I have a confession. Quite possibly one of the hardest things I have ever admitted…. I’m scared to get on a horse. Like terrified at the thought, break out in a sweat, high anxiety terrified. I can admit that I am scared of a lot of things. You ask me if I’m scared of that momma cow and my hand is the first to hit the air. Or June bugs… oh man, I can run faster than you’ve ever seen if a June bug decides to buzz my head or land on me with those sticky little legs. But up until today I have shoved my fear of getting on a horse as deep as I could in hopes that no one would catch on to my rouse.
I wasn’t always like this though. A good chunk of my childhood was spent on top of a horse. I had the best horse a little girl could ask for. Everyday after school I would eagerly get off the bus and go visit Canyon. I would usually hop on bareback and we would be off on some adventure seeing what that afternoon would hold for us. Some of my favorite memories were on top of that gentle giant who I called my best friend. I’ll never forget the day I got off the school bus to see my mom and dad standing in the yard waiting for me. Canyon had went down with colic and they couldn’t get him back up. I remember my dad even made a cross with his name on it for us to put in the pasture. That was a hard day for that sad little girl. We had a couple of other horses after him, but it was never the same.
When I met Jake for the first time he was in my parents backyard in the middle of town on a horse. His dad and my dad had been best friends so he had stopped to visit. Jake had several horses so a lot of our time getting to know each other was spent horseback taking a stroll down a dirt road. One morning he asked me if I wanted to help him and a friend gather some cattle, and I didn’t think twice about it. A horse I was used to riding, a pasture I was used to riding in, and only one new factor. Cattle. A cow broke from the herd and when I went to bring her back my horse broke in two.
I remember it like it was in slow motion. I was upside down in the air and just remember watching the ground and trying to brace myself for impact. It didn’t work. I remember hearing screaming but not realizing that it was coming from me. The only pain I felt was in my tailbone, and it was by far the worst pain of my life. I went to pick myself up off the ground and that’s when I saw my left arm was bent. Not at my elbow or wrist where it’s supposed to bend, but at the middle of my forearm. When I finally realized I was the one screaming I was able to calm down enough to tell Jake where it hurt (besides the obvious snapped arm). He scooped me off the ground, put me in the truck, and drove about as fast as that old Ford would go to get to the hospital. He got a lecture for not calling the ambulance but it would have taken them probably a good 30 minutes to get where we were. Jake said I was in and out of consciousness on the way there but I do remember telling him I just wanted to stop at home and rest for awhile. I’m glad he didn’t listen.
Our local hospital shipped me to the trauma ER in Wichita where I have never seen such precision and organization. I bet there was 20 people in that room and every one of them was doing something to help evaluate or treat me. I remember so clearly just having a pounding headache and begging them to take me off of the backboard to relieve some of the pressure from my tailbone. The doctor told a nurse to grab my elbow and without even a warning he grabbed my hand, yanked it backwards, and then set my arm back in place. And just like that I was unconscious again. When it all was said and done I had the broken arm, broken tailbone, cracked hip and pelvis, cracked facial bone (my knee smacked me in the face), and a concussion. Jake actually saw me fall and said that I landed on the back of my head and just slid while rolled up in a ball. It was a long recovery and even today my tailbone gives me a lot of trouble, but I laugh and say that me getting hurt is the reason we got married. It was just a couple of weeks after I fell that Jake proposed, and I tease him that it was because he felt guilty I got hurt on his watch.
One afternoon after I was healed up I remember it being a gorgeous afternoon and told Jake we should go ride. The horses were saddled, we were all ready to go, I put my foot in the stirrup, swung myself up, landed in the saddle, and almost went into a full blown panic attack. It came out of nowhere and I was shocked, embarrassed, and mad at myself. I lied and said that I couldn’t ride because the saddle hurt my tailbone, but I think Jake knew the truth and was just nice enough not to call me out on it. I couldn’t believe that me, the girl who grew up with horses, couldn’t even sit on a horse now without trying to hold back tears out of fear.
The past four years this is what I have dealt with. It was easy to avoid that fear for myself, but now that Grady does the junior rodeo and has two horses, it’s not a fear I can run from anymore. Today I took the first step of conquering my fear, and I got on one of the horses. I hung my head in shame and embarrassment while my 19 year old sister lead my around the pen at the farm. I can’t be afraid anymore because horses are going to be a big part of our lives and that won’t change. I’m facing this fear head on and I will face it every day until it no longer controls me. I tell Grady to be brave all the time, and today he was my cheerleader. He stood at the fence and yelled “Go momma! I’m so proud of you!” I can’t teach him to conquer his fears if I’m not willing to do my own. So no matter how long it takes I will one day be able to hop on a horse without that fear gripping every fiber of my being. I will show my boys that they are bigger than any fear they may have, and that they can do anything they set their minds to.