The last time I rode a horse was in 2006. It was a disaster and to my twelve year old mind, quite the life-threatening experience. In reality, I had slipped off the side of a horse and had had to pop down the hospital for an X-Ray for no other reason than that I was crying so loudly my parents thought that they should air on the side of caution. In my head, she had bucked me off, ferociously, and I had broken my arm in twelve places, surviving by the skin of my teeth. In both instances however the outcome was the same: I frightened myself half to death and from that point on, I never got onto a horse again…. until today.
As a child I rode a lot. My mum had been absolutely horse mad as a child and would literally have given a kidney if it would have meant that she could spend her life on horseback. As a result, once a week, throughout my childhood, my brother, sister and I were shipped off to a riding school every Friday night to get better acquainted with the sport. I know it was a bit heartbreaking for my mum when I declared horses to be death traps and renounced the idea of it all together, not least of all because my siblings hung up their jodhpurs not long after. She now has three horses at home and is still absolutely mad for it and when she has the energy, begs me to come with her, I always decline.
And then, today, for some reason, I didn’t.
Mum had always said to me that if you fell off a horse, the most important thing was to get back on immediately and I never understood that growing up. SURELY that’s the worst idea ever? Getting back onto the back of the very beast that not two minutes earlier threw you off its back? Daft really. But then I actually fell off and didn’t get back on again, and I finally understood it. By not getting back on straight away I gave myself a totally irrational fear of the animals that I actually love so much. I’d read Jilly Cooper books (not even sorry) and think wistfully about cantering across fields. Last week I found myself watching an episode of The Crown and when I saw a young Princess Margaret trotting in on a horse, I thought to myself: Oh my GOD that’s so cool WHY did I give that up?
Anyway, today, after ten years resisting, I finally got back on a horse. And guys… I FLIPPING LOVED IT. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hop on, ditch all of my woes and canter off into the sunset with my beautiful blonde curls bouncing along behind me as if the last decade didn’t happen. But almost immediately, instinctively, I had my heels down, my position in the saddle and was holding my reigns just right, it was as if I’d never given up.
We didn’t go for hours, which is just as well really seeing as I’d forgotten to put a jumper on (spot the twat), and we didn’t gallop anywhere. We mostly walked and I was left to my own devices when I felt brave enough for a tolt. (Something between a trot and a canter that Icelandic horses do). And then we came home, dismounted and went inside to thaw out.
I’m really properly proud of myself for overcoming a fear that has had a hold of me for a really long time.
And yes guys, this IS a big metaphor for life. Today I got back on the horse.
We all have things that frighten us, and often that fear has come about because of something that has happened to us when we tried it in the past. We spoke up in a meeting and our boss shot us down so we decided not to try it again. We went ice skating and fell on our bums so we’re now irrationally scared of slipping our feet into stinky second hand skates at winter time again. We got hurt by someone we loved in the past and so pledged we wouldn’t love again. It’s totally normal. And I truly thought until today that it was just one of those things, you fall off the horse, you don’t go riding again.
But today, I proved myself wrong. You CAN get back on the horse. You can try again. Yes, I’m a big old cheesy mess right now, but I’m a big old cheesy mess that today RODE A FLIPPING HORSE, so I don’t even care.