Monday, September 30, 2013
Ellen tends to get anxious when she is riding, which usually has nothing to do with her horses or her skill. It is just part of her personality. Sometimes it gets in the way of her doing as much as she likes, and it causes her frustration. I’m sure she’s not alone, and hopefully people will be able to conquer their own anxieties as they read about hers.
She would like to take Dante on trail rides by herself when there is no one else around. Dante is a great horse, and there is absolutely no reason for her not to—except for that little voice in her head that causes her to hesitate taking the big step.
Enter the big sister—me. I had a plan. She would go on a ride by herself to test Dante and prove to herself that she could handle whatever he gave her on her own—with me not too far away. Dante wouldn’t know that I would be close enough to step in and help. Ellen would know, and that would boost her confidence, but Dante would be clueless.
She has ridden him without other horses, but I have always been on foot with her. She has trotted off without me, so that’s not the problem. My sister worried most about going down the hill and crossing the river. There have been times when he is a bit balky on the first part of the ride, and she worried that he might not go, might spook, might refuse to cross and probably a half a dozen other things that she didn’t tell me. On all previous rides, once she is across the river, everything goes pretty well.
Instead of walking with her, I drove down into the park and waited, hidden in the woods, on the other side of the river. I made sure that she couldn’t find me easily—and Dante wouldn’t see me at all.
The first horse to come into view on the other side of the river was Starry. Kevin had left before Ellen, but it was surprising to see that they hadn’t crossed the river, yet. I yelled hello. Starry neighed to me. In the distance, we heard Dante answer. Kevin realized he better hurry if Ellen was going to do this on her own. They scurried across the river and down the trail.
Soon, Ellen came into view. She was leading him down the hill, as she usually does and mounted on the convenient mounting block. He hesitated a little at the top of the river bank, but soon, I could hear the “good boys.” They went down the bank, approached the water, stepped in, walked across and then I couldn’t see them. Soon, they were up on the trail, and I announced my presence. She said that right before going up the river bank, he spooked at something, but she managed to get him through. Dante seemed excited, so she just got him trotting and left me in the dust.
Eventually, she did meet Kevin and Starry close to the spot where she planned to turn around, and they came back together. The whole experiment was a success, but Ellen still wasn’t quite as confident as she needed to be to do it truly on her own. That meant—let’s do it again.
A couple days later, we repeated the experiment. The only thing different is that Ellen would be leaving before Kevin with Starry.
She was worried the most that he would spook in the river like he did the last ride.
This time, everything went totally flawless. Kevin caught up with Ellen and they went home together. I asked her if she would try to do it alone if the conditions were right, and she said, “Yes, if the weather is good, it is a blue moon, the planets are aligned…” Something like that. I think that means she will.