Asterion and I had one of the best rides we’ve ever had today and I thought this would be a good time to post an update on my “Move Closer, Stay Longer” experiment.
If you recall, after a bad fall several months ago, I wasn’t able to trot Asterion without almost paralyzing fear. After reading the book Move Closer, Stay Longer by Dr. Stephanie Burns, I committed myself to tackling these fears. I made a list of all the things I was afraid of (which I wrote about here) and decided to face them one tiny step at a time. I chose to do this bareback for a few reasons. First, I knew the saddle would give me a false sense of security and I really wanted to jump right into battle with the biggest fears I felt (somewhat!) capable of fighting. Second, I knew riding bareback would be much more difficult for me, without the stirrups for balance. I often joke that I always choose the hardest possible ways of doing everything, but in a very real sense I do like challenging myself (for the most part!) and it was no different in this case.
The first fear I decided to tackle was the trot. I wasn’t too afraid of riding bareback at a walk and the canter was too far in the “too much fear” column to even think about attempting (with OR without the saddle!) So armed with determination and lots of prayer, I got to work. With my heart in my throat, I led Asterion to a small, “safe” paddock, wrapped my legs around him, practically laying on his back with a death grip on his mane, and trotted him for, literally, 3 or 4 seconds. Other than asking him to trot and walk (he responds well to voice commands), I couldn’t direct him at all because it was all I could do to just to force myself to hang on and not burst into tears. I couldn’t even THINK while I was trotting him, because everything in me was trying SO HARD not to panic that it crowded out every other thought I might have had. During those first few weeks, I built up my time in the trot literally a few seconds each day. Every time I grew too afraid, I’d force myself to keep going just a few seconds more. It took weeks before I could trot sitting up and over a month before I could trot for an entire minute. Progress since then has been excruciatingly slow, but consistently steady. Five months later, we’ve worked our way up to a canter and today I was able to maintain my balance (for the most part!) during a five minute trot without holding on at all – something I truly wasn’t sure was possible five months ago. (In fact, not long ago I was searching YouTube for videos of people trotting bareback, semi-convinced that it wasn’t physically possible to do so without holding on for dear life!) Granted, the trot was slow and on a generally level area of ground, but when I consider those first few weeks and how terrified I was, I can’t help but feel proud of how far we’ve come.
Here’s what my “move closer, stay longer” list looked like, five months ago:
And here it is today:
We’re getting there!!!