Endurance Riding

Apr 14 2015

I have a story to tell.

Published by under Endurance Riding

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I have a story to tell. But, even as I write, I am terrified to tell it. I have shared bits and pieces of my past on this blog, but mostly from the perspective that I have “overcome” a painful past and been “healed.” What I haven’t shared is that my personal struggle isn’t over yet, and it may never be.

I have been struggling with anxiety since November. It’s been a struggle of mine before, but something that I have learned to manage pretty well over the last few years. I know what the trigger was back in November, and it was multiplied by the stressors of a sick horse, working night shift as a nurse and managing an exploding business, being a wife, mother, daughter, mentor, friend, and then, as silly as this sounds, coming down from the high last competition season left me with.

Lack of sleep, slacking on my workouts, and eating poorly didn’t help either, and ten days before Whiskeytown, I experienced a panic attack. I was driving, and as I was, I realized it was the first time I had really sat down in a long while. It occurred to me how exhausted I was, and I feared falling asleep at the wheel. The fear of not being able to control my physical body suddenly got me thinking… What if I just lost my mind too? Right here, right now? My entire body was overcome with this tingling sensation and flooded with dread. Nobody around me knew what was going on, but my mind was racing, and I was left feeling weak when the panic finally subsided.

For days following, I beat myself up. For not being stronger. For not taking care of myself. For allowing myself to go back to that place I had left behind years ago…

I also felt guilt. Here I was, with a seemingly perfect life — a great marriage, a dream job, healthy kids, six wonderful horses, multiple personal successes — and I couldn’t handle it.

I love endurance. It’s my passion. And I couldn’t even get excited about Whiskeytown. So I beat myself up for that too.

When DJ arrived on Friday morning, ready to load up Dippi and Zaza and head to Whiskeytown, I was an emotional mess. She told me it was okay if I didn’t want to go, but I told her I had to go. I just had to go, even if I cried through the entire day, the entire ride, and the entire drive back home.

Friday was a struggle for me. I had moments where I felt okay, and then I had moments where I had trouble holding back the tears. I didn’t feel like myself. I was carrying around this fog that, for some reason, just wouldn’t let me go. My mind kept replaying that moment in the car — my moment of weakness, which I just wouldn’t let go.

On Friday night, after the ride meeting, despite my fierce desire to beat everything without pharmaceuticals, I gave up and took a ¼ tab of Xanax. Throughout the night, I’d wake up and take another ¼ tab, until the entire pill was gone.

Saturday morning was completely methodical. As a seasoned endurance rider, it was easy to go through the steps of tacking up, mounting up, and riding on.

The first several miles were quiet. DJ checked in with me, and I admitted that I was “alright, but I just didn’t feel like myself.”

I don’t know what happened, but right before the vet check, I suddenly began feeling a little more like myself. Dippi had gotten herself into the groove of this great little pace, and up, down, up, down, I just posted on down the trail. My little green broke Arab, the one who had two non-completions last year in the only two LDs I took her to, was taking care of me. I had taken care of her last year after a tendon injury, and here she was, taking care of me.

And every now and then, DJ and I would look around at our beautiful surroundings, breath in the fresh air, and yell out, “Present!” when we felt completely in the moment, right there, right then.

After Dippi passed the vet check and DJ and I settled in to our hour hold, taking care of the horses and ourselves, I suddenly realized whatever fog had been following me around was gone.

We headed back out, and as we were trotting down the trail on our last 12 miles of the day, I looked back at DJ and said, “I could go 50 miles today.”

I was back in the game.

The tears came again when we received our completions for the ride. But this time, they were happy tears. Tears of relief. Tears of triumph. And not for completing a 25 miler necessarily, but for not giving up. For pushing through and overcoming. And for allowing myself to be human.

I am slowly learning every day that I can’t always be this superhero I would like to be. I am simply human. And that is okay.


Just a couple nights before Whiskeytown, I had written this down. I never published it on my blog, but it seems appropriate now to share a bit of what I wrote:

My greatest struggle has always been being present. Years ago, beginning in my late teens through my mid-twenties, I was tortured by my past. I could never shut my mind off. It was always running wild with thoughts — the “could haves,” “should haves,” the “what ifs.” I blamed myself for so many things — many things I actually had no control over, and at the end of the day, I had no idea who I was, what I was doing, or where I was headed. I was stifled, and lost. And I managed my anxiety in some destructive ways, which only increased my level of anxiety to a state of panic.

And then came Asali. I can’t tell you exactly what happened when I returned to horses. But, I can tell you that, being on an animal close to 1,000 pounds, who could possibly kill me in a moment, if I fell off or was thrown or kicked or many other things, made me be present. Suddenly, I had to be calm, I had to be quiet, and I had to pay attention. The more I rode Asali, the more she became a mirror image of me. She constantly gave me away, and I’d be forced to step back and ask myself where I was right in that moment — because I certainly wasn’t right there, with her.

Today, my struggle isn’t with the past, but with the future. I’ve always had this deep philosophical mind that questions everything, and this keen awareness of my mortality which keeps me striving for perfection — or at least “better-ness.” While it’s important to have goals and plans for the future, we must also learn to live in the present. Be here, be now. Seems simple, right? So, why is it so difficult?

