wild horses, fast running, and the gift of the habit of perserverance

Posted: May 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

When I was in third grade, my parents bought a tiny farm (I want to say it was something like 7 acres0 and the giant dream of my whole big very long life to that point came true when my dad brought home a pony for me.  He had purchased her for the grand sum of $5, as she had grown up in the pasture, untouched by human hands prior to sale day.  She was a beautiful red and white paint pony named Patches. 

It was a long, slow process, getting her accustomed enough to people that she could even be touched.  My dad guided her initial training, and I started riding her inside the relative safety of the pen. 

My first fall off of Patches was high drama.  She took off running and went to the back of the pen, where there was a small bunch of scrubby trees that I thought of as “the forest,” although it was probably 20 feet square.  Stopping next to one of the bigger little trees in a way that squeezed my left leg painfully between her body and the tree’s trunk, she reared up high on her hind legs and then lurched forward, effectively scraping me out of the saddle and off of her back in a rather indelicate way. 

Afterward, she trotted calmly away.  I got up, scraped and bruised a bit and for sure crying, and ran to the house. 

My mom cleaned up my scrapes got me a drink.  Then I was told:  now, you go out there and get back on.  Uhh…what?!  I was horrified.  Terrified.  It seemed like the meanest thing I could hear.  But Dad was uncompromising – if you don’t get right back on, you probably won’t get back on at all.  So he took me out to the pen and we caught Patches, and though I shook and my heart pounded, I got back on.  Dad led me around the pen a little bit, and soon enough I was back to enjoying riding.

That day, I learned a little piece about overcoming fear, and Patches got a little lesson (I was going to say “learned” but I don’t know how thoroughly she learned it, that day) that knocking me off wouldn’t be a good getting-rid-of-me strategy.  She didn’t surrender – other times she tried running off with me, more rearing (but at least not next to trees), and kicking me.  That’s what ponies do.  All the more reason I needed to learn quickly about not backing down to fear or pain. 

This cycle would repeat itself later with my first horse, Joe.  A long-legged barrel-racing horse, he loved to grab the bit in his teeth and run wildly home with me losing my mind on his back.  Eventually, he did so at a horse show, and when he came to a sudden halt, I flew off and got an ambulance ride and a couple of days in the hospital – and doctor’s orders not to ride for a couple of weeks while my back healed from the injury.  It was then that I really learned the value of my dad’s rule about always getting right back on – if getting back on Patches had been terrifying, that first time, this was about 10 times harder after those long days of delay.  I think I recall my hands shaking and actual tears, the first time I got back on Joe after that.  It took several rides before the worst of the fear left me, and no, Joe never did stop running off on me, though it happened with less and less frequency over time.  He just really liked to run.  My love of horses and riding was greater than the fear or any of the injuries, so I kept on riding, despite all of that (a chiropractor once told me in my teen years as he was adjusting me yet again from a fall-related injury that I’d have to choose – less dangerous riding, or long term bad back.  I didn’t choose less dangerous riding.  God is merciful – I don’t have a bad back.) 

All of these lessons in not backing down to fear or pain kicked in yesterday morning when, for the first time ever, I puked while running (oh, you didn’t think I was gonna let that event pass without milking it for all it’s worth, did you?)  I didn’t think about it at the time.  But later, while checking the report from my “Map My Run” app, I saw it on the graph below.  The red line indicates the incline.  The blue line shows my speed.  I have circled for you the moment of BLEH.  The other circle is about:  what happened after that.  Note:  I ran faster than I did at any other point in the run – at one point I was running at a pace of 13ish minutes per mile (slow for you speedsters, but rockin’ fast for ME).  I puked, paused, stood up straight, pressed forward, and proved to the hill – IN SPADES – that it had not defeated me.  I could only laugh, noticing the spike in speed that followed my moment of defeat.  Yes, I call that the “kiss my *ss zone.”  Don’t you think that’s appropriate?  I still want to do the victory yell when I look at it. 

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