Since my wreck, a few weeks ago, I’ve been puzzling over something – from the moment I hit the ground, I’ve had no fear about climbing back into the saddle … even on Tally (well, some concerns there, but more on that later). In my youth, that might have been expected … but I for one am rather surprised.
It had been a long time since I fell off of a horse. As I lay in the Emergency Room, my mother and I tried to remember the last time. It was certainly before we moved here, which would put it at over sixteen years. It’s quite possible that it’s been twenty years. In my history of falls, this is the first one where the horse actually set out to unload me. It is also my first fracture – and I had to make it a vertebra. Clearly I was making up for all those “missed” falls through the years! So, given my age and the extent of my injury, you would expect me to have concerns about getting back on – yet I absolutely don’t! In fact, if it weren’t for my mom, and the doctor, I would have already!
So, why is that? Well, today, the answers became more clear.
I have certainly had periods of fear of climbing into the saddle – ironically, once after an auto accident injury, not related to horses but it carried over. People talk about how fearless we are in youth, how we bounce and don’t think of these things. On the contrary, I have always been somewhat cautious, even in my youth. Equally, people talk about how much more cautious they get as they grow older and don’t heal as quickly. So why, at over fifty, am I more anxious than ever to mount up?
First, I think my age is a factor, but one for the positive. Looking at the downhill side of a century, time is not my friend. Having spent too many years not pursuing the one thing I’m passionate about, and with my passion now renewed and growing by the week, I am driven to make the most of the time ahead. Even a year or two ago, three months with no riding might have completely taken the wind from my sails. But this past year has only increased my drive to accomplish something with our little herd, and eventually return to teaching others. I am driven to prove something, even if only to myself!
Second, we all know horse people are crazy. As I lay in the ER, the nurses and doctors were telling me about the fatal and near fatal horse accidents they’d seen there. What could I say? “I have no doubt. It is statistically the most dangerous sport!” That one always stopped them. I could see the question they were itching to ask – “Then why would you do it?!” I guess everyone has their own reason. But it is true that horse people can take a beating and still want to get back on – with varying levels of trepidation. I read a post tonight, from a 21 year old who wants to ride the rest of her life but who already has arthritis from a spine injury. She wanted to know how to continue to ride without getting hurt again. Simple answer – you can’t!
I cannot speak for all the horse crazy people out there, but for me the years of wonderful partnership with horses outweigh the injuries and risks. If you are driven to ride, you do it knowing the risks are high. If you cannot bear the risks, don’t mount up!
But there is another reason for my lack of fear … and today has been a harsh reminder of it – we are all mortal! Before I started this post, the local news was running. Some of the top stories:
- A shooting at a local community college left at least one person dead. These young people were on the baseball field, in the middle of the day, when a yahoo with a gun just started firing.
- A family lost their father when another driver crossed the center line and rammed them head-on. The mother, in the passenger seat, could see the driver and could tell that he could see them. The cars exploded. The mother managed to get out, but it took two brave bystanders to break the windows on the burning SUV to rescue the two children in the back seat.
- Another man was driving his pickup when it burst into flames. He was stuck in the cab, but lucky enough that a police officer and two bystanders were close enough to cut his seatbelt, pull him out already on fire, and douse the flames on his body.
There were other stories, but you get the gist. These were all local, not a mix of national events. We have had numerous head-on collisions with wrong-way drivers this year, with multiple deaths in most of those cases. And the gun violence in the U.S. has reached a sublimely ridiculous level. Recently a mother and her daughter, in our region, were watching television in their apartment when random shots came through their window, injuring both. The grim point is this – death can come at any time, in unexpected ways. We don’t get to control when, where or how. It can even be in the safety of your own home.
If I can’t, and don’t, live my life in constant fear of a shooter, or an idiot driver, how can I live my life in fear of the thing I love the most? Yes, I could get killed or crippled – statistics are fairly clear on that. But that could just as easily happen on my commute to a job that I only like sometimes. From a pure philosophical view, I’d rather go out doing something I love than while doing something completely mundane.
I will be honest – while I am not afraid to get back on Tally, the all out rodeo bucks that she presented after a simple spook make me realize that she is not truly ready for riding. That kind of bucking is the response of a trapped animal – pain, flight or fight. She exhibits no signs of pain, so it’s one of the others. We have a lot of desensitization ahead before I will climb back on her, because it was not fun for either of us. (By my mothers account, Tally was rather upset by the whole thing.) Since the doctor informed me that it’s three months before any riding, and 8-10 months before it’s fully healed, I will have plenty of time for ground work with Tally while I get back into the saddle on Nash and Coffee (when I finally get clearance).
I have moments of frustration at yet one more delay in my journey. But I am anxiously counting the days that I can once again climb aboard one of my lovable, statistically dangerous equines!
Be good to your horses … and fly your crazy flag proudly!