I don’t know who needs to hear this but breaking things down into smaller steps where you and your horse can succeed without fear is NOT cheating and that progress you’re making is still totally valid.
You want to get down and walk? Get down and walk.
You want company on your first trail ride? Get some company.
You want to make sure they investigate the scary things before you ride by them? By all means do it.
If I could eliminate one aspect of the equestrian culture, it would be the “hospital or back on” mentality. This is coming from someone who deals with scared horses and people DAILY. This mentality is not producing better riders and more confident horses: it’s pumping out more tense, clutching riders who can’t direct and scared horses than it ever fixed.
I don’t care if you walk til you’re ready. I don’t care if you get down. What I do care about is that you advocate for yourself and your horse. If you’re scared, you aren’t helping your horse. And that doesn’t help you, me, or the horse.