I long to join my fellow travelers in their love for horses, but I need to overcome my fear of riding them first. Most fears are unfounded, you know, ‘false evidence appearing real.’ But I once had a terrifying experience on a trail ride that now makes my heart pound and my hands sweat anytime I’m invited to go for a ride. I usually gracefully decline, offering some sort of credible excuse. But no more. I need to beat this memory. Here’s what happened …
We were camping with some friends and planned some fun outdoor adventures like white water rafting, hiking, and horseback riding. If you know me well or read my blog frequently, you know that the most adventurous thing I normally do is eat something bizarre like fried crickets or lamb fries. I’m not typically the adrenaline junkie type, but I do enjoy the outdoors and a thrill every now and then is good for the soul.
So, it was just my luck that during this particular horseback trail ride, I got the meanest, most stubborn horse in the barn. They paired me with him because he was small, but he more than made up for it in personality. Since these types of trail rides are designed for tourists and non-riders, typically, the horses are trained to slowly follow behind one another with the guide at the front leading the way. My horse was the rebel though and he refused to get in line. That should have been my first clue. Once he was coerced to the middle of the line by a couple of guides, he kept biting the horse’s butt in front of me, then stomping his back legs like crazy to warn the horse behind him not to get too close. Along the trail, he continually reminded me of his dissatisfaction by trying to knock me off his back by rubbing up against the trees rather than staying on the trail. It was as if he was a kid being punished by spending the day with his slow-paced grandparents instead of staring in a rodeo. But all of his horsing around ended up just being a mild annoyance compared to his “grand finale” at the end of the ride.
Near the end of our tour there was an open field. Now, our [inconsiderate] guide thought it would be fun to gallop across while the other horses sauntered along. My horse took this as an invitation to speed up too, but he didn’t just gallop, he hauled across the field as if we had just robbed a bank in some old western film. I tried to pull back on the reins and stop him. I yelled. But he had already made clear who was boss. I leaned forward and grabbed on as tight as I could, tears streaming down my face and terrible images running through my mind of what would happen if I fell off. I thought of Christopher Reeve. I thought of the kid in the movie Sea Biscuit where he gets dragged around with his foot caught in a stirrup. I wanted to throw up.
At the end of the field, he trotted up to the other horses, wind blowing through his mane and flashing an attitude like a teenager that just went for a joyride. I was still crying and shaking like an infant. With the help of a few others, I got off the horse and walked the rest of the way back, feeling like a shamed city slicker.
That was about 10 years ago.
Since then, I’ve gone on two more rides without incident; except for my pounding heart, sweaty palms, and jacked nerves.
I’d like to get over this fear.
The next time we’re off traveling and have the opportunity to go for a morning ride on the beach or a gorgeous horseback stroll through the mountains, I’d like to do so confidently and actually enjoy the experience. It’s one of my goals in 2014 to sign up for horseback riding lessons and knock this fear out of the park.
Ever been terrified by something that you eventually overcame? Tell me about it in the comments below. I’ll go grab some comfort food and read them all.