Do you get scared sometimes? I do. All the time!
I got scared yesterday. It was my first time in a paddock with loose horses. I want to learn how to communicate with them nonverbally, without tools—no reins, crops, leads or harnesses.
Being in a paddock with a herd is a lot different than saddling tied-up horses (which I show how poorly I do in Camper Van Regret: Coping With Buyer’s Remorse & Homesickness on a Road Trip).
Rio, I was warned, is a nipper. They didn’t tell me he’s a stallion (more aggressive and dominant than a gelding), and that he and Ashkelon both love attention.
Fear rose when I was scratching Rio’s ears and under his forelock. He loved it. Ashkelon came over and started sniffing me. Not a curious little dog or cat sniff; she stuck her huge velvet nose in my hair, neck and clothes. She inhaled deeply and loudly, inhaling every nook and cranny.
Was Ashkelon preparing for a nibble that would bruise me for weeks? I didn’t think so. She was just getting to know me. I relaxed a little.
But I could feel Rio tensing up. He tossed his head toward Ashkelon a couple of times, telling her to back off. Ashkelon stood her ground. Rio reached out to nip her and she whinnied.
My fear rose higher—and I suddenly realized I could choose fear or presence. I also knew my choice would affect what happened next.
Fear told me to leave the paddock. Presence told me to focus on my breathing.
Presence reminded me how horses communicate with their eyes and bodies. I took a deep slow breath and exhaled softly. Ashkelon snorted, then stepped closer. Rio nudged me hard and demanded more scratches.
I gave Rio what he wanted even though I really wanted to be alone with Ashkelon,. But I didn’t know how to ask Rio to step back without starting a fight. Even just thinking about it made the fear rise again.
I’d just met these two horses, and had never met a young stallion before! It seemed better to quit while I was ahead.
You may not have felt horse-related fears, but you know what it’s like to be scared. No matter how old, wise or experienced we are, we all get scared sometimes.
We’ll never get rid of fear or anxiety. We can, however, practice choosing a different path through it. We can make small advances and enjoy big celebrations for every step forward.
May you be brave enough to do something that scares you, wise enough to choose the right path, and humble enough to ask for help. More importantly, may you learn to lean on presence, awareness, God—that sense of peace, joy and love that is always within.