Sunday, 8 January 2012
When I first bought Hillary I had no idea what was about to happen. I was a mix of dread, having not ever experienced responsibility like it, and enjoyment, buying new things and setting up my stockpile of everything I needed for a new horse. I suppose some people want children, and would go through similar emotions, fears and hopes. Although one day I may have children, I feel that Hills is the accumulation of everything I wanted. I've no desire to rush into anything that may take this away from me.
At first, I loved riding, and rode as much as possible, just like I'd told myself I would do. But then, as work took up time and energy, I became more and more reluctant to ride. At first I told myself 'tomorrow'. It was always riding another day. After all, Hillary was mine now, I had all the time in the world.
It never occurred to me that I was losing my confidence. I felt so whimsical about the whole thing. One day I simply didn't fancy riding; the next I couldn't.
The symptoms were obvious; it would occur whenever I imagined riding, but particularly when I thought I was going to attempt to ride. I would feel incredibly sick, suffer shakes, and have (for want of a better expression) an upset stomach. Palpitations and a tight chest would also happen. For a total of three heart wrenching months, my feet stayed firmly on the ground. I could not even sit on my horse.
The mental torture was horrific. The best way to explain it would be for a person suffering arachnophobia having to hold a spider all the time. I know that I was short tempered with my family and loved ones for this period. Standing in front of Hillary, and considering getting on her back was like considering to jump off a cliff.
Luckily, my family tried to understand. I think looking back it was a combination of things; I had left a long-term relationship, moved house, changed job, and lost my grandfather. I think that the pressure of my new job, and the fact I was a 'teacher' meant that I felt more responsibility. I also continued to feel responsibility for Hills. All this meant that in my mind getting on that horse was insane.
At this point, I have to reiterate, I was suffering extreme anxiety. Eventually, I went to the doctors, broke down, and was referred to the mental health service. When I was finally seen, I was labelled (after a further breakdown) as being a 'severe 9' out of ten for anxiety. I was told that I needed cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) but as yet this has not been given.
I felt like a bad owner. I felt that I encompassed everything wrong with human kind. It sounds a total over reaction, but if you have experienced it, then you will know that it's not. To tell how bad it was, I put Hillary (everything I had ever wanted) up for sale. Realising I couldn't sell, I opted to have someone loan her long term. It got to the day before she was due to go, and again, my fantastic parents stepped in, and I didn't let her go.
By this time, my confidence was so low, I couldn't even handle her. It took a few lunging sessions off the farm owner (who is a wonderful person and very good friend) to get Hillary to behave in a way that wasn't going to make me think she was about to kill me, and eventually I began to be able to handle her again.
It was to be the start of a long journey.