By Margie Sugarman
Margie Sugarman is a leading board-certified psychotherapist and sports consultant based in New York. Margie’s desire is to enhance performance through the connection between the mind and body, and her current client list includes Olympic, professional and amateur athletes across the country. Her experience employing various therapeutic modalities has helped equestrians win classics, junior medals and grand prix. Do you have a question you want Margie to answer? Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My best friend recently fell off her horse while jumping a practice course and was badly injured. Her parents have asked me if I’d be willing to ride her horse at the next few shows to get the points. Since I didn’t see what happened, I’m hesitant to ride the horse. How can I make the best decision for everyone?
The longer we ride, the more we learn about misadventures that can and sometimes do happen. I hope your friend recovers quickly.
It’s wonderful, and shows a great deal of confidence in your riding, that your best friend’s parents asked you to catch-ride her horse and compete at the next few shows, but I see where you are hesitating.
It’s a big decision to make, and one where knowledge is power. In order to comfortably make this decision, it sounds like you need to learn exactly what happened when your friend fell. Keep an open mind, and remember that although riding accidents happen, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the horse is dangerous or unsafe. Perhaps your friend saw a very long distance, as most of us have done in our riding careers. Perhaps your friend was pulling on her horse’s mouth and caused him to “chocolate chip” over the fence, which resulted in her losing her balance. Perhaps the horse tripped, which they do, and she wasn’t sitting up and toppled off.
Also, you need to understand the environmental circumstances that might have surrounded the accident. Was it windy outside? Was your friend riding and jumping on her own with no supervision?
Knowing what happened can impact the confidence you have in approaching this potential new challenge. If you accept her parents’ offer, and ride with uncertainty and self-protectiveness, your ability to show off her horse will undoubtedly be compromised.
But before you make a decision, you should speak with your injured best friend. How does she feel about the possibility of someone else riding her horse, trying to qualify him? Make sure that this is not only something her parents want, but also something she desires. Sometimes, when one is sidelined, emotions can surface that color perspectives. Friendships can become stressed if things aren’t openly discussed and understood by all of the involved parties.
Find out who would be paying for the showing and who would be paying for any lessons taken to get you and the horse “show ready.”
Working on the assumption that your best friend is encouraging you to ride her horse and you take her parents’ offer, it’s important to keep and maintain your typical riding confidence and not be hesitant because your friend was recently hurt.
To help increase your confidence, it’s best to learn as much about the horse as possible. Does your friend work with a trainer? If so, you should consider speaking with that individual, asking about the horse, finding out what issues might exist. Consider getting professional guidance and taking some lessons. Your friend’s trainer is the best one to help you in this endeavor to make your transition into being a “catch” rider smooth.
A healthy respect for caution is not a bad thing.
One’s cumulative knowledge and experiences with riding activates an “inner voice” that heeds listening to. If you think that cantering around a course on this horse is something that could put you in jeopardy… don’t do it! Being cautious and confident is an important part of the equation that yields a successful outcome in the ring. For this computation, you don’t need a calculator… you need good communication.
Humans have been partnering with horses for almost 6,000 years. The element of danger in the human/horse relationship does provide many benefits, including therapeutic benefits such as emotional regulation, self-mastery, learning how to take calculated risks and overcoming fear.
Perhaps this is why we continue to saddle up and ride… despite the challenges.