When Things Feel Out Of Control

The worst days are the ones when I ought to be up the yard. As a writer and freelancer, I’m good at managing my time. I have stuff to get done and I know how much energy each task takes, and, more likely, how much anxiety I have to be generating around a deadline until I know it’s time to get to work. So I’m doing things, even if it’s just a quick re-read of yesterday’s words in current work-in-progress, and some ALL CAPS NOTES TO MYSELF about stuff that might happen next.

Or I’m pawing through the hoard from my beauty journalism days. Clawing? Dragons don’t have paws.

But the worst are the hours I know I should be heading for a bus or the tram, the half hour I should be gearing up and organising my pony treats, the hour of riding, the chats and the laughs with my equestrian pals. Never mind the moments on the ground with the actual horse.

And yet there were many, many moments when the fear of what was happening on the horse made me reconsider the whole undertaking. It was up to me to use my head, on the horse and off, to do what was best for me. I feel like that learned skill is coming in handy these days.

If I use my head (and my programme) then I know this too shall pass. I can be grateful that I am healthy unlike the last time I was off the horse for weeks, due to an injury. I can post here, I can browse through my photos, I can rewatch the few videos I have of jumping courses… I can manage, let this thing, this thing bigger than me and all of us, run its course, and hold fast until it’s over.

Here’s an excerpt from Many Brave Fools, reminding me about the very useful phrase, ‘from the brain to the rein’.


Then there are the times when a thing happens, and you don’t really know it’s happening, and then it’s happening, and time as you know it foreshortens, and your hippocampus doesn’t seem too worried, although the thalamus is going, Hmmm. In one of my first group lessons on Cathal, that study cob, we were cantering all together—eight riders, eight horses—and the four-leggeds were gettin’ excited. Playtime! Race! There we were, coming around to the A end of the arena, and then all of a sudden, as I passed F, I was thinking: This is kinda fast.

At B, I thought: Yeah, this is—whoops.

As we were just about to pass M, I wondered: Am I going to fall off? Should I bail?

As we passed C, I finally mumbled: “Uh—whoa!”

Imagine my relief when Cathal stopped on a dime behind the rider in front of us.

That was four thoughts in six seconds—actually five, as I managed two at I managed two at M. (I think for one second, between F and B, I sat back and enjoyed myself.) It was so fast, I didn’t even know how I was thinking or reacting. I wasn’t afraid until M, and then something. Something happened that prevented a bad outcome, and I like to think it was because I didn’t panic.

Literal butter would not melt in his actual mouth

“From the brain to the rein.” Just before some of my falls, I knew I was going to come off, If I have that fear in my body, then it’s surely being communicated to my mount.

With riding, it’s as much in my head as it is in my hands and my seat. If I can stop a horse just with my bum—and the well-trained ones respond to a twitch of ass-muscles like you wouldn’t believe—then can I cause my own problems with my thoughts?



Many Brave Fools: A Story of Addiction, Dysfunction, Codependency… and Horses is AVAILABLE NOW.

Order your copy today:
> In the US, click on over to Trafalgar Square Books’ site.
> In the UK and Europe, visit Quiller Publishing’s page.

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