Desert Horses

Welcome to my horse blog, Desert Horses. We live in the desert southwest, near Palm Springs, CA, but board our horses up in our local mountains where it is cooler in the summer. I have 4 horses, all rescues. Here is the ranch up the mountains where the horses stay.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I have a confession to make. I spent the afternoon with my friend and fellow blogger, Molly, and her BEAUTIFUL little mare, Bella. Molly lives only about 10 miles from our desert home and boards Bella nearby in a large and beautiful boarding facility that Molly and I discovered by accident one day! It has misters for the horses during the hot summer months, but Bella was born in the desert, in Mexico, so she's already used to desert heat. She'll be fine! My fear is a fear of riding. Like Lisa, of Laughing Orca Ranch, I was injured while riding a horse (actually, while getting OFF!). I had gone riding with a friend in August of 2008 and I slipped and fell to the ground when the saddle slipped. The next day, I could barely walk. After an MRI, it was discovered that I had two slipped discs and they were pinching my sciatic nerve. OUCH! The pain got worse and worse until I could barely stand or walk. It was affecting not only my physical abilities, but my mental health, as well. I went in for physical therapy and two cortisone shots and by December of last year, after the second shot, I felt better, but now I have permanent nerve damage and I can't feel my feet. I often step on the kids at school (they are very understanding!) and I have to apologize profusely! I just can't feet their little feet! So, yesterday when I went to visit Molly and Bella and Molly asked, "Do you want to ride her?" I felt that knot in my stomach, my hands started shaking, and I said, "No." Now, WHY did I do that? It was just STUPID! Bella is a nice, calm, wonderful little mare. All she does is walk. I mean, for heaven's sake! Lisa at least got back up on her mare! Thank you, Lisa, for sharing that with us! (See: What can I say? I hope to someday get back on a horse, but, honestly, every time someone asks if I want to ride their horse, I say "NO!" What is WRONG with me? Fear? Probably. I'm nearly 58 years old (young). The ground is a LOT further away now than I remember! I'm not as limber as I used to be (heck, I'm not limber AT ALL!)...But, this is ridiculous! My cousin, Valerie, is the same age that I am and she rides every day! She doesn't worry about falling off. Heck, she had a horse rear and fall on her once and she's still riding! So, my question my fear physical or mental?


Cactus Jack Splash said...

Fear is both physical and can be crippling. I know after Jack's werehorse incident I was afraid, it took me a bit to admit that to myself. I worked through it an inch at a time, with the support of good horses and good friends. I used a dead-broke bombproof kids horse to find my courage again and it was hard to do.
The first time I loped Jack since I fractured my pelvis was a year after the accident. I was so nervous, but we did it! I didn't realize what a big deal it was until I got off and realized I was sobbing like a baby.
I found that by going to the edge of my comfort zone and then just a centimeter more my comfort zone got a bit bigger with each ride.
People will tell you "Just get on, get over it, don't be a chicken" none of tat helps, in fact sometimes it just makes it worse.
Maybe during this vacation you can saddle up Quad and have your hubby hold him while you just sit on him, or borrow one of your friends gentle horses. Start with just sitting and then move on to a few steps. See in your mind what you want to happen and make it a reality. Sometimes it helps just to set a date for your action, it did for me.
Take the time it takes and you will be fine.
Best wishes and I hope to see you on a horse soon

Cheryl Ann said...

Thanks, Syndi. Yes, I now know that it will take little steps. I'm hoping to saddle Quad and just SIT on him. My problem, however, in additional to the mental side, is that I do have serious back problems. My legs cramp up when I'm up on a horse. I'm not even sure I can get OFF a horse now!!! I am doing yoga now to become more limber. Thanks for your support! You know I appreciate it! Yes, I think Quad would be the perfect horse for me to ride.

Molly said...

Quad or even Cali. Both would respect you for sure.
I loved having you out, but I'm sorry I got the panic attack kicked in.
And if you never get back on, that's ok too. Just being around horses and their people makes my life whole again.

mrscravitz said...

Ditto Syndi! I could not of said it better. I KNOW the fear too! My goal for this summer is to get over that fear myself, and to ride my horse Sissy! I am going to start with just sitting....and then take it one step at a time.

Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you mean - I was very nervous around Dawn after the summer kick-in-the-face incident, and it took me quite a while to recover from that. Don't worry too much about being afraid - just let it be there until it's ready to be gone. I'm sure you'll know when you're ready to do more, but there's certainly no need to rush. There's plenty of good things to do around horses that don't involve riding.

Cheryl Ann said...

Thanks, Kate! Yes, you are right! There IS plenty to do!

Mikey said...

Oh I know your pain. You WANT to get on...but dang, with an accident like that. It's hard. I'm still trying to figure out where my nerve pain is coming from. I can't believe you can't feel your feet! Mine go numb, but they come back. I'd be scared senseless to get on a horse again after that. That's lasting injuries right there. Take your time, maybe do like Lisa did, just go slow, have someone lead you. There's no shame in being safe.

Judi said...

I went through the fear thing twice. The first time was before I got my first horse. I found a kind horse to help me. I leased her during the months right before my first horse was given me.

Ironically, he was the horse from my childhood--the one that caused the fear! I had another tough year after that.

The next time it hit was about 4 years ago. That summer, both my horses fell with me while cantering. I had a real problem cantering after that. It took me until this summer to canter out on the trail without first thinking that my horse would fall. I still have trouble in the arena, of all places. I am hoping to work through that this winter, but I keep coming up with excuses.

