Crushing Self-doubt: My Horse Riding Journey

G’day my friends and happy Sunday! Is it just me or does it feel like the weeks go absolutely no where!? And can you also believe we are almost in June!? For some of us that means Summer is just around the corner, and for the southern hemisphere Winter is knocking on our door well and truly.

I also want to say sorry that there was no blog last week. I clearly had a bit of housekeeping to do on the blog front since I had some polished posts that was still sitting in drafts on my computer, and I doubled up on a post. I spent 4 hours last Saturday night getting it ready to upload and then realised at the 12th  hour it was already uploaded!! Crazy and frustrating!

However, we move forward to this week! And I have a super special blog post for you. These past 2 weeks I have embarked on a crazy bucket list item. I have been learning how to ride a horse!

HORSE RIDING wait what?!!

Photo by Man Dy from Pexels

I know, I know I bet you must be thinking what on earth is this woman thinking? Disabled and wanting to ride a horse that is nearly 2 metres high! What is she falls off!?

Believe me they were the thoughts that were running through my head as well. However, this is something I have wanted to do and excel at since I was a little girl.

I think almost every girl has had a love for horses at some point right?? I was no different. I loved watching the Saddle Club growing up and loved the idea of getting on a horse and going somewhere far away from my own worries. To be honest i am still horse crazy and have watched Heartland way too many times instead of studying! Darn Netflix!

However would you believe my first time on a horse was 16 years ago?! It didn’t end so well.

My First Horsey adventure.

photo of me when i was around 5 years old. I have a multicolored rain coat and a white helmet on. I am smiling at the camera with my hand waving. My Aunt is holding the horse and is smiling at the camera. The instructor is holding me smiling in the background. It is raining and the arena is wet.
such a long time ago! Trixey was a beautiful horse. It is pretty crazy i am back in the saddle!

With that being said i should explain further! I was around 5 years old. My Aunt, my mum and I went to a horse stable as my Aunt is a big horse lover and rides when she can.

The stable was dark, and I remember the horses being so big (for a 5-year-old the horses were giants!) The instructor told me she had no tack for a 5-year-old and the stirrups were not short enough. I thought that would not be an issue because ‘i just have to sit here’… Oh how wrong I was. If you think you just have to sit and hold on i dare you to get on a horse!

I watched my Aunt ride in the Round Pen and was blown away at how easy she picked up a Trot and how effortless and graceful she looked. I was so excited for my turn; however, my mother was sweating bullets as you would expect. I had no fear whatsoever and that terrified her and my dad royally!

Soon enough it was my turn, and instead of looking graceful at a mere walk, I was unbalanced and had nothing to hold onto. My Aunt was leading the Horse, and the Instructor was by my side just in case I decided to have my first of many dates with the dirt or in that case mud.

Thank goodness she was there because it had been raining the whole time and my horse decided to shake the water off himself and flew off with it! I was heading towards the mud, but fortunately the instructor caught me at the right moment.

Safe to say I was petrified and that was the end of my horse riding, I thought I would never be able to ride and I left it at that and instead decided to daydream about riding. Until Now.

Why do I want to learn to ride a horse?

Like I said before, horse riding has never been far from the front of my mind. There is something about horses that make me weep. Yes yes, I am the one who cried like a toddler at the Australian Outback Spectacular show a couple of years ago at the first sign of a horse silhouette galloping through the arena.

I promised myself this year that, after the growth I had mentally last year, that I wanted to crush the last remaining self-doubt and start living! 

For 21 years I have never done anything super adventurous. I was the kid who played safe. I stuck to Drama and Swimming. I entered only one Swimming meet and did pretty well, but that was it. I never did squad swimming, as I had my confidence wrecked by a previous swim coach who chucked me in a session with abled kids. I went from feeling super confident to super self-conscious. So that was the end of my sporting days.

My family is very sporty. My Cousin races Sprintcars at only 19, my brother played AFL for most of his childhood and made representative Football, my dad and his siblings played football, my Uncle nearly made Olympics for Running, My Aunt rides horses occasionally, my Mum does Yoga my other uncle used to Ref Soccer… You see where I am heading. Little old me did next to nothing out of fear of getting hurt, worried about looking funny and what could happen in the negative sense instead of seeing it as a positive challenge.

So you may be asking ‘yeah but why do you want to ride?’ Like I said I want to start living. I know the risks that come with riding, but I know I will end up in a Wheelchair permanently at some point. I hope that isn’t the case but who knows what the future holds. I would much rather look back at my life when I was walking with a smile knowing that I gave everything a go rather than have regrets. I think everyone ends up looking back on their life at some point. How you look back at it though makes all the difference.

My first horse riding lesson.

my first meeting with my horse. My back is turned to the camera standing on paved ground. My brown horse is in front of me enjoying some scratches. A coach is standing next to me smilling and is wearing a wide brimmed hat, vest, long shirt, jeans and boots. the sky is blue and a Gum Tree is in the background.
My first time meeting my horse. Yes I nearly did start crying

I managed to get a slot with the Riding for the Disabled in my home town. After doctor’s appointments to clear me for riding and a lot of self doubt, it was time for my first lesson. Of course i had to do a bit of shopping to find some riding attire… Although I did ask my folks if I looked like a wannabe English rider… You know the answer when all they say is “ummmmmmm…….. yeah so what time are we leaving again tomorrow?”.

