Keep On Keepin’ On

Anyone who knows me — whether in real life or through the Internet — knows that I am a weenie of epic proportions. I will justify weaseling myself out of so many riding efforts, and I pee my pants at the mere thought of completing a stadium round, or daring to actually,  for once, make time on cross country.

I always have to remind myself to grow a pair. In fact, my new barn friends here in Texas so love the whole “balls” reminder thing that they’ve deemed us “Team BHB” – Big Hairy Balls. Fitting, right? So much that my sweet barn mate Mandy had saddle pads made for us. Sparkles!


I’ve had so many people ask me before, “If this scares you so much, why the heck do you do it? Why not just quit?”

Well ain’t that a question. And it really has a simple answer.*

I have a pretty big anxiety problem in general, in all aspects of life. I get worked up about things, and my mind immediately goes to the worst possible outcome. My husband, Bora, calls it “Scratting” when I get myself all worked up about Things That Have Not Happened, and about life in general (have you seen Ice Age? Know that little squirrel who’s all, well, squirrely? Yeah, that’s me).

I worry about spontaneously running off highway overpasses. I worry about my senior dog suddenly dying in the middle of the night, and then I wake up and have to check her breathing.

I worry about accidentally ingesting peanuts (I’m allergic, yo). I worry all the time I’m going to get fired for some nonexistent or blown-up reason. I worry that I’m not getting enough vitamins. I worry I’m getting TOO many vitamins. I worry that I’m suddenly going to get really sick again (autoimmune disease – it’s not fun). Really, I worry about everything.

So it naturally follows that riding would be no different. So many things go through my head when I’m riding. I worry that Ollie won’t turn left (like he’s prone to do…) and he’s going to run me into the fence/standard/tree/jump number/that horse over there.

I worry that I will spontaneously fall off. I worry that I am going to look like an idiot. I worry, pretty much, that I am not good enough. Maybe I’m not. Maybe I am. But I never fully trust my mind to know what’s the anxiety talking, and what’s not.

But I am never going to let my anxiety problems dictate what I can and can’t do. I will always try to push through, eventually, until things aren’t so scary anymore.

I remember when a tiny crossrail was terrifying. When cantering on Ollie was scary because of his size. When I couldn’t possibly imagine eventing, because OH MY GOD THE JUMPS DON’T FALL DOWN, AND BIG OPEN SPACES ARE RIPE FOR RUNAWAYS. But somehow, things always slowly get easier.

But something magical also happens when I’m around horses. It also takes my anxiety away. I may get worked up about a particular lesson, a course. A particular cross country jump. A certain dressage test.

I may even dread doing these things in the moment. It may even look like I don’t want to actually go through with it. But I know that on the other side of fear is confidence and contentment.

After every ride, after every grooming session, after every competition — I walk away with a feeling of peace and accomplishment that nothing else on Earth can give me. There is something magical to spending time with Ollie — and horses in general — that recharges me. It takes that weight off my chest and gives my soul wings.

I hope that one day, doing Beginner Novice isn’t going to be as mentally frightening. That I won’t live in fear that Ollie won’t turn, or that I won’t be able to keep it together in stadium. I think I will get there. But until then? In the wise words of Matthew McConaughey, I’m gonna keep on keepin’ on – and let my soul fly. If even for just the day.

*Hey, I said it was a simple answer, not a short one. GEEZ, GET OFF MY BACK.