Once it gets in you, it is so hard to get it out...

Just go a little at a time...

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Hey Cheryl,

It's ok to not be ready. Fear is often mental and physical. If you still feel pain or your body doesn't act 100% normal like it used to be before an injury, it's easy to tell yourself you're not ready yet.
I think everyone is different, though. And you have to do what is right for you, when the time is right. Don't force yourself if your mind and body aren't there yet.

I can only speak for myself, but my mind and heart thought about getting back up on my horse every day. I felt that the fear was controlling me and it made me angry. I NEEDED to move past it for my own sanity and peace of mind.
No. My body isn't 100% yet and my leg is still weak, but I knew with time building up to that moment and with support that I could do it. I could SEE myself mounting and sitting on my horse every day. I visualized it in my head every day. It has been an intense year to say the least.

So, to psyche myself up, I've spent the last couple of weeks just taking my 3-step mounting block into the stall while my horse eats. I would climb up to the top step and lean on her, sometimes even lay on her with all my weight.
It has been a way for me to test the waters, to build confidance, and to see how my horse will take me being on her back and being clumsy.
If she has been nervous, jiggy and tried to evade me, I'd have probably put off mounting her, but she was fine with me up there, and with me being clumsy and a little nervous.

So, my advice for you, is, if you feel you really want to ride a horse again soon, is to build yourself up to that moment in small steps, testing the waters, laying over your horse, jumping up and down on your horse to see if he/she will tolerate it.

And if you have a friend to help you, or have a friend with a really broke, steady eddy that's even better.

Good luck! You CAN do it, if you really want it, my friend!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Oh and I just noticed you mentioned your had concerns about dismounting. I wanted to tell you that I did, too.

I think the easiest way to dismount when you have weak legs or hips, is to just lay over your horse, and then turn your body, and then just slip off the side slowly, slowly, until your toes touch the ground.
In your case with you not being able to feel your feet, a person behind you to guide you might also be a good idea, too. At least until you get your 'horse-legs' back on and start to get your balance and feel back.

Don't think about RIDING. Just think about GETTING UP on a horse first. Once you have gotten on a horse, even if only draped across it's back, then think about SITTING ON a horse. And sit for as long as you are comfortable. If that is only 3 minutes, Fine. Then dismount. And the next time your goal is to sit for 4 minutes.

I guess what I'm trying to say is don't think too far ahead. That can be terrifying. For me, it caused me to freeze up and feel anxiety.

So, truly, it's just baby steps each and every time. Small goals and you will feel a lot more confidant, too. And you will be able to build up your balance and feel and muscles slowly, too. Much better in the long run.


Gail said...

I would like to say about the nerve damage, my husband had back surgery. Both his legs were dumb and the nerve had been cut but with care it regrew or repaired itself! He has only one numb spot now in his thigh.

On the fear of horses, I brush, I handle, I work, but there is always some excuse not to ride. I even have short horses so it is not so far to the ground!

I have come along way and this summer I intend to be riding alot. Baby steps, one step at a time. You will get there and if you don't that's okay too.

lisa said...

It is safety! If you do not feel safe you feel fear! I have been dealing with fear for a long time. I have been doing Parelli Natural horsemanship now for quite some time! You have to feel safe from the ground and get respect from your horse before you ever get in the saddle! I have to win the seven games with my horse from the ground before I ever ride and always think like a horse and if you always go with your instincts if it tells you to get off you get off! If you go to parelli web sight and read up on it. Or get his book from western horseman. Pat Parelli and Natural Horsemanship!

Breathe said...

Cheryl Ann,

Everyone has given you great advice, and I have to say, you absolutely do not need to give yourself a hard time. Horses are not merely for riding. And you suffered real and lasting injury. Your fear is rational. Still, facing it can be incredibly empowering. At least it has been for me.

Think of it: fear is the most powerful force in the world. It's responsible for wars, violence, and people frozen in time.

If you can focus on taking one brick down, just one at a time, you win with each brick.

And, amazingly, you'll never be as scared again.


Linda said...

What a good topic--and I second the "bomb-proof horse" theory. Nothing will build your confidence like one of those. I would add this--a trainer. If you find a trainer you really love, they will help you stay safe as you work your way back into the saddle. I did when I returned to horses and I felt great about paying the price--after all, it was a small price to pay for confidence. The person I was then and the person I am now are like two wholly different people and I largely credit my good friend and trainer. You can overcome fear--but it takes one small step at a time--and, eventually, you'll find yourself a better, wiser rider than you ever were before.

Katharine Swan said...

Cheryl, I had in mind what I wanted to tell you... but then I saw Lisa had already said it all. I agree with her -- just try getting up on a horse, one that is calm and you can trust, first. Don't even think about anything beyond that yet.

I do think fear is mental, not physical. The physical part comes from our fight or flight response. We may not be able to run as fast as a horse, but we have flight instincts too! It's really easy to dread something and build it up in your mind until it's larger than life. I did that over cantering, and it was such a relief when I finally cantered Panama (by accident) a few strides -- and survived! I think you'll find that sitting on a horse again, and surviving it, gives you the same feeling of relief and happiness -- and will make you eventually want to do it more.

photogchic said...

Allow yourself to feel that way...there is no shame in it. Horses make us confront all sorts of things, you just have to start building your confidence and try to work on positive visualization. Imagine your perfect ride when you are around horses. Any time a negative reaction comes up, remember that perfect ride, that perfect day at the barn. Jane Savoie taught me helped me back into the saddle and I hope it helps your own time.