Horse-riding is something I do mostly for the sake of my head – if I was thinking about what was actually best for my body I probably wouldn’t ride. But for the sake of feeling achy and tripping fibro up, it does massively help with my mental health, and for that reason I think it’s worth it. Horses are incredibly aware animals, in my opinion. The horse I ride can always tell if I’m glazing over/going out of it, sometimes a fair amount of time before I’d consciously twigged. On such occasions she might whinny or do something sudden and random which wakes me up, or she brushes herself against me. Horse-riding in itself is therapeutic, an activity which requires me being connected with my whole body, and so I don’t feel vulnerable… I feel in my body and in control of my body, and spending time with a beautiful animal and some lovely friends I have made at the yard.
Today I went to the yard and went riding and 90% of it was as I describe – very therapeutic and calming. However two points had me quite heavily triggered and I can feel that I’m angry at myself.
The first was pretty small and easy to control. I needed to clean the horse’s eye as it was bleeding due to a sore. Not huge or serious, just a little bit of blood. But suddenly I could see a sheep’s eye, and the memory of a sheep being sacrificed and blood pouring out of its eye flashed in my head. I had to tell myself it’s a horse, and it’s not anything like that much blood, all you’re doing is cleaning it up a bit. But it was still difficult; I kept hearing the sheep’s desperate bleats as they killed it, and feeling my own cold wave of sickness and terror as I stood there, a young child, staring into the sheep’s eyes as it died. And the blood… and the sacrifice…and then having to take part…and oh god oh god…
But I got through that bit. I felt sick and cold but it was okay and I thought that’d be that.
We went on the ride, and it was a lovely very peaceful ride. As always, I felt my body relax into itself, felt my mind and body connect together fully, and felt the gentle teamwork going on between me and the horse.
The problem was when we got back to the stables. I, foolishly, paused by the open stable door (still on the horse) to speak to someone in the yard. Here’s the setting: the stable is on my right, with hay in it, and there’s a big metal door on my left. Between the metal door and stable door is an orange piece of rope/plastic rope thing, to make sure in strong winds the metal door doesn’t crash heavily into anything/us. The rope is needed and helpful, and I have no problem with it. However, the horse (quite rightly) wanted her hay, and suddenly moved quickly to go into the stable. I put my arm out to grab the rope and duck, as I’ve done in the past, but judged her speed and angle wrong. The rope pulled my arm back and then jolted forcefully into my neck, dragging me backwards until I was lying on the horse’s back, being strangled and kept pinned down by the rope, with my feet still in stirrups. I tilted my head sideways so my chin was out of the way, and the rope pinged off me. It all had taken maybe 2 seconds? And okay, it was a bit scary and sore but not overly the most dangerous thing in the world. But the rope did throttle me.
I didn’t care much for whether I was hurt or not. Safely in the stable I sat back up and clutched my throat – but not because it was hurting. It felt sore but this hadn’t even processed. I was panicking. It had triggered intense memories and I couldn’t breathe properly, but I didn’t know if that was because of the memories or because of what it did. I think I was half in a panic attack. I tried coughing to clear it, to remind myself I could still breathe (if I can cough, I can breathe right?). All my head was screaming was strangled strangled strangled. It didn’t seem able to keep hold of the fact that I had not actually been strangled, but instead just caught and briefly throttled by a rope, and that I was safe and still on the horse (somehow?!) and I was okay. All of this had gone out of the window. I got off the horse, who was standing still (eating) but rubbed gently against me as I stood next to her. I felt stupid and I was getting wound up at my head. I didn’t want to cry because what had happened wasn’t bad enough at all to cry at. I tried distracting myself and keeping myself busy.
But memories of being strangled and choked were vividly going through my head and I couldn’t stop them. First, memories of being tied to a bed by my wrists as they raped me, but strangling me with a pair of tights at the same time. (They liked it because it made me gasp). I could feel the tights and feel them raping me and the overwhelming emotions of being powerless and scared was crashing through me. Then I felt rough hands around my neck. I could feel the hands around me neck pressing into my voicebox, suffocating me and crushing my windpipe slowly. I tried reasoning with myself there’s nobody here, there’s nobody strangling you, you’ve just been triggered, try and calm down. But it was no use. There was something about having my arm pinned back, and the rope pushing me onto my back, that had triggered feelings of being raped – of being vulnerable on my back. And the rope on my neck had triggered memories of being strangled or choked. The two combined, along with the sheeps’ eye memory from earlier, was too powerful for me to overcome just with reason.
I felt like I was going to burst into tears and scream and I didn’t want to upset or distress anyone else, so I bottled it. It didn’t matter how much I reasoned with myself, I could feel rough hands pinning me down and choking me. Or I felt rope as they half-hung me. They’d dangle me by rope until I passed out, and then loosen the rope and bring me round. This kind of torture was incredibly frightening – I genuinely thought they’d kill me. And I could feel this again, and feel that fear, and all the time I was cursing myself – get a f*cking grip, it was just a piece of rope and the whole thing lasted 2 seconds and you even managed to stay on the horse what the hell is wrong with you!??!
But I know self-hatred won’t help either. But I just felt so stupid and pathetic, like I was making a big deal out of nothing. But these memories were just crashing over me, one after the other after the other.
All I could think about was being raped and strangled, or being half-hung, or having a rope loosely tied around my neck and them making me crawl around on all fours, so the rope was a leash and I was a dog. All these vile and frightening memories were taking control over me, and how I managed to stay conscious enough to sweep a yard and hold normal conversations is anyone’s guess. I was smiling and talking to people whilst screaming and crying inside, my abdomen burning with the memory of rape and my neck feeling massively bruised and tender from a man’s pair of rough hands.
And when I blinked, I saw the dead sheep’s eyes.
I hate being triggered. I hate the surprise and shock and sudden loss of control that comes with it. I feel so stupid 😥 PTSD, go f*ck yourself.