She was a beautiful mare and I won a lot on her, but I didn’t enjoy showing her. The whole bit about winning didn’t sit well with me. I started to get anxious. I started to hold my breath while I was competing, and I started fainting. It was a real hassle.
My trainer was a man of few words and I marveled as he went over the course with each of his other riders, sometimes with excruciating detail, “Now, I want you to go near that oxer so your horse can have a good look at it, ease him into a canter when you get by it. Don’t forget to keep your leg on him as you ride down that first line in a steady five – don’t pick at his mouth, just let him do the work. He’s a smart horse, don’t interfere…..”
To me he would say, “Just breathe; you know how to do everything else.”
I felt cheated, equating words with esteem. My insecurities would tighten the muscles around my ribs. “Tell me how to ride a line!” I would beg in my head.
The gate to the ring would swing open and I would move my goddess mare into the ring. She would glide I would sit upright and so very uptight, mouth half-open, searching for breath.
Canter, jump, five strides, jump, canter around the far end of the ring where the voice of the professional rider at our barn would prompt me, “Breathe.”
Diagonal line of jumps, past my trainer, “Breathe.” He steadied me.
The course finished, still conscious, my chest heaved upwards for air as I left the gate.
“Not bad, not bad. See? You just have to make time to breathe.”
Decades later and I still need to be reminded: “Breathe.”