Back in the day, I was an equestrian. Near the end of my horseback riding career, I experimented briefly with eventing. If I had the time, I’d love to explore riding cross country more, but for now, the memories will have to suffice.
Written circa 2007, this was my go-to “describe an obstacle you’ve overcome” or fear-conquering story.
Eventing. What a nondescript word. Maybe it hints of competition; but what kind of competition? A sport? What sport? Let me solve the mystery for you: eventing is a type of horseback riding that includes three different events: stadium, dressage, and cross country. I recently began eventing at a new barn and learned the different types of riding in eventing. Stadium consists of jumps set up in an arena; I have done stadium for about three years. Dressage is complex flatwork (no jumping), so I know the basics for dressage. However, I had never done cross country, which incorporates riding over many natural jumps like logs and banks. Cross country is by far the most thrilling—and frightening—event.
The first time I rode cross country I went up to Santa Rosa with the other barn members, where there was a large cross country course. We started out over small logs. Even those scared me to death! I worried that my horse would refuse every time, but it went fine. He jumped over the logs as if they were nothing. Just when I began to be confident with the logs, the trainer told us to do “the stairs.” What were the stairs? I had no idea. I asked her, and my heart sank when she pointed out another, significantly bigger, jump. I steeled myself to do it, and rode towards it. Well, at least in the general vicinity. I ended up having to circle around five times before jumping it because my approach was so crooked. I finally got straight to it, and galloped over it at top speed. I heard the trainer’s faint “No!” as I went over it much too fast. Luckily, my horse went over it without stopping, but still, the near-death experience (at least that is what I thought it was) had shaken me badly. I was told to go over it again, but this time much more slowly. I rode nervously forward, sure that this time I would not be so lucky. We rode toward the stairs, and as we drew near I felt a small shiver of fear that my horse would refuse to jump and send me tumbling over his head…but we rode calmly and comfortably to the jump and jumped it easily. I was so proud; I had done it perfectly! But my comfort did not last long.
When I returned from the stairs, the trainer told us we were going to jump a bank; in other words, jump up about two and a half feet up onto a hill, gallop a stride, jump a large log, and gallop down the hill. I was terrified. The nervousness I had felt before was nothing to the gripping fear that enveloped me now. There was no possible way for me to be able to jump something like that. Not now and not ever.
When my turn came, I told my trainer I could not do it, but she insisted it would be fine. Fine? How could I be fine jumping up a monster like that? My horse had refused small jumps in stadium. How would he react to this? How would I react to it? Certainly not well! I told her again that it was impossible, that I was too scared to do it, but still she said I had to do it and that it would be fine. I was left with no option but to face my fear and jump the bank.
I rode toward it, numb with terror, and as I came close I grabbed my horse’s mane and braced myself…time seemed frozen for a moment…and then we leapt up onto the bank, soared over the log, and galloped victoriously down the hill. The bank was vanquished.