals.

    Third, I admire your courage to share.

    Fourth, but not the least important of the list, I have never known you to get into a mess that you couldn’t resolve, one way or another.

    Sending you energy and love…

  2. I think you think your horse(s) have PTSD and you’ve spent years working to try to fix them when in truth, I think it’s you who suffers from it. There. I said it. I think you have a combo of things going on, all of which make it nearly impossible for you to move forward. You’ve side-stepped by getting involved in the saddle seat routine, but wasn’t the goal of that to help you gain the continence to ride your own horses? You’ve had fun, learned lots, but it didn’t touch the underlying issues. I’ve seen this happen to a lot to women of a certain age and I honestly think some of it is hormonal. I have to rail against it myself sometimes, so I get it. (I do not ride an easy horse!) My suggestion would be to defer to what Joan said: hire a professional. Don’t stop until you see you’re making progress of some kind. And progress can take many forms, including learning to be at peace with not riding your own horses, being OK with not riding them in a specific venue, or maybe even letting them go. The possibilities are many, but to suffer with this self-torture is not productive. You owe it to yourself to get help. You. Are. Worth. It. (All said with the utmost concern and kindness. I respect your bravery.)

  3. And I third the recommendation. The sports psych experiment clearly didn’t last long enough to make a difference. Follow through. Do the work — if riding well is REALLY your goal, then you have to do the hard stuff. Physically, the skills are there, or you wouldn’t be piloting shakytails around an arena, but I agree, it’s a diversion that is doing bugger all to help you get on your own, LOVELY horses. Find a professional who works with anxiety disorders, and buckle up … it would be so worth it to see you up on Milton and cantering a cross-rail!!!!

  4. I second (third?) the comments above. And not to say that we aren’t all special snowflakes, unique and individual, but this isn’t the first time I’ve seen a smart woman who loves horses passionately, battle mental demons of potentially explosive-spooks, fences-met-badly, etc. I know someone who specializes in the exact thing. She was a life coach and mediator by training, and a hunter/jumper rider by hobby. And she spiraled into this exact problem herself. Check out her website, and I can introduce you guys if you are interested.

  5. I’m going to add — when you have done the work (and a quick look at Kate’s link above makes me think Doris might be an ideal person to hook up with), find someone to come and ride Milton for you and get him back in regular work. A good percentage of your anxiety is fear of the unknown. And you don’t really know what to expect of Milton under saddle, so your imagination will run amok on you. Find a hotshot kid and watch every single session, so that you know what moves he does, and doesn’t make. When he is a known quantity, your confidence will be much improved.

  6. All good advice, you need to get back to what you really want to do even if it means taking a few lessons on a school horse baby sitter.

  7. Responses to all of these could be a paragraph or more. Short versions:

    “Difficulty” instead of “impossibility.” Makes sense. Unfortunately my brain is a drama llama. Rodney is not the only one on the property with knobs on 11.

    PTSD. Probably. I believe ‘Riding the horse you had yesterday’ is a common problem?

    I hear what y’all are saying about getting help. Over the years, I have consulted with five mental health professionals of assorted varieties. The experiences do not inspire me to dump more time and expense down that particular rabbit hole. OTOH, I need to so *something*. I shall ponder the suggestion along with the horse-specific names supplied here & earlier.

    SSF. In theory, there is no reason I couldn’t take a lesson, then work the home team the rest of the week. In reality, it is keeping me sane or distracting me?

    Will check out the blog. Anyone have recommendations for other blogs/books?

    I don’t think the answer is complicated. I’m simple. More of a social life and a truck to haul the horses around would go a long way.

    I appreciate everyone’s concern.

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