10 Leadership Secrets Whispered by Horses

10 Leadership Secrets Whispered by Horses

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Whispered By Horses – Fear of Riding


Call in Show Tuesday, August 4, 8PM Eastern, 7 PM Centra, 6 PM Mountain, 5 PM Pacific. Click on link above for details.

What would you think if I sang out of tune,
Would you stand up and walk out on me.
Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song,
And I’ll try not to sing out of key.
I get by with a little help from my friends


Last November, I was bucked off my horse, Elvis. I landed on my hand and the force of the blow smashed my radius bone above the wrist. As far as things that could break when coming off a horse, a wrist is a small thing. I didn’t break my head, neck or back, and all my injuries are healed.

I had two surgeries in four months, and it was a total of six months in which I was forbidden to ride by my surgeon. But, once I could ride, I didn’t. I had lots of things to fix around the ranchito: tractoring to do, fences to fix, weeds to hack. I have a business to run, and I have gone back to my computer nerd job part time. I just don’t have time to ride.

But, that wasn’t the whole truth. I had time to do ground work with the horses and do some training that way. I just didn’t want to ride. It’s too hot. The mosquitoes and flies would bug the horses. I had excuse after excuse.

I really had to admit something I didn’t want to: 

I was afraid to ride my horse.

I’ve always thought of myself as a fairly fearless rider. I was careful about when and where I rode, and I am not reckless. But I was seldom afraid. Not so now. That injury took a lot out of me.

If even the Beatles would worry about singing out of tune, I guess it’s not unusual for a horseman to be afraid sometimes. My question was, should I share this fear with my friends? I pass myself off as a horseman who teaches life lessons through horsemanship. What would it look like to admit fear of riding? 

Working through my own fear is a life lesson I have to learn myself. Why not share that process in real time? While I am working through my issues and learning lessons, I’ll open up and let the world see me. My son, Dean, who is a TV anchorman, visited us a couple of weeks ago. We had discussed us doing some filming for my web site. I asked him to video me getting on a horse for the first time. We are now editing that video and it will be out soon.

My plan was to get on Hoss, my regular, dependable mount. I figured that would be easy. Then, I would work up to getting on Elvis, which would be scary, since he’s the one that bucked me off. It turns out, it was plenty scary getting on Hoss.

Because I was afraid, and wrapped up in my own fear, I could not see what was going on with Hoss. He was agitated, but I thought I it was because I was wound up. What my fear would not let me see was that Hoss’s bridle was mal-adjusted and it was bugging him. When I finally fixed the bridle, Hoss calmed down and I calmed down.

And I got on. And it was great.

The video showed me all the mistakes I made. How’s that for a lesson learned in real time: When you are afraid, you can’t see what is really happening around you. Fear clouds your judgment. Information that you need can be blocked by your own brain.

This is just one lesson I learned that I want to share with you.

The video won’t be out for a couple of weeks, but you can listen to my 15 minute on-line radio show any time at http://WhisperedByHorses.com.

Tonight, Tuesday, August 4 and 8:00 PM Eastern Time, I will have a live call-in show about my fears and how I am working through them. Please call in and talk to me. Details are at the Whispered By Horses link above.


3 comments to Whispered By Horses – Fear of Riding

  • Hi Jay,
    Have you figured out what caused Elvis to buck you off? I think it helps to work through the cause and effect if you can — what caused the wreck and what can I do differently next time to avoid a repeat performance.
    Happy trails,

  • Jay Koch


    That’s a story in itself.

    It was on a gorgeous mid-November Saturday afternoon. My head was filled with a zillion things I need to do. Work on my business. Edit the web site. Mow the pasture weeds. Run a harrow over the arena. Fix a couple spots in a fence. I had been neglecting the horses and I felt I needed to work with them more. I had a hornet’s nest of things I felt like all had to be done RIGHT NOW!

