July 22nd  2022

By Karine Vandenborre

Courage is daring to say you're too scared
to ride.

A famous quote says: "Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway". 

I know, this quote is a philosophy on living life. However, the sad truth is, that in the horse world, it's still common to reason that way.

I would never get on a horse if I'm afraid to ride that horse. As a professional trainer, it took me a long time to admit that.

And that's because there still is that myth that a "good" rider dares to ride every single horse. And I wanted to be seen as a good rider.

Take it from me: if you're scared, and "you're saddling up anyway", you're in for some nasty situations...

'Cause, when you're afraid, you will be tensed, and when the horse does something that makes you even more afraid, you will tense even more. You will react in the wrong way: pulling the reins, gripping with your legs, holding your breath, .... This will cause the horse to tense and there you go: what you were so afraid of happens: your horse bucks, or your horse runs off, or your horse rears,... and you kiss the ground.

The day I decided to always listen to my gut feeling

One day, I had an accident. I had an accident because I wanted to be a "good" rider. I rode a horse that I felt I shouldn't ride... And I fell off.

Not just "fell off", I was actually catapulted a few meters further while the owner of the horse and his whole family (wife, kids and grandparents) were watching.

Ouch, that was painful... And I don't mean physically...

hat day, when I drove back home, I decided this was the last time ever, I would ride a horse when I knew it was not smart to ride that horse.

I decided I would listen to my gut feeling and do groundwork and other preparatory work until I felt 120% sure and safe to ride a horse.

I was in my twenties back then, and I have to admit: it took me some courage... Because it sometimes happened, when I said I would not ride somebodies horse, but do other preparatory work first, that they tried to make fun of me or tried to convince me to do it anyway.

But now, 20 years later, I feel 200% confident when telling someone I will not ride his/her horse. I've learned that when you're afraid or feeling a bit nervous to ride a horse, it's so important to listen to that gut feeling.

I also tell my students to not ride a horse if they are nervous or afraid, but also not if they don't feel a connection and if they didn't do the right preparatory work.

I learned that when you wait, there always comes a moment that you feel: "Oh, the time has come. I feel it. Now the horse is ready. Now I'm ready. Now it's time to saddle up and ride."

This can be because the horse learned everything he needed to learn to be a safe riding horse.

It can be because now you know how to help the horse to get rid of excessive energy.

It could be that you build up a strong connection and because of that you now know the horse much better and it feels ok to ride the horse.

If your feeling, your intuition, tells you it feels right, that it will be ok, it will be ok.

Always listen to yourself, and to your horse. Never to somebody else.

Listening to yourself, and daring to say that you will wait to ride a certain horse (yours or somebody else's), thát is courage!