Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"Scenarios of doom"

Of horses and boys...and everything in between brought up a point in my sledding post about how she always tends to come up with "scenarios of doom" especially when children and horses are involved.  I think that is actually a great quality.  It is called wisdom and foresight.  Looking into the future to try and avoid dangerous situations.  That is a quality all horse people should possess and all mothers.  And as mothers I hope to instill that quality into my children so I don't always have to be their "wisdom".  The only down side is, if you let this quality turn into fear and let the fear dictate your decisions.  Now of course if you feel a situation dangerous or unsafe then yes, you should NOT do it anyways.  Trust that gut feeling.  But if you are avoiding doing  fun things for fear something might go wrong, that is when fear has too much control.

Fear is a powerful emotion and can be paralyzing.  No one is immune to letting it take over.  The story of the first time I took my daughter out on a trail ride is a good example.  I was scared, nervous and thinking I was surely sending my 7 year old to her eminent death.  She was riding our miniature horse Blaze who is approximately 38 inches tall.  I am not sure how one would die from that height but I knew that's what was going to happen. She had also been riding him for two years and only fallen off once in all that time and that was when she first started to ride. But still death or serious maiming was for sure going go to happen.

 So I am on a 15.2 h QH and decided that I had to pony her through the trail to avoid her death.  We get to the first river to cross and Blaze was reluctant to go over.  She had to circle him a couple times and in doing so I nearly wrung her neck with the lead rope more than once.  Finally, someone said they thought it was better if I detached my daughter and let her ride him, because my fear of letting her go is what was going to kill her.  I got off my horse, walked over and unclipped the lead rope.  I will never forget the look on my poor daughters face.  She had tears running down her cheeks and I was holding back mine.  She looked at me as if I was feeding her to the wolves.  She was scared, I was scared and had there not been others out on the trail I probably would have just turned around and who knows the next time I would have ever taken her out on a trail.  My fear would have certainly kept us from moving forward.  Wouldn't you know we had not one more incident from that point on.  She had the time of her life and so did I.  We both rode through the full 9 mile trail, no problem.  From that day on we became the best of trail buddies.  Not to mention that she changed that day, and she changed permanently.  She entered that trail as a little girl who was unconfident on a horse and she came off that trail as an extremely proud and confident, horsewoman.  I am not joking.  She was a different rider from that moment on, it was amazing.

She has since graduated to riding a real horse her 16.1 h Fox Trotter and we have probably logged close to a hundred miles together since then.  Just think all the conversations we would have missed, the memories that would have never been made, the laughter and the mother daughter moments that would have never happened if I had let my fear hold her back.

Now that is not to say that I am just loosey goosey, happy go lucky on trail rides with her or my other daughters.  Nope!  I am ALWAYS on high alert with any of my girls on horses.  I am always looking for potentially dangerous situations and try to avoid them.  I play out scenarios in my head.  Those are the "scenarios of doom."  I fully admit to playing out those scenarios but instead of it keeping me from doing something, I take it as a teachable moment.  I would love to have the ability to always watch my childrens' every move but in reality I cannot do that.  So instead I would rather them take on the ability to evaluate a situation for themselves.  So when you see a scenario of doom don't let it hold you back but find the safest way to deal with it and teach.  I will give you some examples of conversations that I have with my daughters concerning horses.  I call them 'what do you do if's'.  What do you do if; Mommy falls off of her horse and is not moving?  Sound morbid?  I would much rather have a tough conversation than a scared confused child getting hurt because they don't know what to do. Where is my cell phone?  Who do you call?  Do you worry about the horse?  What do you do if: your horse runs away with you?  What do you do if: My horse runs off after a fall?  What do you do if: you are leading a horse and it starts to pull away with you?  What do you do if: you are sledding behind a horse and you see something go wrong?  My #1 rule for my girls is that in any situation THEY come first.  We love our horses but we can always replace them but we can never replace you so in any situation if it comes down to it forget about the horse and keep YOU safe.

