This guest post was provided by Jade Salpietro from the Confident Rider blog. If you’d like to be featured in our Guest Blog Spotlights, please email caroline@heelsdownmag.com.

She was a nervous rider.

She rode with her handbrake on when she rode at all.

Anxiety exuded through her pores and dripped from clammy hands.

She was always poised for danger, perched for exit, primed for failure.

Her body braced and blocked and stiffened where it used to flow and bend and give.

Tears, reprimands and disappointment followed her around. So did the opinions of others.

On horseback, her fear was sparked from the rustling of leaves, the roar of the dirt bikes, the snap and crackle of a fallen branch. She was always waiting to rein in a gallop from the next explosion.

When she visited the saddlery store she felt like a fraud; wearing jodhpurs and boots seemed like a costume for a character she didn’t fit.

She spent her days saying sorry; for abandoning lessons with frustrated coaches, for cancelling trail rides with friends, for expending the family finances on a horse she rarely visited.

She allowed the story of her past to become the story of her future.

She was a nervous rider.

One day she sat with her fear until she heard exactly what it had to say. While she listened, the knots inside started to uncoil, just a little, just enough so she could breathe.

She allowed clarity to fill out her chest, while stillness softened her shoulders. In this moment, her kindness gave her courage and her courage gave her permission to fall.

She had to fall many, many times before she flew.

When she fell, she worried that she didn’t have the skills to ride through resistance. So, she mastered them.

She fell when she stressed that she wasn’t the kind of leader her horse needed her to be. So, she became one.

She fell when acquaintances whispered that she shouldn’t have a horse if she was afraid to ride. So she decided that the only opinions that mattered were the ones she sought out.

She fell when she couldn’t bring herself to ask for canter. So she trotted and she smiled and she trotted and she smiled and she trotted until one day cantering was the only thing she wanted to do. And she smiled even wider.

She fell the day she walked the cross country course and the jumps looked like insurmountable brick walls. So she remembered the time when just mounting seemed impossible.

And then she flew.

She was a nervous rider.