Falling hurts. A lot.

Recently I decided to start taking horse back riding lessons again. I love horses, and there’s something about learning how to jump them that really feels right. It’s like trials on a horse. Only different.

Trials is my first love, but horses are a close second. Each one compliments the other. And yet each one gives me something different. Something I need.

I love the interaction with a horse. The partnership. Horse back riding is one of the only sports where your equipment can argue with you if it wants. And it will win very easily. (Trials is another by the way, because even though rational thought says a machine should do only what you ask it always seems to have a mind of its own and do whatever it wants.)

Fortunately the stable that I’m at has some really amazing horses. The ‘been there, done that’ type of  school horses that take care of you while you’re all wobbly and learning.

And a hard lesson I learned last night. If you think “I can save this”…you can’t.

The horse and I were headed through a bounce jump. I was off balance. I was wobbly. I wasn’t set. But I thought I could save it. I bounced all right. Up onto the horse’s neck.

Like I said, fortunately their horses are really forgiving. My horse didn’t freak out. But he didn’t stop either. And in that moment of “Can I save this or do I bail?” He got to the end of the arena and turned. Fast enough that I sort of half -fell, half flung off the side of the horse. Right into the door frame of the arena.

I hit it right on my back, a line running from my right shoulder to far down my left hip. I crashed to the ground. Needless to say there was some cursing for the next few minutes while I made sure my legs still worked.

I even brought an audience. A worker outside the barn heard the thump and the swearing and figured he’d come investigate because it sounded like something impressive had happened. Of course this made me laugh, because I’m weird like that.

Then I got up. And got back up on the horse.

I know what some people might be thinking. I was thinking it too. Why do you want to do something so dangerous?

I realize last night could have gone horribly, horribly wrong. I hit the one part of my body you really don’t want to hit. I spent all last night worried I’d done some really horrible damage.

But when I got up this morning, sore and bruised and all, I was ready to get back on and go again.

Because in the end, danger is everywhere. I could get hit by someone racing through a red light (a very distinct possibility here in Colorado Springs). I could have a heart attack. I could get some superbug. I could get shot by some random stranger.

Yes, horse back riding is dangerous, especially learning how to jump. So is trials, even though its slower speed. Falling off rocks and catching things in the chain and all of that.

But it’s also a lot of fun. And feeds something in my soul. It makes me alive.

It wasn’t really hard to get back up in the saddle last night. Because stuff happens. You can either be afraid, or keep trying. And I don’t like the thought of all the things I’d miss out on if I let my fear win. That’s how I used to live. I used to be so scared of life. Of trying. Wanting to stay safe. And that type of life? Sucked. I have so much more fun getting bruised and torn. And Living. Experiencing life.

I will say I have one impressive bruise on my back this morning. Might be out of the saddle for a little bit. Ha ha ha. And I’m looking into a safety vest.

Life is what you want it to be. You have a choice. Miss out on things and stay safe. Or take a risk and be alive.

Risk doesn’t mean being stupid. I ride in safety gear. I ride with qualified instructors. I ride well-trained horses. I take care of my bike. I never ride alone. I wear a full-faced helmet. I know my skills and I try not to do anything that is too far above them.

But there’s still risk. And I look it in the eye. And keep going. Because that’s how you live.

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
― Hunter S. Thompson