These conversations are always going on, on my farm.  I want my kids(or anyone I give lessons to) to not have to stop and think "what should I do" but it be so ingrained in their mind it is becomes instinctual.  Accidents happen!!  I don't care how careful you think you are, when you are dealing with horses, accidents happen.  Then add children in to that scenario.  And most often in those situations you do not have a whole lot of time to ponder how to handle the situation in the best possible manner.  These lessons need to become instincts.  Example:  How about the time that my 8 year old daughter was leading her horse into the pasture and she tripped and fell flat on her back right in front of him?!  As I watched, in fear, this unfold from about 20 feet away I saw my daughter use her good instincts to avoid a potentially awful situation.  She immediately knew to roll to her side, cover her head and not move until the horse moved past her.  Had she done anything else differently or even if I had been close enough to intervene chances are her 70 lb body would have been stepped on by a 1000 lb horse.  But because she did everything right her horse had the opportunity to step clear of a stationary object and she came out completely unharmed.  Like I said accidents happen

I could tell you story after story about how that girls calm demeanor and quick thinking has been the difference between smooth sailing and a disaster.  She has something special in her future with the equine species and I am glad to say that my fear did not hinder her healthy start into her passion.


  1. This is something that is so close to my heart. My mom grew up riding H/J in Chicago, just low level stuff and schooling shows but lots of lessons, and we had a horse and a donkey growing up, but she was too afraid to let me do anything other than walk or trot on the horse with her very close by, and she always said she didn't have time to be out there with me. She missed the security of an arena and an instructor, and after she had kids she lost her nerve. It was the worst kind of torture to be dying for riding lessons or riding of any kind, and to have a horse in the backyard that I was not allowed to ride at all, because he was green and she was afraid. To this day, I have still never cantered that horse.

    I don't harbor any ill feelings toward her over it now, though as a fifteen year old just learning to canter for the first time and feeling humiliated over it, I certainly used to. I'm so glad that you give your kids the chances you do, and that you recognize the healthy balance between fear and cautiousness. Great post!

  2. I don't let my scenarios take over too much since both kids ride, lol! I see parents go overboard in their fear and think what I allow my boys to do is crazy. At two I started riding in front of my mom, going on long trail rides, minus a helmet of course. So when I pulled my four year old in front of me on cassy (with a helmet on) and mr. G on his pony as we hit the trails with a couple fellow boarders. I overheard one of them telling the other how unsafe it was what I was doing but he didn't know how to ride on his own, and we didn't have another pony to lead him behind, so the only other option would be leaving him behind when I knew Cassy was a good, safe horse and we'd be fine. and we were! Long story to just tell you people think I make dangerous decisions when it comes to my kids:)
    Having boys, I often have to just close my eyes and count to ten or I'll have a heart attack on a regular basis.

  3. Jen that is exactly what I am talking about. I am glad her didn't keep you from eventually persuing your passion. I am sorry though that it did gave you a later start.

    Horsemom I by no means was directing this post toward you. I know you let your boys ride in lessons and on trails. Your comment just got my wheels turning on this subject. I am so sorry if it sounded like it was directed at you because it was not at all.

  4. I am new to your blog and I look forward to reading! Accidents do happen, having your kids thinking in an emergancy is very good thinking. I think in any kind of harmful situation most injuries happen after the fact from not proper care or protocol.

  5. Teaching your kids to be thinkers, and to plan ahead, is one of the most important things you can do as a parent IMHO. You also have to let them experience life without somehow getting themselves killed... it's a fine line to walk. Taking risks, succeeding, and failing too, is part of living and growing up, even if our instinct is to protect our children from everything.

    Being a parent is hard, isn't it?

  6. Amy~ I know you didn't. I just wanted other people that might have read my comment to not think I was one of "those" moms;)

  7. What a wonderful post!! I love that you go riding with your daughters. I sometimes think I would have been closer to my mom if she had been a horse person, but she wasn't at all. I've never seen her ride a horse and I can only remember one time that she led one. I'm very glad she let us ride even though they terrified her. My dad was the horseman and he taught us to ride and used to go on trail rides with us. :D

    I unfortunately let my fear take over when I run through scenarios of doom (which I do all the time about everything). I think part of it is because I was so over protected as a kid. I don't know how to rein the fear in, but I try. Anyway great post!


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