Trust is absolutely key to a horse and rider relationship. When it is lost or broken – whether by horse or by rider – it is very difficult to repair. However, I am learning that healing trust issues is possible.
Many of you know of the major struggles I have had with Chance; many bad experiences really damaged our relationship. There have been moments when Chance has really scared me. He pushed my limits as a rider and trainer. I lost my confidence and nerve, which then caused him to lose trust in me and confidence in himself as well. When we, as riders, are uncomfortable, our horses feel it and can become very unsure of themselves. I do take responsibility for our problems. I could have admitted to myself that I needed help with him. I could have gotten a more experienced rider to help him to feel confident at horse shows, and while doing more challenging exercises at the farm. I could have simply admitted what I was feeling and taken a step back. But my pride won. I wanted to train him myself. I knew what he was capable of and I wanted to be the one to get him there; and I wanted him to get there as soon as possible. I am happy to say, though, that we are on the right track now. We took a step back, and he has made tremendous progress. We both have. I am getting my nerve back, slowly but surely, and he is so much more confident under saddle. He is really figuring out his job, and excelling at it.
When it comes to healing trust issues with horses, I think the first step is to admit there is a problem. It is okay to say that you are afraid. Not everyone is fearless all the time. Being afraid does not mean you are not “tough.” Owning my fear was my first step in overcoming it (and I still have a long way to go). The next step I took was thinking long and hard on whether or not I should keep trying with my horse, or give up and move on to another horse. I chose to keep trying, but that is not the right decision for everyone. When there is no trust between horse and rider, dangerous situations can arise. Sometimes a horse is simply not right for a particular rider, and that is okay. I understood that I had a long, hard road in front of me to mend the broken trust between Chance and I; and I understood that it may not even be possible. Yet I was willing to try and, while I am glad that I did, I do know that it is not the right choice for everyone.
After choosing to keep trying with Chance came the hardest part of healing trust: time. There is no over-night fix. It can take months, or even years. It has been many months for us, and I know there many more ahead. We have made a lot of progress, but it was gradual and there is much more to be made. I am now planning to start taking him to horse shows, but just to school and hang out. It may be many more months before we can successfully compete at a show; or it could be just a few. It is always difficult to wait, but sometimes all that we can do is simply take things day by day.