There are some out there who think my love of horses, and my relationship with them, is more than a passion, but an obscene obsession. Maybe that’s true. But on the back of my horse, with the wind in my hair, the sky caressing my cheeks, the chill taking my breath away, I am nowhere but right there at that moment. Suddenly, the world around me has faded away, and I am a part of the being that is giving me her wings, if only for a moment.

So, my struggle continues to capture that “present-ness” during my daily routines. To quiet my mind of the future and the fears and the unknown…

A quote by Amit Ray says, “If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, life in the breath.”

And so I ride.

Dippi and me

20 responses so far

20 Responses to “I have a story to tell.”

  1. Gary Gregoryon 14 Apr 2015 at 10:25 am

    Thank you for having the courage to share this. I am proud of you.

  2. Shelly Grandy Bettencourton 14 Apr 2015 at 12:05 pm

    This piece of writing is beautifully brave. I enjoyed it tremendously!

  3. DJon 14 Apr 2015 at 5:26 pm

    This blog post is exceptional Jaya. You truly are a testament to what the sport exemplifies : the strength to endure any obstacle at any distance. By pushing through your anxiety you allowed yourself to be free in your own element that opened both your heart and your mind. Dippi grounded you just as Asali opened you up. I look forward to watching Dippi’s development and your continued successes this season!

  4. sherion 14 Apr 2015 at 6:21 pm

    Love ALL of YOU! Amazing writing from your heart (that I absolutely cherish) You my friend are present, vulnerable, beautiful and speaking truth! Thank you ~ S.

  5. Jennifer Niehauson 15 Apr 2015 at 9:00 am

    The anxiety and panic you have and had I also share. My mind can try and get away on me from time to time, especially when I’m overtired. Horses are a special gift God gave us. Sensitive animals and people who really feel things deeply are a perfect together. <3

  6. Jennifer Stalleyon 15 Apr 2015 at 4:23 pm

    Great story! You are such an inspiration! 🙂

  7. Alyssa Stalleyon 15 Apr 2015 at 4:45 pm

    I can’t count the times just going riding has solved all my problems and cleared my mind. 🙂 glad to hear I’m not the only one!

  8. Aurora Lily Grohmanon 15 Apr 2015 at 5:05 pm

    Hey girl, we are all flawed mortals here! I find that letting myself have a temporary shitfit not only get it’s out (stress, anger, fear, whatever) but I quickly tire of existing in my own dwelling. And then I’m over it and the type of human being I want to be again! You are correct that you’re blessed with an awesome life, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to be exhausted, stressed, and scared sometimes. Aren’t we so damn lucky that we have these horses to bring us back to ourselves!

  9. Shelby Andersonon 15 Apr 2015 at 5:12 pm

    Beautiful story Jaya, I too feel the same when I’m on a horse

  10. Nicole Chappellon 15 Apr 2015 at 5:39 pm

    This is beautifully written and so boldly honest. I assure you that many others, although not as brave to talk about it, have similar struggles and share your passion of horses and the healing abilities they have for us.

  11. Kristenon 15 Apr 2015 at 5:42 pm

    Thanks for posting! You are amazing and such an inspiration. <3

  12. Kadra Gillilandon 15 Apr 2015 at 5:56 pm

    You somehow write out true raw emotions. I’m not living your life but I can completely relate- even to the panic attacks. Best blog yet. Our horses teach us so much…. About ourselves.

  13. David Marxon 15 Apr 2015 at 6:50 pm

    I feel so many of those same things, my past and demons are different but I have those feelings and thoughts………..
    Thank you for writing your story, that I relate to in a true way.

  14. Funderon 15 Apr 2015 at 11:43 pm

    Wow. Thanks for sharing – my husband’s been *really* struggling with panic attacks since the baby was born. He’s doing all the right things (meditation, meds, therapy, etc) but it’s so hard for him to practice mindfulness. Reading your post made me feel a lot less alone. Thank you.

  15. Dianaon 16 Apr 2015 at 2:02 am

    I think you hit the nail on the head for me JayaMae. I have not ridden since Thanksgiving weekend. I think it is doing nothing for me to stay off a horse. You are not alone and I think we all are probably very good at beating ourselves up for various reasons ~ for the past AND for the future. Being present is a technique that needs to be learned, in my opinion, but being on the back of a horse is an excellent teacher. Thank you for sharing and I love you! Oxoxoxox Diana

  16. Linda Straub Boisaon 16 Apr 2015 at 7:50 am

    Ahhhh Grasshopper…… You learn so quickly. You have that deep sense of self where you can see your issues, confront them and then tackle them! I love watching you grow, even though I hate to see the struggle. You are an amazing person and grow more so as you age. I enjoy watching you and I’m so glad you can share your life in such well written words with others! Keep on growing!

  17. Bobbi Walkeron 16 Apr 2015 at 3:51 pm

    You rock! I You are awesome in your successes and failures! Thank you for sharing such a personal story.

  18. lisaon 17 Apr 2015 at 3:27 am

    Wow! I’ve told you before what an amazing person you are. I feel very fortunate to know you and know that you are not perfect, but perfect in the way that you are willing to share.. “scary” stuff…and..its gonna help people to read.. every aspect is gonna relate to someone! Thank you my friend. 🙂

  19. Jennifer Lee Ferrinion 19 Apr 2015 at 7:05 pm

    been there. lOve you..I am grateful for your writing and your friendship…thank you

  20. Alexison 20 Apr 2015 at 4:31 pm

    I cannot possibly tell you how grateful I am for you sharing this life story. It may have saved my life today, literally…

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