Saturday, November 8, 2008

Why Do We Fall?

... So we can learn to pick ourselves back up (to quote "Batman Begins"). Well, that is exactly what I did, I fell. While I was down it seemed dark and scary, I was uncertain of my future. But now that I am returning to my feet I see that I have grown through the experience and find myself stepping forward into a brand new adventure.

For the past three months I have been at William Woods University in Fulton, MO. It has been everything I hoped it would be. I have learned so much and have gained so much experience. I have grown so much in my knowledge as a horsewoman, and have simply grown as a person. I have also made many friends I hope to keep for a lifetime.

I was very fortunate to be able to bring my horse, Vega, up to Missouri with me. I boarded him at a place that was only two minutes down the road from school. This allowed me to work with him much more than I was able to back home. My new friends Marie and Erin were great enough to help me work on his training. They really pushed me to go for it and get past my fears. For this I am very thankful. At long last I was finally able to ride Vega; not just in the round pen but also out on trail.

This has been a process three years in the making. I first bought Vega as a terrified five year old who wouldn't allow any human within twenty feet of him. I have worked with him so much and got him to the point that he was no long afraid of people. I taught him to have excellent ground manors and got him trust me through anything I would put him through. But the thought of riding him terrified me, while I was never afraid to ride any other horse. It was like I hit a wall.

But thanks to Marie and Erin, I was finally able to ride him. It was magical, like from a dream. Though he still had much to learn, I was riding him! At long last he had reached the goal I had set from the beginning, the ability to be a good trail horse. And he is a good trail horse. He is excited and interested in his surroundings, he wants to move forward and see what is around the bend. Though hesitant at times, he is willing to overcome obstacles in his way and lead the other horses onward. At long last my dreams of him were coming true.... and then I fell... it changed everything.

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, crisp clear autumn air, perfect for a trail ride. It was a little breezy, which tends to make Vega a little nervous but I didn't think much of it. I had arrived at the stables a little later than everyone else so I was hurrying to tack him up and catch up with Erin and Marie, who were waiting for me down by the road. I grabbed a rope halter and tied it to the saddle horn. A small voice in my head said, "don't do that" but I shrugged it off, I always take along a halter as a safety precaution. I put on my helmet, did a quick once over of my tack and then swung up onto Vega's back.

I walked Vega briskly to catch up with the others. I found them all in the field just across the road, each working on training their horses as they waited. Vega was happy to be back with his friends. We began to set off down the road when I suddenly realized that the loop of my reins was caught on the rope halter tied to my saddle horn, causing the rope to flap against Vega's side.

I asked the others to halt so I could fix it. For a moment I considered dismounting to fix it, but shrugged that off and decided to just do it from the saddle. Messing with the ropes made Vega nervous and he would not stand still. So I held back on the reins to steady him, this made him even more nervous. 'I should have prepared him for stuff like this,' were the words that flashed through my mind. Unable to go forward and unable to get way from the scary rope monster attached to his side, Vega did the next natural thing any other untrained horse would do: he went up.

He reared up three times, trying to rid the monster off his back, not realizing that the monster was me, the one he knows and trusts. I was able to stay in the saddle without falling, although I was thrown off balance. For a split second I was proud of myself for staying on a rearing horse, something that I had never done before; but that sentiment was swiftly replaced with terror when I suddenly realized what trouble I was in.

Completely stricken with fear, Vega went to his last resort, RUN HOME!!! I have never been on a horse going so fast, my friends said he was probably going 35 miles per hour. Instinct replaced all reason in me. My mind shouted at me, "Don't Scream! Don't Squeeze with Your Legs!" But my body would not listen.

This was the closest experience I have ever had to having my life flash before my eyes. I have never fully understood that saying before. I always assumed it meant that past life experiences suddenly returned to conscious memory, but for me it seemed more like the last remaining moments of my life were rushing past me at the speed of sound.

We were careening towards the road and I felt myself slipping. I knew that if I hit that road at that speed I might die or never walk again. I cried out, "Jesus Christ, Save My Life!" And then suddenly I felt my whole body relax just before we reached the road. I let go of my death grip and tumbled down the soft, muddy embankment.

I lay there, unable to move, praying softly "Jesus Christ, save my life," over and over again; until I realized that my friends were kneeling next to me, trying to get me to answer them. The next thing I asked was, "Where's Vega? Where's Vega? Is he OK? Is he hurt?" They assured me he was fine, that he had run all the way back to the barn. They urged me to try to move, to try to get up, to at least move my hands or legs. Slowly I wiggled my fingers, and curled up my legs. I moved my head, thankful for my now dirt smeared helmet. I slowly pushed myself into a sitting position, but when I tried to support myself with my right arm pain shot through me. I could not move my arm and my fingers were going numb.

My friends helped me stand to my feet and ushered me into Dan's SUV that had just pulled up to bring me to the hospital. I sang for joy inside because I could walk. As we pulled away Marie promised she would get back on Vega and work him for me, teach him he has nothing to fear. God Bless that girl. Vega stood next to her, caught once again. I looked in his wide, white, fear stricken eyes and told him, "I'm sorry Vega. I don't blame you." And off we went to the hospital.

I broke my elbow into several pieces, shattered my radial head. I remained in Fulton for almost two emotionally trying weeks until they determined I would need to return home for surgery. I packed up my stuff and my parents came to get me the next day.

Surgery went well, and I am recovering quickly. It is good to be back with my family and it has given me a lot of time to think. I am now reconsidering my educational path, exploring options over than college to get my Equine Education. It is still up in the air about what I am going to do, but I am hopful and excited about where God is going to send me. I'll go into more detail about this later.

As for Vega, he is still in Missouri. Marie has been caring for him and has ridden him almost everyday since I left. He has made much progress, and she says he is becoming a wonderful trail horse. I am so happy to hear about this, but I am sad inside because I know that I cannot do anything else for him at this time. I don't have enough training experience and I know I will always be a little afraid of riding him. So, I made the most heartbreaking descision I have ever made and decided to sell him to Marie. I know she will take good care of him and train him to be the horse I always knew he could be.

I love him dearly and he will always hold a special place in my heart. But I feel like this is the best for both of us. Now he we can both proceed in our training and progress without hindering each other. I feel a great peace about this and know it will all work for good in the end.