On my first day, I was a bundle of nerves but I didn’t want to show it. My parents were scared enough without knowing that I was also nervous. Horses can also pick up nerves and so I wanted to be as calm as possible. That plan flew straight out the car door almost immediately!

I signed in, put my helmet on, and then I saw her. My horse is a 15.2 (1.5metres) hands high Thoroughbred Mare. As I approached her she lowered her head to allow me to give her a scratch and say hi. She was so calm and nearly falling asleep. Before I got on her I knew she and I would match well because we already had a common interest.. SLEEP!

However this is where it got tricky. Getting on a horse is not easy for someone like me. Lucky for both me and my horse they had a ramp that enabled me to get on without using my legs. However we had to come up with an easy way to get on since the old ‘leg over’ was going to be tricky. So, I sat Side Saddle for a split second and had someone lift my right leg over the horse. That part alone was terrifying.

I was petrified of not being able to get on the horse because of how tight my hips and adductors are that I was worried I would pull a muscle. Even though my horse with 1.5 metres tall, she was skinny which made sitting on her comfy and easy.

The next hurdle was could I ride? The movement of a horse requires a lot of balance and flexibility in the hips to move with your horse.

They moved the horse away from the ramp, and for two seconds I did not have my feet in the Stirrups. Moving sideways and not having your feet in Stirrups was terrifying!

After getting the Stirrups adjusted and meeting my coach, we were ready to walk into the arena. I asked for two people to be standing either side of me just in case I was to fall off. I say it was a combo of self-doubt mixed with a side of being cautious. yes the self-doubt is still pesky but i am working on it.

I was actually riding a horse! Doubt be gone!

I am riding my horse. the photo is side on. My coach is holding my knee while walking next to me. A woman is holding the lead rope so the horse doesn't do its own thing.
The nerves calmed a bit thanks to my coach who barely let go of me.

Soon enough I relaxed enough to be able to move with my horse. The feeling is something I cannot describe. Feeling the power in her walk and the motion is incredible.

There is something mentally that happens when you ride a horse. For the time you are on one your mind goes quiet and you are not thinking about your disability or what stresses you have or your to-do list. You are present with you and your horse.

My second lesson was just yesterday and my nerves were still hanging in there, but I had no one holding onto my leg and walked 2 metres away from me. We then went on one hell of a crazy trail ride complete with numerous obstacles and steep hills. However it was towards the end when my coach took the lead rope away and got me to walk my horse by myself…

Or should I say I tried and failed miserably, I wanted her to go one way and she wanted the opposite direction. It is a work in progress and we will get there, but any advice will be greatly appreciated! I did use a crop to get her to walk as my kick isn’t hard enough and it worked a treat! When you push yourself outside of your comfort zone that is where miracles happen.

Motivation is a necessity.

2nd lesson yesterday. Being a goofball as usual

I think with any challenge, obstacle, or bucket list item, you need to have a motivation to stick with it and improve or even to simply just begin.

My motivators were simple, I wanted to learn to ride, and see where it leads me. I love watching Dressage and watching the incredible women (and men) Barrel Race.

What really kicked me into riding was Amberley Snyder. She is a paralysed Barrel Racer in the States. I know I woman with no feeling from hips down and she is Barrel Racing. I soon realised that if she could do it and be paralysed, then I sure as hell could give riding a go.

It is all about finding that thing that pushes you to do that thing you have put off for years. Find something to grab hold of to push you forward.  

People also run in the opposite direction of fear or a challenge. They don’t realise that those challenges, or that fear of the unknown is what propels you in life. Sure, you can live being comfortable and never having challenges. But that is not living, that is simply surviving. When you get to your last day on this earth do you want to be proud of everything you accomplished, or do you want to have regrets that you didn’t take that trip, that class or try that sport? The choice is up to you. I know what I want.

I want to be able to look back and be proud that despite challenges and doubts from myself and doubts from those around me, I gave things ago. For years I have just been surviving, but it is time for me to start living!

I have found the thing that motivates me to stretch, and exercise and be healthy. Riding a horse gives me a sense of freedom and accomplishment. It also is teaching me again the art of trusting. I have to trust my body, my coach, the volunteers and my horse to keep me safe. When everything is taken out of your hands it can be unsettling. However I am excited to see what other lessons i am going to learn about myself, and who knows where it will lead me, but I am ready to find out!

You also shouldn’t limit yourself to things that you are comfortable with. Are you ready to step outside your comfort zone and do the thing that you have always wanted to do? Are you reading to finally get rid of those doubts and start living!?

If Amberly can ride a horse at a full gallop or someone without hands can paint with their toes why can’t you go and do that thing you have wanted to try for so long??? You don’t know where it could lead you, and that mystery is waiting for you to discover and conquer it.  

Well that is it from me, I am off to go and take a hot bath and spend the following hour recovering from yesterday. Because man i have no where near enough padding on my behind for riding a horse if you know what I mean!

Till next time,



p.s. click on the link to check out the RDA website. They are always looking for donations as they are a not-for-profit. If you have a spare couple of $ i am sure they would be so grateful! I know the horses will be!

4 thoughts on “Crushing Self-doubt: My Horse Riding Journey”

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