Wednesday, November 6, 2019


On today's episode of "what can I damage next", I went and did something nasty to my back at the end of October, right between the shoulder blades. It had me popping painkillers and trying to find old robaxin tabs. Husband was enlisted to rub BOT's Limber Up Liniment on it... and he HATED how it smelled and felt. But he's a good guy and did it anyway. Btw, that liniment seems to work!

Eli's Insecurities:

I started Eli on Total Calm and Focus after my last post. He's a pretty chill dude, but he seemed to be struggling to adjust to life where he wasn't on 24/7 turnout and being "alone". The distraction started flooding over to our rides, where I am more than capable of riding out whatever he gives, but I'm also trying to mend my broken confidence. Me being hypersensitive to what can possibly spook Eli so I know it's coming really discourages Eli from having confidence in me. I'm trying to set us up for success: I need to feel good about him so I can relax, so he feels good about me and relaxes, and then we spiral upwards. So, Total Calm it is.

So far so good. He doesn't panic when I leave him in cross ties. He still watches me move around the barn, but he watches with mild interest, not intense focus. He is still upset if he's actually alone in the barn (valid I think), but he's not too upset when he's "alone" in the barn. We ended up swapping his field again because he was playing too hard with his new friends, and he made the swap easily with no drama.

I do try to ride with a friend. I think we both feel better with company- I have moral support and Eli has an equine shield. One of my barn mates has a very sensitive mare that has the same tendencies as Eli, albeit much more dramatic. Since I went to see Mary Wanless back in Jan/Feb, and have ridden with Mary twice now, I've brought a lot home that has helped her manage her mare's tendencies. When I hurt my back, I asked this barn mate if she'd like to take Eli for a spin since I knew he wouldn't scare her... she did a FABULOUS job riding him and it gave me a ton of confidence in riding him myself. She can articulate back at me a mix of Mary sayings and first hand riding experience that really help me feel more secure and effective.


I've been struggling with my confidence ever since I started horse shopping. The fall I took off one young horse really rattled me. I don't think the fall itself rattled me, because the very first horse I looked at dumped me too. I was able to rationalize the first fall into a cause and effect. I have no idea what caused the second fall, I have it on video and I didn't see or feel the naughty behavior coming... aside from a general lack of forward and tension. The horse actually felt like he relaxed and then had a meltdown. It doesn't matter, because something in me snapped and "fake it til you make it" isn't working for me like it did when Penn came home. Eli is getting more and more spooky, and I'm 99% sure it's my fault. Today, I signed up for an online course series to help myself get over it. The course focuses on NLP (neuro linguistic programming) to overcome fear by getting to the root of it and then moving forward. I know brain rewiring works, so I just need some help to get mine fixed up. I'll review later on if I think the program has been worth it.

That's all I'm sharing in this post. I have a bunch of stuff I want to share though, so stay subscribed friends, I actually sat down and wrote some posts! Next up will be the farrier clinic and the dentist!


  1. As someone who also manifested a worse spooking problem from my own issues, I can grasp where you're at. It's a tough place! The brain rewiring stuff sounds absolutely FASCINATING to me though. I'm super eager to hear how it works for you. I wish you the very best as you step yourself through it all and hope that you come out on the other side with renewed confidence!

    1. It's very much the same as positive thinking, which I've successfully used on my own in other aspects of my life. The program has a 30 day guarantee, so I figure I'll either get my money back, or earn something far more priceless.

  2. Confidence is such a tough thing! I rode a horse that eroded my confidence to the point that I was afraid to canter. I had a friend that was a solid and accomplished 3' adult equitation rider that had a fall that shook her confidence. The great news is that we both came back from our respective confidence issues. I have full faith in you and good for you for identifying an issue and seeking out help for it. You got this!

    1. I've always struggled with confidence from horse to horse, and it usually abates with time and "fake it till you make it", but this has not. I'm hoping to kick this issue to the curb in riding, and other aspects of my life.

  3. Let me know how that NLP class goes. I have been working on CBT for years and I've found it really helps, but I'm always open to new ways to get over fears.

    Spicy has been very very spooky. He's dumped me a couple times and it's made me very afraid. It actually wasn't until Austen came on and rode him - really rode him - that I realized all the progress he had made and that it actually WAS going to be okay. I had been so terrified to push on him because I had all these emotions (mostly from my first horse Runkle...) snarled up in him. It took a long time for me to realize (remember?) that Spicy is NOT Runkle.

    Spicy can still scare me. But when he does I just dismount and we do groundwork until I feel safe to get back on, even if it's just for a few minutes.

    Anyway this got long winded and I'm sorry. I just really really know how you feel and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

    1. I think that's a great way of dealing with fear. Stepping back to a safe spot until you feel safe, then attacking the problem again. Action lets you overcome fear, which is why I did "fake it till you make it" so much with new horses.

      It's a really shitty feeling, and so difficult to overcome. Definitely wouldn't wish it on anyone!

