Thursday, March 18, 2010

A long tale, in which I fly.

Mom asked me this morning what my plans for the day were.

I listed off the items on my "To Do" list; sewing, updating our website, perhaps taking a walk, wishing I could bake,"...and writing a short blog post, if I can think of something interesting," I added. "I think my readers are tired of hearing about wedding sewing and gardening."

Writing a blog post wasn't the most important thing in my mind today. I had other things to keep me busy. Ordinary, simple, un-exciting-to-anyone-but-me things. I didn't have much to write about, and I felt fresh out of ideas for new posts.

But now, at the end of my day, I have a story to tell, and I need a place to tell it. I could write it in my journal...but I'd much rather use it as a blog post. :)

To begin, I must back up and give you some background so you'll understand my story.

First of all, I must tell you that I take horse riding lessons. It's a fairly new thing in my life - I've only been taking for about 6 months. There's a long story behind my lessons. I wanted to ride horses all my life, but never could afford the time or money to do it. I dreamed all the little girl dreams of having my own horse. God finally taught me to surrender that dream to Him and, then, about two years ago, my brothers and I were able to volunteer at a barn nearby. We were "around horses!" I was thrilled. I never dreamed that God had something even better in store for me; taking lessons at a privately-owned bit of pasture heaven a year and a half later. I have neither time nor space to give you all the details, but what I've just told you is the short version of how I came to have riding lessons. God provided, and that's the only way to explain it. First I had to learn to give it up, and then He gave it to me as a gift.

...But I'm getting off the topic.

A horse-loving friend once asked me "why don't you ever post about your riding on your blog?" I replied "because I want to keep it kinda private and special." And that's true. I also didn't think riding went very well with the theme of "The Fruit of Her Hands." Besides, riding is nothing glamorous. In 6 months I've only been able to have about 7 lessons, and I haven't progressed very fast, though I have the most wonderful sweet Christian lady as a teacher, and sweetheart horses to learn on.

But today I went a little farther in my "progression" as a rider. I had an experience. And that's what my blog post is going to be about tonight. Are you ready?

This afternoon was a beautiful time to ride. The weather was glorious; a bright blue sky, the faintest puff of a breeze, and balmy temperatures. I got to the farm a little early, and my teacher and I chatted as we stood at the edge of the coral and waited for other students to arrive. We watched the horses roll on their backs, and she pointed out to me the one I'd be riding; his name was Mannie. (I hope I'm spelling it right!)

Mannie was tall, but looked easy-going, and my teacher assured me he was "a sweetheart." She uses him with children and beginning riders, and she said he's not lazy, but not too lively either. Perfect. I hate kicking lazy horses, but I don't want to be run away with, either.

As a groomed Mannie and tacked up, I spoke quietly to him and rubbed and patted and did everything I knew to let him know I wanted to be friends. He responded politely, like a good lesson horse, though he appeared a bit bored with me. He relaxed as I groomed, cocking one back hoof and heaving several long sighs. I was happy with my mount.

Once we entered the ring and I was up on his back, I was even more pleased. He responded well to the reins and I directed him easily. I thought to myself that he was one of those horses that makes any rider look good. After walking for awhile and getting used to Mannie, I urged him into a trot. He has a lovely trot! So smooth, just like a rocking chair.

The lesson was lots of fun. We practiced directing our mounts while going at a trot. We weaved around barrels and circled the ring many times. Some of the more advanced riders cantered. I've cantered a few times, but don't feel very comfortable with it yet. It feels so much faster than it is!

But I was pleased with my trotting. I mean Mannie's trotting, of course. He went the perfect speed. After awhile he seemed to be getting a little lazy, and wouldn't keep trotting unless I used my heels, but I knew he wasn't worn out yet; just a little stubborn. He's been in the pasture all winter!

These lesson horses all have amazing clocks built into them. They know exactly when the lesson time is up. Today we went a little over-time, and Mannie knew it. He kept getting more and more reluctant to trot. Finally, when we were on the side of the corral alongside the gate, he refused to leave the fence. He stared at the barn. He stood stubbornly still, and did everything he could to say he was done.

My personality is one that naturally has pity on animals, and I didn't want to kick my mount, but I knew my teacher would say that a good rider must be in charge. I must be the one to decide the lesson was over, not Mannie. It wouldn't kill him to walk one more time around the corral. I did everything I could think of. I kicked. And kicked. He would walk if I directed him in a circle, but he wouldn't leave the immediate area of the gate. He wanted out. The other horses walked, cantered, or trotted by, and I continued to work on being the boss.

