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.
It 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.