Back in the Saddle Again

“I can’t believe you still get back in the saddle again, after the painful horse experience you had a few years back,” a friend recently said to me.

Three months after knee surgery, I signed up for a cattle drive at our annual family camp at Pine Cove.  I had ridden several times before and even that week, so although I was cautious of protecting my knee, I felt assured that I would be in good hands with the experienced head Wrangler at the helm of our cattle drive.

The ride, in fact, was safe, educating and exhilarating, as we learned how to drive the cattle from one field to the next and then cut them into pins.  However, it all fell apart when my horse stalled at a gate, neither moving forward or backward.  He was about 1,000 pounds of dead weight.  The Wrangler noticed his stubborn heart and rode up behind him and smacked him on the rear. Unfortunately the horse didn’t respond by moving forward but by jumping sideways pinning my lower leg between his about 1,000 pound body and a metal pole.  The same leg I had knee surgery on.

The pain reverberated throughout my shin and leg but I rubbed it good, holding back tears, staying on the horse. However, throughout the remaining ride, I noticed how hot it was. I began to sweat and feel uncomfortable. When the horse and I approached anything vertical I felt nervous. I began to think the horse was purposely walking me into trees to brush me off. But I held my saddle and finished the ride, albeit anxiously.

By the time we returned to the barn and I dismounted, my body began to shake. I felt weak and had to sit with head between my legs to keep from fainting.  When we lifted my pant leg, my shin was swelling and bruising rapidly.  The Wrangler quickly put some type of jarred horse cement (I think it was called) on my leg.  It’s kind of a cure-all for horses with a wound to keep it protected and to help swelling go down.  I slowly limped back to our cabin, with my drying horse cement,wounded, hot, weak and tired. Of course, the camp took every measure to make sure I was okay, requesting that I go to a doctor in town… However, I decided to tough it out and wait until I got home.

Back home where I had just finished physical therapy for my knee, I made an appointment for an x-ray and new therapy on my lower leg.  Nothing in my leg was seriously wounded, except for deep bruising which took a year to  quit aching.  None-the-less, at every opportunity, I got back in the saddle.  How could I not.  They’re beautiful animals!

My friend’s above statement about getting back in the saddle struck me because I often don’t get back into the saddle of life when I’ve taken a hard blow from a situation involving people.  I often retreat, feel sorry for myself, and worse yet, hold bitterness in my heart.  I responded to my friend by saying that it really wasn’t the horses fault.  My lack of experience and the Wrangler’s response is what caused the series of events. Although every time I get on a horse, I think about that day and steer clear of vertical objects, it doesn’t stop me from getting back into the saddle again.  Wow!  What a life lesson!  I wish it was that easy to look at hurtful life situations so objectively and not point fingers and just get back into the saddle of relationships.

We’ve all been there when life is moving along wonderfully and out of no where we’re struck by pain, shock, disappointment…then we either get bitter or better. Admittedly, I’ve gone the bitter route more than once.  Often when it comes time to get back in the saddle, we shrink back.  We say statements like, “I will never allow myself to be in that type of situation again…”  “I was an innocent bystander.  I can never trust again…”  And on and on we go, staying on the ground, not risking the saddle.

After riding this summer, it wasn’t a perfect experience but as I trotted and cantered the horse, I felt stronger and more in control than ever.  I think that’s what getting back in the saddle of life does.  It’s scary but it brings more experience, knowledge and strength for the next ride and the next.  And often a reward might just be what’s at the end of the next ride.

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