There was nothing in particular that happened but I found myself completely lacking confidence to ride Dante. There was no fall, no near miss; just an evaporation of the confidence I had worked so hard to build. I’d get on Dante and feel my legs turn to jelly. I couldn’t wait to get off again. I’d find excuses to not ride him: “I think he’s sore again – I’ll just do groundwork” I’d say, or I’d get my daughter Lauren or her friend Rachel to ride him. I watched their effortless grace and teenage confidence. Dante went beautifully for both the girls, but when he and I were together, my nerves got the better of me and he reacted. We just weren’t going well together.
I began to write ads in my head: “For Sale. Bay 6yo gelding. Sired by an imported Tennessee Walker x Rocky Mountain Horse, out of a Quarter Horse mare. Sensitive, affectionate, friendly horse. Needs more work and exposure to bring out his best. Was meant to be my forever horse but, as much as I adore him, it’s time for me to admit I don’t have the confidence to continue this journey.”
I sat on the hay bale in his paddock and he stood next to me, waiting for me to rub his head or scratch his withers. “We can’t go on like this,” I told him. He looked at me with his big brown eyes.
It was a fork in the road for me. I was sick of the roller coaster of it. I booked a lesson with Sam, who started Dante under saddle for me two years ago and has helped and guided us all along. “Confidence is like a cup you have to fill up,” she told me. “Trouble is you only get to fill it up with an eye dropper and you can spill it all with the slightest knock. Just be easier on yourself. You might have to fake it sometimes.”
Sam assured me I was doing just fine, but pointed out that if I did want to sell him, that was okay too. I had options.
But then I woke up in the middle of the night and knew I wouldn’t sell him. I just couldn’t bear the idea of not having him. That left me with one option. I had to somehow fill my confidence cup. I would do more to try to build my confidence, but I would also stop telling myself I lacked confidence. If I didn’t feel confident, I would do as Sam suggested and fake it.
I rode a friend’s horse in an arena. He was lazy – more whoa than go. I felt completely safe, totally confident. I took my old girl Floss out on the trail, riding along on our own. I felt completely confident. I rode Dante in the arena, quietly. He didn’t put a foot wrong. Again, I felt completely confident.
Two days later I rode Dante out with a friend. I was nervous to begin with. He was a nightmare. He bucked. Pigrooted. Protested. I sat deep. Heels down. Held on. Breathed. Quietly demanded better behaviour from him. Something shifted in me. I confidently embraced his forward energy, his exuberance and spunk. We walked. We trotted. We cantered. I rode with a smile on my face and without my heart racing.
Forget the idea of selling him! I can do this. Dante and I can do this. It’s time to loosen up and have some fun. It’s time to fill my confidence cup.
Green pony chronicles the adventures of Jill Griffiths and her young horse, Dante, who Jill ‘accidentally’ bought as a yearling in 2014. The first instalment appeared in Horses and People magazine in February 2016 and the series has continued in every issue. To catch up on past blogs, head to our website: www.horsesandpeople.com.au
This article appears in Horses and People May-June 2019 magazine.