Imagine you are a little bunny rabbit. Yes, I know this is a weird way to start a post, but work with me, okay?
So you are a bunny rabbit. Let's pretend (while we are pretending) that the biggest, scariest, hungriest animal you can think of is a lion.
Are you with me so far?
Now let's pretend that we are out in a meadow with our other rabbit friends and suddenly a ferocious-looking lion appears.
Yikes! Worst day ever! you say.
To your dismay, all of your friends disappear and the ferocious lion corners you.
What do you do?
You panick, try to escape, kick for all you are worth, and throw your whole heart into trying to survive. This is life and death now. This is serious.
The lion begins making scary-sounding lion noises. Of course, you don't speak lion (you only speak rabbit and a few phrases in hare). So you don't know what the lion is saying.
You don't know that the lion is really saying, "Aww, look! It is a cute little rabbit! I always wanted a pet rabbit of my very own!"
You just assume the lion is talking about how hungry he is.
And try as you might, there is no way out.
Now lets fast-forward to several months later.
You are still alive.
By now, you are hoping that this means that the lion is not going to eat you. You have settled into your new routine. The lion seems to like you. All in all, the situation is not a bad one. As long as the lion doesn't get angry and eat you, then you should be safe with him, right? After all, who would hurt you when you are in the shadow of the biggest and baddest lion ever?
So, one day, you and the lion are out in the meadow together.
And suddenly, for no reason that you can see, the lion is scared.
Why is the LION scared?
What is so big and bad that it would scare a lion?
Whatever it is, it must be worse that your worst nightmare. You have got to find a way out, and you have to find it NOW. This is time for the panic of all panics!!!!
Even if you (my readers) are not dripping with sweat and shaking with fear, I hope that you can at least sympathize why the little bunny rabbit might be. This is pretty scary when the top of the food chain is scared.
Who is generally assumed to be at the top of the food chain?
Granted, there are plenty of animals that could easily kill us, but as a general rule humans are at the top of the food chain.
How do we look to a prey animal? To a rabbit? Or to a horse?
We look scary.
A horse that has not been taught that humans are friends automatically sees us as predators...top-of-the-food-chain predators.
When a horse learns to trust a human, that horse can finally relax more than they have ever relaxed before. It is like walking down a dark street with full confidence because you have got a really big, tough guy by your side. You don't have to worry about predators because you have got top-of-the-line protection.
Now let's assume that a human comes to ride a horse. And this human, for whatever reason, is scared of the horse. Maybe he is scared of horses in general. Maybe he is nervous about riding. Maybe he was riding fine but then the horse shied at something and the human is scared that the horse might bolt.
The horse knows right away that something is scaring the human. Of course, the Scary Something couldn't possibly be the horse itself. I mean, who is scared of a rabbit with hooves? No, the human is scared and that means that something very, Very, VERY scary is lurking around. If the human is scared, the horse should be TERRIFIED!!!
So now we have a panicked horse and a panicked rider, and the whole scenario goes downhill pretty fast.
Rewind. Let's try again. You are approaching the horse. Take a deep breath and remember that YOU are the biggest, toughest guy on the planet. Your horse needs to know that you would do everything to protect him. Decide right now that if a panther leaps out at you on your ride, you are going to run it off. You will not let anything hurt your horse. It's okay -- you got this.
Step Two, you are mounting your horse. Regardless of how you feel about being high off the ground and all that, remember that your horse doesn't think of that. Start out your riding career on easy things and move forward based on the skill and confidence that you have. Again -- you got this.
Step Three, your horse shies at a potentially scary object. Don't panic. Your horse is not trying to kill you - he is just letting you know that something looks suspicious to him. Look for and face whatever is scaring your horse. Let your horse know by your confidence that it is nothing too hard for you to handle. A rustling bush...a passing housecat...a plastic bag...you can protect your horse from any harm from these things. For the last time -- you got this!
Just remember, in your horse's mind, you are the big one.
[Note: This is my own retelling of a story told to me by a respected horsewoman.]