"Okay, Amber, let's do one canter before you finish for today," my teacher said. She smiled over at me. "You haven't cantered him yet, have you?"

"No, I haven't."

She proceeded to remind me how to ask for a canter, and told me to "go ahead." With all the power in my heels and hands, I asked Mannie for a walk.

He moved! We progressed down the first side of the corral away from the gate. As soon as we got going well, I cued him for a trot, intending to move up to a canter. He grudgingly moved into a trot, but refused to stay near the fence. Instead, he moved sideways as he trotted, heading toward the center of the ring. I struggled to get him back to the edge of the corral, where we were supposed to be.

Looking back, I don't remember if I cued him for a canter or not. Maybe I kicked him. Maybe I didn't. But suddenly Mannie didn't want to be a sweetheart.

I felt him bunching up underneath me, and I knew he was either going to run or give me a little buck.

He did neither. He gave me a big buck.

I tried to remember to keep my heels down, to cement my seat to the saddle, but as I came up and slammed back down into the saddle, I knew my heels weren't down. Before I could fix that, Mannie bucked again - harder, this time.

As I came up in the air my feet left the stirrups completely. I landed back in the saddle again. Hard. Really heard. I felt my neck snap forward and then back, and I suddenly was seeing the world through a gray fog. My feet were no longer touching anything solid, and there was no way to keep myself from bouncing with every movement of the horse. I think the reins were still in my right hand fingers, but my left hand was grabbing the saddle horn, and I fumbled to get my right hand in the same place. With another bounce, I lost my grip on the reins as I tried to grab the horn.

I was leaning very far forward. It's impossible not to when your horse is moving fast and your feet aren't in the stirrups. Somewhere far away I could hear people calling, or screaming. I heard Mannie's feet on the gravel. I saw his flying mane - such a soft brown color, though it feels scraggly with its winter roughness. It was all I could see; his neck, that mane, the purple reins, his ears. As I was thrown farther forward, I couldn't keep a hold on the horn. I remember that I reached out to grab for his mane, then thought how it must hurt to be grabbed by the hair like that. My hands were already reaching out, but without a horn in reach, or the will to grab Mannie's mane, they held only air.

I saw the side of Mannie's neck and head. I looked down and saw gravel rushing toward me. Somehow all the tiny stones blurred in my vision and made me sleepy. I was already sleepy, with the gray fog that was around me.

"I'm going to fall off. I am falling off. I always wondered what it'd be like." It's amazing how fast thoughts can go through our brains.

I hit the gravel.

My neck hurt again. I know I landed on my right shoulder and left wrist. I know my feet must have been the last thing to hit the ground. But the next thing I remember is sitting on the ground, hunched over and curled up. My eyes were scrunched tight, but I could still see gray. It danced through my head, with tiny specks of color.

I heard Mannie's feet, trotting away from me. I heard my teacher's feet, farther away, running toward me. But though I heard, I didn't register. All I could think about at the moment was my body.

"Don't think too hard. Don't cry. Don't open your eyes. Don't move. Pretend it doesn't hurt, and it will go away. Pretend it doesn't hurt and it will go away. Pretend it doesn't hurt and it will go away."

I was incredibly reluctant to open my eyes. It was like a rainy morning when you want to roll over and go back to sleep. I didn't want to move. I didn't want to so much as flick my eyes open. I wanted to lay down and go to sleep. My head hurt in exactly the same way it does when I'm really really tired. I think I was breathing hard but I don't remember.

I felt my teacher's hand on my shoulder. I know she asked me something along the lines of "are you alright?" It registered in my mind then, but I can't recall the exact words now. She took my helmet off and I think she asked about broken bones. I think I joked about not dismounting very gracefully.

I was starting to feel the rest of my body and I realized my right shoulder and left wrist were throbbing, but I instinctively moved to rub them, so I knew they couldn't be broken or hurt too badly. Teacher's husband arrived then and also wanted to be sure I was alright. I asked to just sit still for a minute and pull myself together. I pulled my knees up to my chin and took some deep breaths. Teacher was talking the whole time, calming my nerves and assuring me it wasn't my fault and asking again if I was alright.

I felt tears coming behind my eyes, but wanted nothing less than to cry at that moment. I felt undignified enough as it was. Even though I was hurting, the tears came more from my fright than the hurt. I was trembling inside. I wasn't afraid of Mannie; I looked behind me to see where he was. I knew I wasn't hurt badly, so I wasn't afraid of that. I guess it was just the whole adrenalin rush thing.

