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What I Learned from a Giant Horse About Fear and Failure

A few days ago, my favorite horse Espartaco passed away. He was bitten by a snake or a brown recluse spider. His leg swelled up and my vet, Dr Blevins, said he fought but wasn’t strong enough to make it.This amazing horse taught me more than any other horse or human ever has about believing in yourself and making the “seemingly impossible” happen.

We had a serious love/hate relationship.

Years ago, I was involved in a riding accident while I was “mock bullfighting” in Spain. Yes, they were real bullfighting bulls and we went through the motions, but we never hurt the beasts.At one point, the horse I was riding was hit by the bull, started kicking back  and I went flying over the horses head. I lost consciousness and fractured my pelvis. It was a freak accident, I had been doing the same thing for the last few months in Spain but for some reason, that day something went wrong. Thankfully, neither the horse or I were hurt too badly (except for my pelvis!)

You can probably understand after that, I was feeling a bit of apprehension to begin riding again!

When I returned to the U.S. I tried riding Espartaco, and at that young age he was a very large and spirited horse. I called him my Gladiator because he was just so big, he would’ve been a great gladiator horse…Someone said to me, “That’s a man’s horse.”  Basically, saying to me that he was too big for me and I was too small to handle him.  I let what this person said get to me and feed my fear.

I believed this for several YEARS. I tried to ride him and I failed. He’d kick his back legs up when he sensed I was scared, I thought I would fall and fracture my pelvis again… or worse!  So after a while, I stopped trying to ride him at all. I hated him … and mostly, I hated myself for giving up.

Boticario de la Parra stallionIt didn’t really make much difference though.  There were many other horses I could ride comfortably.  I also had a wonderful horse so easy to ride I called him My Angel.  I had trained and worked with him for the last eighteen years.  He was so sweet with me that I could sing on horseback while trumpets were blaring in his ears.He was easy to ride.

I felt comfortable with him.

One day, as I was preparing for a very important riding exhibition for Mark Victor Hansen and some of his closest friends, I called the stables and found out that my Angel had died suddenly the night before of a hernia…

I was devastated.  Not only had my favorite show stallion died, but I had an extremely important show to do the very next day.  And now I had no horse to sing on because all the other horses were skittish with the loud music we use when I sing on horseback.

I put my mourning for Angel on the backburner because as they say, “The show must go on!”  So I went to the stables and after much deliberation, we decided I had absolutely no choice but to ride my infamous “man’s horse” Espartaco for the show since all the other stallions were being used for a different act and it was the only way to go.

I had only one day to practice with this horse I convinced myself I could not ride.

People book my show to see the horses and to see me sing on horseback.  I had to be part of the show!  I made up my mind then and there that I had to do it.  And I did.  I did because I HAD to.

I had been lazy about riding Espartaco, I didn’t do the work really trying, of believing in myself and doing it NO MATTER HOW HARD IT SEEMED.

I hadn’t really ever tried, I always gave up when I got scared and therefore, my fear always won.  This time, I scripted the ride in my mind, and I even wrote it all out, how easy and fun it would be.  I meditated, I visualized, and I imagined it being harmonious and effortless.

I empowered myself to do it.

Sometimes it can be really, really good when bad things happens to us.  We find strength where we didn’t know we had it before.  I remember thinking and believing before my performance, “I can do anything!”  My ride with Espartaco, the “man’s horse” was simply phenomenal… It felt like butter…

He and I become a team for many, many years after that.

What have you been stopping yourself from doing because you think you might fail?

Thank you, Espartaco.

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23 Comments

  1. Maritza on November 4, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Today I’m going back to Texas for a few days and I’m just really happy I had this huge and feisty teacher!

  2. Jeff on November 4, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Thank you, Espartaco, indeed. He did so much for you and there is so much of you in this story. Thanks for sharing it so other people can be empowered too.

    In that way Espartaco will live in you and in those you inspire…

    ~ Jeff

  3. Tiffany Rowan on November 4, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Oh babe,

    I’m sorry your loved one has passed on. Horses have an amazing ability to heal others and so your loss is huge. His spirit is huge as well as yours. The lesson you have shared is huge. May all who read this huge lesson take action.

  4. Sandy Rakowitz on November 4, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Thank you for sharing about your loss, your courage and parts of your journey with your horse. May the two of you continue to ride and be together through your hearts.

  5. Angie Newton on November 4, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Maritza,
    I am so sorry for your loss and sending hugs your way. What a great lesson for all of us.

  6. MarthaFaith on November 4, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story about being one with Spirit. It is a great bendiction to this Life. To overcome adversity in spite of the odds, once again, a horse can show us the way. From the inside to the outside, special Iberian horses.. special people making the choice to look at the face of fear.
    Viva la Vida es Bueno!Gracious~//Maritza

  7. Debbie Phillips on November 4, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Maritza ~ I am so sorry for the losses of both of your amazing horses. Thank you for writing this incredible and beautiful story of courage. I’m also dazzled to know more about who you are.INSPIRING!

