This article won the 2021 GMO Newsletter Award for a first person article for GMOs with 175-499 members. It originally appeared in the Georgia Dressage and Combined Training Association newsletter, Collected Remarks, March 2021.
By Beth Lauren Parrish
You’re in the warm-up arena and your horse’s energy is a little bit higher than you’d like. You can feel your heart beating faster and you’re doing your best to feel both seat bones in the saddle so you don’t float away.
This is a very common scenario. Our horses will feed off the energy at a competition, as well as our own nervous energy. I’ve dealt with this all of my life. When I was eleven years old and starting to ride my trainer’s older event horse, Calcutta, I would get butterflies in my stomach with just the thought of my little jumping show coming up that month.
The fluttering continued, even as a young assistant trainer in my twenties, when I would ride any youngster that the main trainer decided needed experience in the show ring. I remember coming home after the long days of a horse show, feeling good that I had managed, with my entire essence, to successfully support the nerves of the squirrely off-the-track Thoroughbred every time he passed the scary judge’s box. I felt good, yet exhausted. Managing your nerves, along with a 1,000-pound kite, with the guise of a horse’s body, takes a lot of stamina.
It wasn’t until I had my first huge accident that I began to address how to manage my energy and how to help keep myself calm, more relaxed, and tuned into whichever horse I am honored to sit on.
It was a typical, ‘hurry up and hop on this horse for a quick schooling, before all the lessons begin’ type of morning. I didn’t do any groundwork. I just saddled up, walked around a bit, started trotting and then it happened. This 17.1 hand dapple grey Thoroughbred spooked and bucked hard. I went flying through the air and ended up with a compound fracture that needed emergency surgery, which included a metal plate in my forearm.
Here’s the big rub. That morning, while getting dressed to go to the barn, I heard a very clear voice say that I was going to fall off that day. No joke. Prior to this, I had been aware of little feelings or nudges from my intuition, but not enough to explore it much. I was only 22 years old and was very ego driven at the time. I shrugged off that voice. I thought for a second, that was strange, but then went about my day and thought nothing of it.
While waking up in the recovery room, all I could think about was that voice. I was warned. I somehow knew and did nothing about it.
My entire life perspective changed after that.
I don’t wait for voices any longer. I take time every morning to write in what I call my ‘inner guidance journal’ and I ask my higher self/universe/angels/whatever you want to call this super cool connection we all have… What do I need to focus on today? Every day it’s different. And it’s always so varied. Some days, it’s all about making sure I eat enough broccoli. Other days, it can be the inspiration I need on how to approach my next project.
Having that accident was actually one of the greatest gifts a young riding instructor could have received. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I began to find my empathy button for my students. I learned about going as slow as you need when you’re afraid and, most important, never pushing too hard, too fast. You see, I was never afraid of riding. I would get those stomach flips for the competitions, but it wasn’t anything like what I had experienced when getting back in the saddle from that fall. My body was terrified of getting hurt again. I had a recurring thought of my horse bucking. I would freeze up and would have to hop off many times. I had to honor that. I had to take my time and only ride the horse I trusted completely.
That horse was, believe it or not, my little prince of an Arabian named Biffy. He was a Polish Arabian that I met in Northern California. He was the main lesson horse in the program where I took on all of the beginner riders. He would actually stop if you felt off balance. He took care of all the little ones on the lunge line. It was precious to see him come to a halt, look at me, and then turn his head to the side that I couldn’t see, to indicate his student had lost her stirrup, again. He was my ‘get back in the saddle and get my confidence going again’ steady steed. It took a good four months before I was cleared to ride and then another six to feel completely comfortable again. I promised my parents, still living in New York, that I wouldn’t ride the green beans any longer. That lasted at least one year. I did, however, begin to hone in on my new-to-me tools of slowing down, listening to my intuition, and connecting with my horse.
I had taken an animal communication seminar a year later and dove into the world of telepathy with two eager feet. I was able to get confirmations that still make my head spin, but that’s for another piece. Here, I will just mention that combining listening to your inner guidance and truly tuning in with your horse is the secret sauce to building confidence, mastering your energy, and slowing down the butterfly wings in your tummy during a competition. Or even when you’re daydreaming of riding in one.
Beth Lauren Parrish is a CHA Level 3 certified riding instructor in both English and Western, as well as a newly certified Level 1 Equestrian Tai Chi Riding Instructor. Beth encourages her students to slow down, trust their intuition, and listen to their horse. She specializes in helping you build your confidence, connection, and joy with riding again. She offers remote coaching, self-paced online courses, the wildly popular Inspired Riding Meditations and the Companion Journal for Inspired Riders. If you’d like to learn more and even grab a free mini course on building a powerful bond with your horse, kindly visit my website: InspiredRiding.com