I was ill equipped to train a horse like Ripley. I had no experience with horses that had the type of fear response that he did.
Every single thing that he was even slightly concerned about rendered an over the top flight response. Fear as expressed from the horses' perspective is really something to watch. I had a really clear picture of what he was capable of and the danger I was subjecting myself to.
What I wanted was for him to feel safe with me. And, me with him.
The elusive part of all of this was the "HOW". I had the problem, I had the goal, but the way to achieve what I was after was a mystery.
This is where all of the angels in my life come in. I had connected with some folks who knew about how to help horses like mine and I was a willing student. Their partnership with me and Ripley has been the foundation I really needed. I showed up when asked and for the most part, did what I was told. Learning the mechanics of setting things up to have Ripley develop confidence was my new religion.
The piece that didn't come forward for some time was the concept of bravery. I spent so much time learning and trying hard to get things right. Trying to be neutral when Ripley was panicked. I systematically tucked away my fear. There didn't seem like a good time to acknowledge that I felt scared. What might happen? Would Ripley feel the fear and be afraid, too? And, then, what? I had been on his back enough times to know that when things got scary, they got REALLY scary.
Its only been in the last month or so that Ive been aware of that hidden fear. For the first time I really let myself say out loud that I was afraid. I had been holding on to it and hiding it for what I saw as the good of us both (me and Ripley) . But, what I realized, is that it cost me.
It was fake bravery and pretend courage.
What I have realized is that the real bravery came from saying how I felt and asking for some help. I can't say that the sky parted or a rainbow shone down, but I can say that Im no longer carrying around a secret and that I feel lighter. Being honest with myself and with people who care about me created an opening for me to ask myself what is REALLY required for me to exhibit bravery and give my horse an opportunity to be brave, too.