Getting Schooled & Understanding Fear, Part 1

The anticipated cross-country schooling day was here. It was time to head to the Little Downham where I will eventually ride my test for the Wobbleberry Challenge.

It's been awhile since my last outing with my trainer and I wanted to show her how hard I've been to working to develop my legs and my seat. After 5 months of riding 5-6x a week, I finally felt like something was happening down there.  I can tell you my legs have been sore for MONTHS. 

Out of the phases in eventing, cross-country is the most thrilling and the one that gives me the most mental grief, but not for the obvious reasons. 

It's not the galloping nor the jumping nor the combo of the two. I've hunted on a strange horse with limited brakes in a 50+plus field with people I don't know and have jumped everything.   "Point horse, keep eyes up,  legs on either side of the horse" and go. I've been on cross country hacks where we jump everything in front of us. So I know I can do it but the question is...

Can I do it alone? 

This is the first time I will direct a galloping horse over a course of 20+jumps for at least 5 minutes.   Let's ponder that from the perspective of a first time eventer. 

Shit balls. 

Not only is it getting around safely or frankly, just getting around, it is being the leader. It is about the partnership with your horse, it is about some serious leg on and driving them forward. One a personal note, it's also trying not to vomit from nerves; I have been greatly heartened to hear many top event riders also suffer from this affliction. 

It is learning not to let the fear and anticipation over-ride the brave pants that you put on. It is about finding those brave pants and pulling them up to your eyeballs while also wearing the bra of courage so all areas are covered.   It's also knowing the types of fear so you can best prepare yourself. There are 2 types of fear.

                                                     Instinctual + fear of the unknown. 

Instinctual protects us from harm.  This originates from our caveman days when we had to protect our youngins and survive from serious threats,  you know, like dinosaurs. We honed our spider senses to ensure we kept alive, which is still within us today, for the most part.  Instinctual fear is what kept my daughters and me alive when a drunk driver ran a stop sign and hit us. On the approach, I sensed he was going too fast, I knew something wasn't right and because of that, I  was able to slam on the brakes and save lives. 

Fear of the unknown is exactly that, we fear the unknown. We have no idea what is going to happen.  We visualize, we analyze, we purpose, we discuss, we have an inkling but we can never predict what will happen. We just don't know. This is the mystery of life and since we can't predict when we are going to die, we have an obligation to ourselves and our families to live each day fully. 

I have seen fear show up when I teach handstands in a yoga class. In order to support someone's journey towards a handstand, we look at fear and work on the components to lessen those fears. It's not always quick, the progression to the goal can take some time, but knowing how to diminish some elements of what is causing the fear is the key to success. 

Whether it's doing a handstand or jumping a fence, fear can present the same way. How we deal with it is the key. 

Whether it's doing a handstand or jumping a fence, fear can present the same way. How we deal with it is the key. 


Riding cross country has elements of both fears for me. As a Mother, self-preservation is high on my list of priorities. I have a family that I want to be around for. In order to lessen the instinctual fear we take preventative measures such as body protectors, proper helmets, we train and put preparations in place. We ride a good horse, we work with a trainer and we stay on top of our tack and equipment etc. These all help to lessen the instinctual fear so we are both protected and confident. Then we can deal with Fear of the Unknown. 

I have no frigging idea what is going to happen on the day but here are my two biggies.

1. I will pull up because I fear we are going slightly out of control and won't approach the jump correctly. This will lead to me being unseated and doing a tumble hurting all the bones in my body which do not bounce anymore. To clarify further, it is not the falling off rather it is the moment of complete uncertainty when you know something bad is happening and you have no idea how to stop it. Like those horrible dreams when you experience yourself falling and can't do anything about it?  It's THAT moment and you just pray you are alive on the other side.

2. The other is that I will pull up because I've over-worried myself into thinking I can't do it, that I don't have the balls to get around a course, that I will let everyone down. That I will then start a cycle of talk in my head of 'I'm not good enough' which will spiral into horrible icky feelings and into a bottle of whiskey.  This is old childhood stuff that has taken me years to look at and address.  It is my roller bag of 'stuff' that follows me everywhere and yes, you have one too that is unique to you. These roller bags, while often feel like a burden, are also a blessing when we learn they don't have to control our lives, rather we learn how to deal with it, flick the switch and engage qualities like perseverance, dedication, and our will to keep moving forward to our dreams. Trust me, the roller bag does decrease in size each time we TRY. 

Eventing is not for the faint of heart. It is a brutal sport and for some damn reason, I love it. 

This is why the Wobbleberry Challenge is good for me. I am doing something that I have loved for years and actually doing something about it. The best part is that I'm also raising money for seriously ill kids. Have you donated to my cause yet? Please support, we'd really appreciate any donation!

It is pushing me into the heaviest mental game of my life. Every time I ride, sorry let me re-phrase,  every time I ride or take a lesson with my trainer she pushes my mental game. My self-doubt game is strong but my love for eventing is stronger. It is what makes me show up, day after day with my shit, my insecurities, my frozen shoulder, the constant aches and pains and my limited budget( horses are expensive). My love for the sport, the desire to see what I'm capable of and the memory of Hannah forces me to face the jitters because I know the value of this journey far outweighs my meager complaints.  

We went off to our first session of Cross country schooling. 

Thank goodness Frog was so polite as my damn legs that I was so proud of basically went to shit.  It was rather embarrassing however my trainer put us through a lovely warm up with Frog jumping everything with ease and eagerness. Honestly, he was so good. 