  8. Maritza on November 4, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Thank you Tiffany – yes, horses are extremely healing animals and they know and can tell you what is going on with you, even before you’re really aware of it yourself – I can’t wait to find out what they tell me this weekend! 🙂

  9. Maritza on November 4, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Angie, hey this is really the same lesson about being afraid to be in front of the video camera… isn’t it? Many hugs back at you!

  10. Maritza on November 4, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Thanks Martha! yes VERY special Iberian horses!

  11. Maritza on November 4, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Thank you Debbie! Coming from an amazing woman who inspires me – I really appreciate it!

  12. Nina on November 4, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    Maritza,

    I have ridden most of my life…from the time I was seven until about 5 years ago. I miss it so much. Actually, I miss the horses and the partnership of horse and human working together. There is nothing like it.

    I also write about moving through fear. I know horses teach us so much about moving through what we think we are afraid of–since it is all in our thoughts anyway and not a reality at all. So, I loved your story and how you used such awesome techniques to move through your fear and create a positive experience with your horse.

    I had to put a race horse I was trying to save to sleep five years ago. It was a traumatic experience. Not long after that I fell off and sprained my knee. Riding a race horse was a scary thing, and although I’d like to save another one, at the age of 50 I keep thinking, “No, that’s too scary. I could fall off. They are so young and skittish–and fast.” You’ve given me reason to possibly try again…or at least to stop in at that new stable I pass on the way home and start riding again. I’ve been meaning to do it–and to make time.

    I’m sorry for your loss. I feel your pain. But thank you for your inspirational message.

  13. Jon Sollie on November 4, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Hey Maritza,

    As one who has had a very bad experience riding a three year old gilding down an airport runway, I can feel the fear you must have had. I haven’t been back on a horse since that day, 58 years ago.

    Over coming any kind of fear is no small feat for most people. A huge believer that “success breeds success” I have observed a lot of “fear demons” being tamed in small increments.

    All the best,

    Jon

  14. Tiffany Rowan on November 4, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Sandy,

    I am not eloquent with words and I’m jealous of people who are. I love how you said “ride together”. What a gift you have to be able to put your emotions and thoughts into words.

  15. Cheryl Pickett on November 4, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Maritza,
    First, God’s peace to you. I agree, horses are amazing creatures especially when they have a trusted partner and care taker like you. I also continue to be inspired and amazed as I learn more tidbits about the things you do and have done in your life. You certainly live that motto about sliding in at the finish line saying “Wow, what a ride!” Blessings to you and please know how much you continue to be a blessing to us.

  16. Deborah on November 5, 2010 at 12:48 am

    Animals have a way of showing us our stuff and moving it aside just to show us how much love we could have is we just let it go. Ah the wisdom of animals.

  17. Payson on November 5, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Thank you for sharing this story Maritza. I’m so sorry that he is gone, and so glad that you had one another for so long and enjoyed so much together. Hugs to you!

  18. Barbara on November 5, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    I’m so sorry that your good friends have gone from your life. It’s difficult. You have my sympathy.
    As a former rider and trainer I can appreciate your story. It’s a great illustration of how FEAR can control our lives when we don’t control our fears. Thanks for sharing it!

  19. Arturo Marroquin on November 6, 2010 at 3:34 am

    hey Maritza,

    It’s been a long time! Good to see you’re doing okay, but sorry about your favorite horse 🙁 What a bummer. seriously.

    Have you talked to Rebecca Guerra lately? I saw her awhile back but we didn’t get to talk much.

    Looks like you’ve been busy getting famous! I’ve been working in writing, production and editing and have a children’s book on Amazon. I’ve also been thinking about a documentary on horses and was wondering if you’d be interested in narrating something like this?

    Anyway, I’m in San Antonio and have been working on some horse drawings/paintings as well! I thought it might be a good idea to drwa/paint live, moving horses. Do you still keep your horses here in SA or . . .

    you seem pretty busy, so let me know what your schedule looks like . . .

    -Arturo

  20. Robyn Howard on November 13, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Hi Maritza,

    Sorry to hear about your horse. Thanks for sharing your trials and subsequent triumph with Espartaco.

    Just moments before reading your post I just stopped recording a video with me in it for my website. I told myself that the video sucked and that I could just get around doing videos by doing what I was good at “tweeting” and getting the same effect.

    Reading your post has made me realize that I have to get comfortable doing the uncomfortable things and not just pushing them under the rug. There have been many things I have been uncomfortable with before that I had to suddenly become comfortable with (in jobs). So now I realize I have to take myself to the next level by doing some things that might be uncomfortable for me at first.

    Thanks again for the post.

  21. Anke Johnson on April 19, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful story(ies) about your horses. I lost my soul mate horse/teacher in September of 2010 and I fully understand what you have learned from your Espartaco! To find the strength where you thought there was none, sometimes needs to be noodled out by those teachers who know that it’s there, and who believe in us…whether those teachers have fur or not!
    Cheers, Anke:)

  22. forums se7li on February 28, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    I’m still learning from you, as I’m making my way to the top as well. I absolutely love reading everything that is posted on your site.Keep the stories coming. I liked it!

  23. […] over my fears and doing what scares me is something I’ve gotten really good at, from riding stallions who could hurt me, to taking my bath & beauty products to the Dallas Market Center, to breeding and selling my […]

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