I was thinking about imagination and how it both helps and hinders horse people.
Having imagination can get us into trouble. A lack of imagination can get us into trouble.
I've seen many people who imagine bad things happening with horses, especially after having an experience like a fall or a bolting horse. Their imagination creates fear that limits them and their riding.
Sometimes before that point, it was a lack of imagination that got them into trouble. They didn't imagine what might happen if they started going faster when the rider they were with was unable to control their horse, causing their own horse to gallop off. They didn't imagine what might happen if they didn't adequately prepare the horse before riding down to the beach. They couldn't imagine what a horse with a certain kind of temperament might do if overfaced.
It seems important to me that we have a lot of imagination, but we need to take if much farther than our fear. We need to be able to imagine all the things that might happen, and then we need to imagine all the ways we could respond to those things. I think people get stuck in their mind with the bad thing that could happen instead of going on with how to deal with the bad thing.
My imagination is always working overtime when I am around horses. Sometimes I don't take it far enough (considering bad things that might happen), and I regret it. Something I've always done is be a wallflower when I'm not working with horses myself. At every barn, every show, every arena or ride I've been to, I observe other people working with horses. This really helps me with my imagination, both good and bad.
I'll see someone who has somewhat wobbly balance, and they're attempting to mount a horse with the reins sitting on the horse's neck nowhere near their hand. My mind plays through reels of things I have seen happen, along with things I could imagine happening. I saw a trainer halfway on when the horse bolted, she slipped and was hanging off the horn by her coat. I've seen horses spook, buck, and jump sideways, or flip around when being mounted. I can imagine the horse running, stepping through the looping reins.
I dislike a lack of imagination in others, which seems like over confidence to me. Yes, it might affect me more if they randomly pick up a canter and leave us behind, if I'm on a green horse. Yet those effects don't enter their imagination. But if I lose my horse, it might turn their sedate canter into a panic as their horse decides my horse is bolting from danger. In the end, even if I have a bad experience, it's still less likely to bother me, but they don't realize they are risking not only their safety but their confidence. Their bad decision might mean years of fear as they try to work through how their horse they trusted ended up scaring or hurting them.
An example of how my imagination helps me: Say I'm getting on Aria for the first time, and I don't know if she'll take off in a gallop or start bucking. I imagine those things happening. Then I imagine myself falling off. In my imagination, she's not that far off the ground and when I fall, I only feel the shock of landing, gain a few bruises. In my imagination, I'm prepared for those things to happen, and I stay loose and ride through several bucks, and then she smooths out into a canter. In my imagination, she runs into the fence, but I only bang my leg against it, and then we trot away.
Sometimes I imagine myself with a cast, my leg broken, and I am using my vacation time to read and relax. In my imagination, the bad things are very bad, until I think through to the other side and how I would deal with the worst case, and realize how much more likely it is that the effects will be more minor. Then I relax, and it really helps me ride with confidence.