As many of our regular readers will know Wanda and I were unfortunate enough to be involved in a car collision while we were hacking just before Christmas. Luckily neither of us suffered major injury but I had quite a lot of leg pain for some time after wards and Wanda was sore for quite a while. We were both very lucky not to have been really badly hurt. Since the accident I haven’t been keen to hack on the roads and Wanda is definitely nervous about vehicles approaching us from behind.
It’s a real shame as she has always been such a great and very calm hack, I was even hacking her at 34 weeks pregnant. Although we are based on a farm the majority of our hacking is on busy and quite narrow roads. To get off road we have to hack at least 4k to the next village. So the winter has been a tricky time for us as we have struggled with high winds, rain and vehicles!
As the eventing season approached I set about planning Wanda’s fitness regime and wanted to factor in more long hacks to strengthen and condition. Although I can hack out with Coco our groom (riding my Niece’s horse) this wasn’t always convenient and I realised I was making excuses about not hacking. ‘It’s too cold / wet / windy / I’m too busy / I need to do more schooling’ were the usual excuses I made to veil the deep thoughts of ‘I don’t want to go on the road in case we have an accident and we get hurt again’ and ‘hacking isn’t fun anymore as I makes me feel dizzy, scared and sick’. I think this echoes a lot of rider’s views about road riding today… I hear it many times on social networking sites.
Things got to a point where I really felt I needed to try to do something positive to claw back the enjoyment I had from riding Wanda out and possibly begin to get her more settled about being on the road. I wouldn’t class myself as a ‘happy hacker’ sort of rider. I spend a lot of time training but I do enjoy riding with no pressure and just enjoying my horse, this was the one thing I was missing from hacking. I just wasn’t sure how to approach my problem which was even more exasperated when we had a lorry accident on the way to BD regionals in February. At this point I knew things had to change.
Sometimes I think people are destined to meet, through one way or another and some of my closest friends I’ve met by a chance encounter. Via a friend, Liz, whom I know via Facebook, I met Ferris Jay who works with a wide range of therapies and thought she might be able to help me out. Amongst other things Ferris works with Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). This is a simple and effective tool for clearing negative emotions, limiting beliefs, fears, phobias and trauma. While it may sound too good to be true, I decided that it was worth having a go. I certainly couldn’t continue with the way things were.
A few weeks ago I had a Skype video chat with Ferris and outlined my situation and my worries about road riding. She asked me how I felt when I rode on the road. I could describe the feelings quite well… claustrophobic, shaky, lack of breath, panicked and like all the surfaces around me were hard and unforgiving. No wonder Wanda felt nervous, I was incapable of riding with any form of confidence at all and at worst case froze every time a vehicle went past.
So, how does it EFT work? Following our conversation Ferris had a clear idea of the anxieties I had and we went though a really simple sequence of verbalising a statement about how I felt, then tapping on particular acupressure points whilst focusing on the issue at hand. This may seem a little too simple yea? Well I have to say it was quite a release to verbalise and say out loud the things that had been bothering me for so long; to the point I was having nightmares about them.
The session in total lasted just over an hour and although it may seem strange doing this while on Skype, it was a really good way to communicate with Ferris who is now based in Ireland… funnily enough she has lived just down the road from me for the past 5 years!
We left the conversation on a positive note and I was all set to give hacking a try again. Unfortunately my planned hack for the next day didn’t go totally to plan as I ended up with a sick child to look after, but I did get out a few days later. I didn’t ride on my own but I wanted to test myself in company then gradually remove the safety net of having another horse between me and other vehicles. However, I came home from our ride with a new found understanding about how I needed to address my emotions and stress reactions in order to support and guide Wanda. I felt more responsible in ensuring that I was going to be the confident one that would tell her that it was ok to be around cars. This sounds quite softly softly for me as most of the time I’m a very black and white thinker and tend just to get on with things. I think it is just testament to how much accidents like these can damage both your horses and your own confidence.
The knock on effect has been interesting. I think I am riding with more confidence, when I get a few nerves I think I’m able to tune into these and try to focus on banishing them. Like a conversation with nerves, something like ‘ok so I hear what you are saying but I don’t think it’s helpful so can we move on please’. I’m by no means nerve free but I have a strategy to ditch the negativity now.
I wouldn’t say that I am 100% over our accident. I’m still not keen on other road users coming near us but I think I’ve accepted that it’s more dangerous to revert to pure panic than it is to try and ride objectively and deal with the matter in hand. I definitely have the feeling that I am there to guide and support my horse which is reassuring in its own way. I really appreciate the insight that Ferris has given me into new ways of dealing with negative feelings and stressful situations and I will be continuing to have sessions with her until the last bits of nerves are banished. As I’ve said I think the shock of the accident will stay with me for some time to come but at least I feel now I am making tracks towards healing the stress and enjoying my horse.
More information about Ferris Jay can be found at www.ferrisjay.com
A really useful BHS site with road riding information and a section for reporting horse related road accidents and http://www.horseaccidents.org.uk
A company selling Hatcams to use out hacking and some Highvis kit http://www.thehacksafecompany.co.uk
Equisafety… suppliers of a wide range of high vis kit http://www.highvisibility.uk.com/equisafety