    I was on my tractor, and said, “It’s too beautiful an afternoon to be on a tractor. I need to ride a horse.”

    I grabbed a halter and sought out Hoss and led him into the arena. Elvis followed us into the arena, and I locked the gate behind. I took the halter off Hoss while I went to go get the tack.

    When I returned, Hoss was resistant to me catching him again. In hindsight, I bet he could see that I was wound kind of tight, and not really paying attention the horses at hand. Rather than slowing down and taking time to calm myself and calm Hoss, I turned to Elvis. Fine. I’ll ride Elvis.

    Hoss is my seasoned mount, and I should have stayed with him. Elvis is six and is 3/4 Percheron. He’s about 16.2hh and well over 1500 lbs, maybe approaching 1800. He is gentle as the day is long, which allowed me to assume I would be OK and not really pay attention to him. Elvis is actually pretty green and we have only ridden him a half dozen times before. But he was always really calm, so I wasn’t concerned. We joke that Elvis is the kind of horse that you can put a half dozen kids on and lead them around.

    I was hurried in my pre-flight check out. I put on the saddle and the cinch loosely and moved Elvis around. He seemed fine. I got up on the mounting block and noticed that the saddle wiggled too much. I cinched it up a couple more notches. Again, in hindsight, I remember that Elvis objected a little to that extra tightness. But, in my hurry, I ignored it.

    People tell of being accidents when time slows down. Didn’t for me. Two steps at a walk, two at a trot and BOOM! I was bucked off. It happened that fast.

    As I sat there on the ground with my hand scootched over about a half inch from where it should be on my arm, I was thinking, “This is the universe’s way of telling me to slow down and focus.” I thought of all the things that I though needed to be done that I would not be doing for a while because I knew I could not.

    Our tenant, Mary Beth, saw it happen. She asked, “Are you all right?”


    “Anything broken?”

    I looked at my wrist. “Yes.”

    I asked Mary Beth to go get my wife, as I headed toward the car. Mary Beth took the tack off Elvis and she said he seemed really upset. He know that something was wrong, but he wasn’t sure what.

    I can tell you that before I get on Elvis again, I am going to make sure that all of the tack is PERFECT before I swing a leg over. That may be a while from now. We will do lots of groundwork first, as well.

    If you are interested in seeing some rather gruesome pics, including the X-rays of my smashed radius, go to http://picasaweb.google.com/BastaRanch/WristInjury#.

  • Jay,

    I SO appreciate your sharing this journey. I too am working through much the same fear after also being bucked off last fall, almost a year ago now.

    Paul is right if you can figure out what the source is that’s always a good thing. It’s easy to assume you just won’t do that again once you know. LOL Easier said than done sometimes. fwiw I was also just bucked off a couple months ago, and yes for the same ‘reason’. *sigh* Yeah you would think I would know better, eh? Well as you point out Jay, combination of mental process with things being rushed and fear thrown in a bit and judgement goes completely away.

    Last fall when I came off I was hurt pretty badly though nothing broken. Still I wasn’t able to sit on a horse for over 6 weeks, and when I did get on I was encased in horrendous fear. Paralyzing fear, literally. Plus due to my back issues from the fall I had zero balance and zero seat. My journey too has been one of remembering to slow down and more importantly to listen to my horse!

    Anyway, this last bucking event happened for exactly the same reason as the first but when she started bucking I rode three while I decided to just bail and not try to stick it out, using the fourth buck to do a very ungraceful and undignified dismount. I was more afraid that I would be back where I had been before with my fear than of anything else. I didn’t want to have to start all over again. Turns out that I wasn’t as bad as I thought I might be, but I do still have fear issues I am working through. It is a very long journey, one of trust more than much else.

    And the reason she bucked? Saddle placement and the way I sat down on her to slow her up, yup both times, just different saddles though. It helps alot to slow down, pay attention and listen to the horse. They tell you more than we choose to hear – always.

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