If you remember this post, I explained that fear, (unlike other 4 letter word that starts with F) can, and should, be discussed in polite company. Fear developed to keep humans alive during a time when that was even more challenging than it is in 2020.
Fear isn’t the only F-word to get comfortable with – there are 4 others which can have as big an impact on your life in the barn & beyond. Here’s a breakdown of The 5 Fs
Fear. We discussed that one pretty thoroughly in the post linked above, so I won’t go into more detail on it here – please take a look at that post and grab a copy of The 10-Minute Toolkit if you’d like to understand fear and fear management a bit better. The Toolkit has a handful of powerful, portable exercises you can do in 10 minutes or less (some a lot less) when you feel fear (and its sidekick anxiety) start creeping into your life.
Next up on the list is Frustration. Frustration often follows on fear’s heels, but it’s not impossible for it to make a solo appearance. As fear’s sidekick, frustration makes you question whether you should be feeling fear at all. It will show up in thoughts like, “I was never afraid to canter when I was 10 – what on earth is wrong with me???”
As a solo act, frustration can make you irritated with your horse, yourself, and often both. Frustration is often found in questions that start with “Why?” “Why is he spooking at that rock? He goes past it every day?” or “Why am I finding it so hard to feel the correct lead when I’m cantering?”. Or in a 2-for-1 special, frustration can attack you and your horse with “What if” scenarios, “What if this horse isn’t right for me? What if I ruin him? What if…” the list is endless. Frustration, like fear, can cause us to doubt ourselves and rob us of the joy we feel when we’re with our horses.
F-word #3 is Fatigue. Is it just me or does everything seem like more work as we get older? Spending time with horses often involves physical activity, which is great to keep us healthy, but we may find we don’t have quite as much stamina as we used to, especially if the gap between now and riding when you were younger was more than a few years.
Like frustration, fatigue has a few favorite MOs. It can appear with fear, frustration, or both, but it’s often flying solo. Fatigue can be physical, “How many stalls did I much when I was a kid?” “I used to ride for 5 hours at a time, and now I’m winded after 5 minutes!”, but it can also be mental – and this is the form that most often teams up with fear and frustration.
Re-booting a Horsey Life as an adult can be fraught with doubt, worry, fear, frustration, and a bunch of other not-very-fun emotions. And dealing with those emotions can be exhausting. There’s even a name for that phenomenon: Emotional Exhaustion. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Emotional exhaustion includes emotional, physical and performance symptoms.” The Mayo Clinic suggests moving, mindfulness, and sleep can lessen the symptoms. Sound familiar? It should, you read about the same thing here, here, and here!
We’re up to F-word #4 – Finances. Here’s a news flash – in case you hadn’t noticed, a Horsey Life can be expensive! With so many families’ finances turned upside down during 2020, it can be harder than ever to keep up with lessons, feed, and the blacksmith. And when finances become an issue, there’s often a healthy dose of guilt to go along with it.
It can be a Horsey Life version of many mothers’ favorite guilt inducers. “You need to eat your dinner! There are children starving in India!” becomes “So many people have lost their jobs and I’m still taking riding lessons“. Under careful scrutiny, neither one of those statements is accurate, but how often do you look at guilt with careful scrutiny? Yea, me neither.
I’m not suggesting you go out and completely update your horse’s wardrobe or buy a new truck and trailer if your family’s financial situation is precarious. What I am suggesting is that you take an honest look at your Horsey Life budget.
If you’re comfortable enough financially to continue to enjoy your horse with no changes, go for it. However, if you’re starting to feel a financial pinch, don’t have an emergency fund, or are worried that your job may not be there in another month, take a look at how and where you’re spending your money. Can you share the cost of a load of hay or a vaccine visit from your vet with other horsey friends? Can you work off part of your board? If you keep your horse at home, can you take in a boarder to help manage the costs (and chores) of keeping your horse? Can you part-lease your horse so a competent but currently-horseless person can ride him a few days a week? There are millions of ways to manage finances, so put on your thinking cap and see if you can find ways to make your horse habit more affordable.
And we arrive at the last F. This one can be the hardest because it’s one we’re tied to very closely, and over which we have very little control – Family. There are wonderful partners, parents, and kids in the world who support the horse person in their lives, and there are those who don’t.
The lack of support can be complaints about the money you’re spending, (see Finances above), the time you’re spending, fear of you getting hurt, or just plain not getting it (and not being afraid to tell you so at every possible opportunity).
Negotiating family dynamics can be a bit like negotiating the Fire Swamp in the Princess Bride.
You think you’ve avoided the quicksand of explaining to your Aunt Edna why you spend time in, “That dirty place”, dodged the fire of your daughter complaining that you’re never home, only to be undone by the R.O.U.S. (Rodents of Unusual Size) in the form of your sister spending a half-hour telling you all the reasons you’re being selfish and tempting death, or at least serious injury, and why do you put your family through that?
Yup, families can be a real joy. If you’re experiencing familial friction, I suggest you turn the expression, “If you can’t beat them, join them” on its head. Eh? Try if you can beat them, invite them to join you.
Perhaps Aunt Edna would be more impressed if she watched some upper-level dressage, which can be done from the comfort of her Lay-Z-Boy. No need to tell her you trail ride and wouldn’t be caught dead in a dressage ring (much less white breeches)
Give your daughter a swap option. You’ll spend one Saturday morning doing what she wants, and she’ll spend the next one doing what you want (i.e. spending time with your horse). Not guaranteed to work, but it’s worth a shot! As for your sister – she’d say the same thing if you decided to take a yoga class. There’s just no pleasing some people.
So, there are the 5 Fs most of us midlife horsewomen encounter from time to time. While you’re strategizing how to handle them if (or when) they pop up, don’t forget to factor in the good Fs – freedom, fresh air, fitness, and fun!
Until next week, love your horse, love your life, & love yourself.