After about 20mins my legs felt like they started to work again. My trainer continued with some through lovely combinations, included the dreaded ditch. We went through the water and we jumped stuff I've never faced. She linked jumps for us to build the effect of a course and Frog didn't put a foot wrong. I think he knows I'm still a little unsure and is still holding my hand over the jumps. 


It was a great first experience, Little Downham is a welcoming course and aside from riding the course like a show-jumper( must work on that) I loved it. Frog was so damn good and a testament to the owner's hard work and training with him. I would not be where I am as a rider without them both. Frog does have an engine that can go up a couple of gears but he stayed very steady giving me loads of confidence which is all this Wobbleberry can ask for.  We are getting there slowly but surely but not without the ups and downs. Some of my groom skills need developing and my horse handling may not always be the strongest but I don't give up.  The one thing I've learned from teaching handstands for so many years, this is key to putting fear back in the corner and not letting it lead the way. 

Thanks for reading!

Love, Tahnee

part 2: When you part ways, coming soon. 







Some jumps, a buck and a little Yee-haw!

The Ginger Wonder Horse and I have a list of things that set us into a mad panic. The type of panic that makes the hands sweat, the tummy explode with butterflies and flight mode goes into over-drive.  That type of panic.  Actually, aside from the Ginger being an extremely good alien spotter, the nerves are entirely my own. The Ginger's first priority is food. Always. 

As we are progressing on our Wobbleberry Challenge, the owner decided it was time to cross country school at Keysoe Equestrian Center as one day soon,  I will have to ride a cross country course in a competition. Oh my nerves. 

A trip to the school requires a trip in the lorry. This means loading horses. I am claustrophobic.  This means more panic. 

The General( wanna-be boss) + the Ginger( the actual boss) were our equine companions for the day. The General is a class eventer also loves his job and is very good at it, even at the age of 18( hope for us all!) He and the Ginger are old buddies which made me feel better about travelling. 

I have zero experience with loading horses. Not only is this my first time loading, there is also my first time taking a horse to a schooling session and my first trip on a big lorry. I took calmers and didn't drink coffee before I left the house. I'm not kidding.

At least one of us is calm. 

At least one of us is calm. 

I have learned in previous loading clinics that you have to load like you mean it.  I marched up that ramp like I was marching for Britian keeping a calm demeanor outwardly while inwardly freaking out.   Frog is a superstar and didn't even blink. I think he may have even yawned. 

The Ginger always cool, ready for action.

The Ginger always cool, ready for action.

As we pulled in, my butterflies went into over-drive.    Oh god, it's happening.  

I'm supposed to jump these?

I'm supposed to jump these?

In our warm-up I held back, not putting enough leg on nor not getting Frog engaged. If I'm totally honest, I was so nervous as I've never been schooling for cross country. My experience with these type of jumps have been on hunts where you close your eyes, pray like hell, keep your legs on either side of the horse and hope you and your mount are still standing at the end of the day.

The reality sunk in, this is it. This is cross country training, this is real. Those are the jumps you will face. You are an eventer now. This ensued a little conversation with myself that went something like this.

Don't be an ass. Ride exactly as you would at home. Settle, exhale. Go. Move on. He's done this before. Be the leader. You won't die so settle the fuck down. Leg on. Work every stride. WORK EVERY STRIDE. Better. Nice. More. Ahhhhh. 

In no time, the owner, now officially in trainer mode had us popping over the jumps. 

Insert more freaking out here

The trainer does something which is quite helpful.  She says "Head over that piddly jump, then that other piddly little jump and that tinky little thing there. " Otherwise according to my brain, they are all are Burghley size.

As we got going around and popping over some piddly jumps,  I realised something very important. 

The Ginger has some power. 

Like the type of power that where the words 'holy shit' arise.  We started to sail around the course getting faster and faster which was both exhilarating and completely scary.  The trainer did not hold back or introduce this to me gently.  She wasted no time showing me what I would encounter on an actual course from the water element, the ledges going both up and down and the ditches. I'm not a fan of ditches and the Ginger is suspect of them too. 

The Ginger however, was a champ taking a lead off the General until he decided enough was enough. He was the actual leader and must demonstrate as such. Then the trainer had us taking jumps in combos and I was thinking 'I can handle this, this is kinda fun'. 'Progressing nicely', I thought, 'way to go!' down through the water 'easy' and up the ledge. 'Fine, no problems'. Back down the ledge, canter through the water element and over the tire jump


We stopped. We exhaled, me particularly. We walked back to the Trainer whom I'm pretty sure was delighted that I a) didn't come off and b) didn't crash into the dressage competitions.  Once she saw we( me) calm-er she had us DO IT AGAIN.  And so we did and it was brilliant.  The owner can't remember the last time the Ginger had been out schooling so his excitement was to be expected. I was excited because I felt like I was evolving into an actual eventer rider. I didn't panic like I normally would have and I wanted to do more! This was huge for me. 

I came away from this experience with even more trust in the Ginger; he may be strong but he is also respectful. He goes from Yee-haw to Yawn within seconds. This is the greatest confidence booster a wobbleberry can have; he looks after me too.

The palpable relief on my face compared to the total confidence of the General & the Trainer after the schooling session.

The palpable relief on my face compared to the total confidence of the General & the Trainer after the schooling session.

We crossed quite a few things off the nervy bucket list and I left feeling quietly accomplished.  The whole experience was super and I look forward to more trips out getting closer to achieving eventing success raising money in the Wobbleberry Challenge for Willberry Wonder Pony!