When I was finally helped to my feet and walked across the corral to where everyone had stopped their horses and was watching with concern, I felt a strange mixture of embarrassment and thankfulness for their kindness. One of the more advanced riders was holding Mannie's reins, and asked our teacher "do you want me to get on Mannie and give him an attitude adjustment?"

So I stood at one end of the corral and held her horse, while she took Mannie for a ride. The girls all sat on their mounts and made comments like "Look how he's swishing his tail! He sure isn't happy." "No, but she'll make him mind." "There he goes." "That was a good canter." "Yeah, but look at his swagger; he's knows he's been bad."

The horse I held nudged me with his nose and licked my hands. "Aw, look; he's consoling you," the girls laughed. I smiled. He was awfully sweet to me. I was still fighting to get my composure back, and my shoulder was starting to feel like it was on fire.

"Are you still feeling that adrenalin rush?" one of the girls asked.

I laughed uneasily. "Yeeess."

"Well, the way you landed, you're lucky to be still standing."

"The Lord was taking care of her," my teacher said.

"He sure was," I agreed. I tried to think of something more to say, to witness for Jesus, but I couldn't think of anything marvelous.

When Mannie returned to our end of the corral he seemed quieter. I held his reins for a moment while our teacher talked to some of the other students, and when no one was looking he licked my hand.

"Trying to make up, are you?" I laughed quietly. I wasn't upset with him.

We walked back to the barn, and I began to untack Mannie. I was fighting tears again; this time from pain. I knew I wasn't hurt seriously, so I didn't want anyone to see me crying. I was so glad when my kind teacher took the heavy saddle off for me.

I brushed Mannie down, and then Teacher put some ointment on his hooves, since he's fighting thrush. He acted up for her when she was cleaning his feet, so I guess he still hadn't settled down all the way. After feeding him his usual treat, she turned him loose into his stall.

My teacher asked me once more if my shoulder was fine, and made me move it around so she could see nothing was broken. I assured her I was fine. The other girls gave me advice on what to do "when you're sore tomorrow."

"Are you coming back?" my teacher asked, just to be sure.

"Oh yes!" I smiled. I didn't want her to think I was giving up. I can't wait to go back next time!

The drive home was too long. My hand and shoulder screamed each time I turned the steering wheel. I was still shook up from the experience, and couldn't seem to calm down. All I could think about was going home and getting some ice for my shoulder.

All evening I have continued to be sore, but I took a soak in the tub which really helped me to relax, and even helped the hurting some. It's been a looooong time since I soaked in the tub, and I felt quite leisurely. I know I'm gonna be sore tomorrow, I said, it's an experience.

Well, this has been a long tale, and I hope you haven't been bored. I told Mom a while ago that "it was actually kinda fun; exciting, anyway." If I could fly through the air like that again without jarring my head, I think I would. I liked the flying sensation. ....But not quite so much the landing sensation. :)

I still think that horse-riding tales don't fit the theme of this blog, but y'all feel so much like friends that I always want to share my daily adventures with you. I have a real blog post coming up soon, with a sewing project to show (NON wedding related. :) I can't wait to show you!

I'm sitting here trying to think of a lesson to be learned from my experience. I always like to look for that. I'm a little to tired to come up with one, so maybe you can help me. In any case, I hope you all have a had a lovely day, and perhaps a day filled with excitement. I know I have. :)


Melanie said...

Very exciting story!! :-D I always wondered what it would feel like to fall off a horse. I've only ridden three times, I think, and my biggest fear is my foot getting stuck in the stirrup and me getting dragged by a horse!! But it sounds like you couldn't even keep your foot in the stirrup. ;-)

Glad you are okay!! Hope your shoulder doesn't hurt too much today.

Alethea Jordan said...

Well, I like the title. And yes, it is much more exciting than the sewing posts. =D

But don't take me wrong. =)

SavedGirl said...

Dear Amber,

I am glad you are all right. I have always loved horses too (what girl doesn't). That must have been scary. I have only had one riding lesson, it was a special day with my dad years ago. I had the sweetest paint pony named Tony, and he didn't do anything like Mannie did. :) I hope you feel better.


hannah said...

Oh my! So sorry you fell!

Anna said...

owww I'm sorry you fell! But I did enjoy reading the story, except for you getting hurt of course. I haven't gotten bucked off yet, but my brother has! We've been riding for about a year and had a lesson once a week from last March-October. And then we've just been riding on our horses at our house.
And one of them just had a baby Friday!!!! He's soooo cute! Horses are pretty cool!

Amber said...

Thanks for the concern, ladies. :) I'm feeling pretty much back to my normal self today, and can't wait to get back on the back of a horse and try again! :) ..And I've enjoyed hearing that y'all have connections with horses too. :)