  4. This is long, but it really helped me confront my insecurities with my new horse and understand that this is a normal process- slightly different for everyone/every horse- but completely normal.

    "Whether we just purchased or started to ride a horse with the intention of showing or not, most of us go through the following 4 phases...

    The Forming Phase:

    Usually this phase is all rainbows and daisies, this is when you went to try a horse and you could do all the movements perfectly, you loved the contact and the connection, the horse was not spooky. You just found your unicorn.
    Until a few weeks after you bring your new equine partner home, and then starts...

    The Storming Phase:
    The quiet gelding you thought you had bought just tried to buck you off, spooks at each corner of the arena, the connection is difficult, and you can’t even pick up the canter while you could do half passes when you tried him a few weeks ago!
    The reason why this happens is because in most cases when you ride a horse that is established into a routine, used to the same rider, where everything is under control, one ride from you won’t offset this too much. When you take a horse to a new environment, change his routine (feeding, turnout, mates, etc.) and also change the routine that he has under saddle, it will for a while decrease your performance as a team. Horses are very insecure animals, and are creatures of habits.
    Most riders at this stage will start to blame external circumstances (the seller lied to me! Maybe the horse was drugged when I tried it? He is not happy at my barn I need to move him to another stall, change his diet and turnout schedule! He needs a new saddle and a new bit!) for the disappointment they are feeling about having bought the wrong horse, or the perception of it.
    You will have to be patient and put in place a new program under saddle that will create a new routine and habits. I’ve had a horse in training with which it took almost a year for me to gain his trust and for him to gain confidence, it is hard to keep faith and not get frustrated when dealing over and over with spookiness, naughtiness, but eventually like any of other horse we enter...

    The Norming Phase:
    Many people will never reach this phase unfortunately because they are not patient enough. Quitting can take several forms, from giving the horse away to starting to panic and change everything from trainer to diet to equipment, creating even more stress and discomfort within the relationship. During this phase horse and rider start to understand how each other functions, and start creating new habits together and mutual understanding. It requires the capacity to have a long term vision and faith in the fact that consistency, following through, sticking to the right training program will get you out of the woods and into...

    The Performing Phase:
    Whether I refer to performance as in competitions or just making progress in the dressage training of the horse, this phase is the direct result of all the small things we have done to make the relationship work over time, such as showing up and riding the horse consistently, investing time and money in training and being patient. If these actions have not been taken, then there won’t be any performing phase ever, you will get stalled in the norming phase. The lows of the storming phase can be very low with some horses, but if you’re patient the very highs are also waiting for you down the road. Have faith in your horse and the power of consistent positive actions you take every day with him, and don’t quit too early in the process!"

    Vincent Flores
    USDF Gold, Gold Bar, Silver & Bronze Medalist
    Vincent Flores Dressage, LLC

    1. While I understand this process, it's for someone who is confident in their base abilities. I've gone through the process before and it's about finding a new routine together (Penn and my 'fake it till you make it' process until we trusted each other and I didn't have to fake it). Fear does not allow action, and action is what allows this process to move forward to the end stable state.

      That's where I'm failing now- it's my own insecurities generating enough fear that they're causing inaction... before the horse has even done anything "wrong". Logically, I know I can ride his spooks and big gaits. For some reason, I'm shutting down on the "what ifs" before I even get on... I'm shutting down hours before I get to the barn.

      I've always struggled with confidence and have been able to force my way through, but I always revert. It also shows up as performance anxiety at shows (I'll shake like leaf to the point where my muscles don't work). This time around it has taken a deeper seat in my life and is extending to other areas causing extreme anxiety. It is a far bigger problem than building a new relationship and getting to know my new horse, so I am reaching out to brain training programs to banish debilitating fear. Not all fear is bad! Fear is useful. It just the debilitating, lizard brain fear that doesn't allow action that needs to be erased.

    2. And I don't mean to discount your advice, because it is good and is a normal process. I'm having crippling anxiety, which I need help processing. I didn't make that clear in the original post.

    3. Ah okay, that is a really tough place to be. For the first time in my life, I can actually say I understand some of what you are going through. I've never had anxiety before but after I brought Bravo home, my anxiety started manifesting in night time panic attacks- some would last hours or come in waves all night long. It was my body's way of physically manifesting what I couldn't/wouldn't let myself mentally work through. I was mentally clinging to that "fake it til you make it" mentality but my body knew better.

      You are doing the right stuff- taking that course, observing others riding him, fixing those groundwork gaps he came to you with. Maybe...hopefully!...I just brought the advice above prematurely. Like you're probably thinking I'd love for THAT to be the current issue :)

      If I could amend my advice to be more appropriate for where you are I would only say remind yourself that time is your friend here- for bonding with Eli, for dealing with the fear, and for creating your partnership. You don't have to "hurry up" and get over it- you aren't on anyone else's timeline for anything! Eli will be right there waiting for you whenever you are ready.