Around the Water Trough

Pivot Point

Shannon Habenicht

In 2018, I suffered a pretty bad fall where I lost consciousness. I still don’t actually recall what happened that day. My head injury had been severe, landing me in the neuro ICU on a ventilator. After months to heal, I had been back in the saddle for months, focusing on my flatwork, and was making great headway with my horse. I played around with some small cross rails at home and things were feeling really good. I planned to enter my first event in late Spring and leave my head injury in the past. I scheduled my first jump lesson and looked forward to stepping back into competing.

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At the lesson, I felt my heart in my chest; I was scared of the jumps before me. All at once, I realized that the process of healing my mind and confidence would be a longer process than the physical healing of my brain and fractures. For years, I had been fearless, riding everything from wild mustangs to OTTB’s. Now I hit the panic button looking at the 2’ jumps before me on a horse I knew well.

I finished most of the jumps that day, but I couldn’t let go of the fear of falling. I attempted another jump lesson and stopped early, in tears. A pivot point. A time to reassess what brought me joy in riding, and a letting go of time frames and expectations. I didn’t want to feel old and unstructured, without goals and plans of my next event, to be without the adrenaline of the next big jump. I wanted to finish the story with a win, more events under my belt, another level conquered.

Part of my past I had kept with me, the horse I rode on the day I fell. I have no memories of what happened, or even the days thereafter. I had so wanted to come full circle and for him to be my competitive horse. I sold him. I had never been extremely confident jumping my other horse, despite his saintly nature. I sold him as well, starting new. I changed the ending of my story but it ended well, I’m still in the saddle and I’m still in one piece.

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I’ve worked with a rescue called Helping Equines Regain Dignity (HERD) for the past two years. They save horses from kill pens and do everything necessary to make sure they land in great homes. Part of the process is providing training, so that they have the best opportunity possible to find a great home. To date, I’ve trained and re-homed 10 HERD horses, with more to come. Giving them their second chance has given me my second chance to find a horse that can carry me down the road to finding my confidence again.

Instead of planning my next competition, I’m planning my next horse adventure. A weekend in the mountains with my HERD horses and friends. A ride on the next OTTB that just left the track, landed in a kill pen and needs a walk in the woods. A trek through the water complex on a 3-year-old that needs to learn to walk through water. A jump lesson over the tiniest course of cross rails so that I can feel fearless for a moment and end on a successful note.

Don’t rush. Success is enjoying the moment and the process. Despite some twists in the plot, keep writing your story. Embrace the pivot point.