by Charlotte Cannon 3/20/18
I got a very sweet message from a girl on FB. I had been scrolling through FB and came across an ‘In Search of’ ad. A beautiful girl, I’d guess to be late 20’s-30’s was looking for a new horse on which to rebuild her confidence after having a baby and breaking her arm. Others had posted horses, but I took a moment to give her a few words of encouragement.
I’ve been in her spot before, feeling a completely ‘unreasonable’ amount of fear with no idea how to overcome it. I thought I’d have to quit riding at 45 years and be destined to only help others follow their dreams. When I ‘accidentally’ found the solution and the fear disappeared, I wanted to shout the ‘cure and case’ from the rooftops!
Since then I’ve counselled several of ‘my girls’, students since early childhood who are still here and just had babies (at approx. 30 yrs old), who have shown up one day and confessed they no longer felt confident. And they had no understanding why. Does having a baby and the new responsibility do it? Why does this happen after a job or life change? Why does it happen after you get hurt? I found out it’s normal, and that we can work through it!
I broke my collar bone (came off a cow horse filly of mine) in 2011, broke my hand (lunging a clients colt that kept jerking away from her, who knew muscles were stronger than bones) in 2012, broke my leg (falling off a ladder) in 2013, had a soccer ball size fibroid removed in 2014 and my gall bladder removed in 2015.
Each time I struggled to come back, but after the last one I was so out of balance, I was unreasonably terrified and thought I’d have to stop riding. It was beyond depressing. It was dark, this is all I’ve ever done, how could fear stop everything? I didn’t understand how I’d become this overweight stereotype, it was devastating.
But I was determined to move forward and live life, whatever that new life looked like. I had tremendous pain from my leg, so I started going to a personal trainer. She showed me where I was totally out of balance everywhere!
I had a horse flip over on me years ago and broke L1,2,3,4 and crushed L5, plus broke 6 ribs. My spinal cord came out and I had to learn to walk again. She explained after a trauma to your body (could be having a baby, or even getting a ‘real’ job and just not being as fit as before), you must retrain your balance. I would just fall (tripping on normal stuff) randomly, my reflexes were shot.
She made me do weights to balance my muscles, and I had to do balance exercises too. It was hard, but so worth it! As I became stronger and more balanced my fear started to disappear.
We fox hunt. I started hunting when I was 8, have been a Master and Whip, lead hundreds of children and adults over the years. In 2015 I was so petrified on my most quiet school horse that I knew I had to quit. As I went to the trainer, I felt better and better. One Saturday the fear was gone! This sweet mare hunts herself and a tiny child would be safe on her, but our brains don’t understand logic when it comes to fear.
I got feeling better and my friend Dancing Pete Rodda invited me to audit a clinic of his on a new groundwork program he had developed. I did, was hooked and started using it immediately.
It worked so well that I wanted a bigger challenge, that’s when I found the TB Makeover. It was perfect for me to test my new ideas. Using Pete’s system I could take an adrenaline addict horse, get them and endorphin release and teach them how to stay in it. I set out to develop a cue system for endorphin release. I wanted a good way to test my work. TBs are bred for high flight, and trained at the track using adrenaline. They were perfect.
I applied in 2016 and got started. It was going great until my horse crippled out from track injuries that had been deliberately covered up with heavy joint injections by his seller. I was heartbroken.
I took about 6wks to reflect on whether I wanted to try again. That’s when Fame popped up on FB. I was so afraid to jump (buy him), but I was afraid not to too. I wasn’t ready to quit on life. I bought him and life moved on.
Honestly winning at the Makeover wasn’t my goal. My goal was to get there, just do it. Once we loaded our horses to drive to KY, I felt successful no matter what happened at the show itself. When I did win, it was surreal. I couldn’t believe I had come that far. I honestly told my husband walking back to the barn, that I could die at that moment and my life felt complete. Feeling like I was capable, feeling like people saw me again was what meant the most.
I don’t need to be better than anyone. The darkness I pushed out of myself was bigger than any competitor. Now I push to learn more, develop more, find ways to connect the dots for the horses better. I see so many other people facing that same darkness and being as confused as I was. Nobody told me about it. Nobody told me it could get better. I felt defeated.
Now I see how to get from the darkness back into the light! I see it’s a normal struggle! Everyone needs to know this! Baby steps! Work on your body, stand on one foot, find ways to challenge your balance, then find a slower path with the horses too.
You will find by taking it slower, your horses will be more confident in themselves and you. You will feel ready to advance. You will feel excitement instead of fear. It’s all about creating the endorphin space vs the adrenaline space. You can do it. Take you time. Don’t let the world’s clock push you. You will do it when you are ready. Trust your heart.
I hope this message can reach more people and give them hope. Fear is not bad, it keeps us from doing things that could endanger us. Once you feel the fear, and start working toward more strength and balance, you will be free to live again! You don’t need to be skinny, or fit anyone’s ideal, just find your new balance and fitness and you will be ready for the greatest chapter of your life yet!