We have two horses. It's my daughter's fault. And my husband's. They love them. I like them, but they don't "fill" me like sitting by the ocean does.
But it fills them. So we have two.
Prior to owning horses I'd ridden a horse three times in my life.
Once in seventh grade. I had a friend named Cassie who had horses and talked me into going for a nice ride by the river in Sacramento. It was all well and good until the horse I was on spooked. He broke into a full-speed run. We weaved through trees with low branches. I ducked, but still received a nasty scratch on my head. Suddenly, the saddle started sliding. The horse kept running as I held on for life on its back, bumping around like a drunk rodeo star. From behind me Cassie screams over and over, "Jump off the horse or you're going to die!" Or something to that horrific effect. I looked ahead and saw more trees and sure death, so, Then she yells, "Oh, and don't jump backwards becasue you could get kicked in the head and die!"
She really wasn't helping.
But, I decided to choose life. So I jumped off the left side of the horse. I slid about ten feet in the dirt and grass until I slammed into a concrete parking curb. A ripped deltoid is a painful thing.
She made me get back on and ride the horse home because that's what cowgirls do.
But I'm not a cowgirl.
The second time was on my fortieth birthday. I have a sweet friend named Amy who decided it was time to help me get over my aversion to riding horses. She hopped on her horse and I hesitantly mounted the other horse- a giant draft horse. My legs were spread so wide I was wishing I'd stuck with gymnastics with I was younger. I'm just not that flexible. But, becasue I'm into facing fears and all that crap I persevered.
We rode down the street towards a forested area (which are everywhere in the Northwest. It's true.) Suddenly, Amy's dog appeared. She told me to wait there, on the side of the rode on my ginormous hours and stretched-out legs while she put the dog back. Reasonable request, I thought, until she took off running on her horse after the dog. My mammoth decides that running looks fun and tries to follow. I scream, because I'm solid under pressure, and yank bank the reigns yelling very cowgirly things like, "No horsey, please stop. I don't want to die!" (I have realized, in hindsight, that a simple Whoa would have been far more effective.)
I distracted Goliath with the neighbor's lawn, which seemed to calm her down. It gave me enough time to get right with God in case I was to meet Him soon, and make sure I didn't have an accident on the saddle.
Amy came back and we ventured across the street into said forested area. The ride was lovely, for three minutes exactly. Then we came to a clearing with a twenty-foot dirt path leading to a pasture area below. Amy rode down the hill like she was riding clouds. I was smarter than that though. That hill was steep and I wasn't going down it. My horse was smarter, too, because she wanted nothing to do with it.
But Amy insisted. "You'll love it," she said. Lies. All lies.
I asked the horse to go down the hill. I was kind and used manners, but she refused. So, we turned around to go home. For once we agreed. But, apparently in horse-speak, if I tell gargantuan to do something, I have to make her do it. Something about showing them who's boss. So, ten times I led her to the top of that blasted trail and ten times she refused to go down it. Finally, on the eleventh time, I gave her sides a good kick and she went for it.
Fast forward two years and I'm in Hawaii. My daughter, the one with horseblood in her veins, wants to ride horses on the beach. Really? How can I say not to riding a horse on a tropical shore?
Of course, I get the jittery horse that had over-dosed on caffeine that morning. And they stuck me in the back of the line of fifteen horses that walk nose to rear along a trail. Every stick a horse stepped on caused my horse to flinch. Every. Stick. He jumped and I jumped. We weren't good for each other. Really. By the end of the ride we were both so wound up and emotionally scarred that we were ok never seeing each other again.
Fast forward three years, and we own two horses. I have to say, I love them both. But, still, riding them has not been a priority, or even an option.
But, then I got to thinking. . . which normally gets me in trouble. And I realized that I don't want to be limited by my fears. I watch my daughter ride and she comes alive. Perhaps, if I gave it a shot, I just might enjoy it too.
So, I tried. I rode for a little bit. And I didn't die. Then a few months later I rode for a little bit. And I didn't die.
Then, the other day, something changed.
I was feeding my horse, Hope, which I love to do. I brush her, feed her, clean the stall and the pasture. She follows me around and we have a lovely time together. I'd seen my daughter ride Hope bareback, and I'd even tried it once the week before, for five seconds, before I got scared and hopped off.
But, I was petting her and she looked at me in a way I can't explain. Then I realized that I wanted to ride her. I, me, wanted to get on a horse. Not just any horse- her.
So, I put a halter and rope on her, pulled up my trusty Home Depot orange bucket next to her, and hopped on. Bareback. No saddle. Nada. Just butt to back.
And I rode her. For ten, long, wonderful minutes, I rode her around the pasture.
And I loved it.
That was last week.
Tonight I did the same thing. And loved it again.
When I got home I got to thinking about why I loved it. I mean, really, 99.95348% of my past riding experiences with horses have been pretty terrible. So, what was the difference? What would cancel out my knowledge of past experiences?
I realized in my grooming and caring for Hope, I had learned to know and trust her. And she the same for me.
I trusted her. And when that trust came, the fear left.
That's when I hopped on. And loved it.
I can't help but see a resemblance to life.
I've had a lot of terrible experiences in life. And sometimes I don't want to do it any more. I get hurt, I get fed up. I get scared.
But, what keeps me going? Besides the love I have for my family, of course, it's God.
I trust Him.
I have come to know Him and trust Him. I trust His choices and His ways. I can put myself completely at His mercy and not be afraid.
Well, sometimes maybe a little afraid. But, still, I trust Him. And He helps me with that part. "Lord, help thou my unbelief" sound familiar? I can relate.)
Chances are, you've gone through some terrible things. And you struggle with the idea of trying anymore, putting yourself out there again. Who wants to get hurt, rejected, feel pain?
Some of the pain in life is unavoidable. Else how can we learn to empathize with each other, and even with God? But, when we trust God, we can ride this thing called life knowing that He will guide us, help us, sustain us, and strengthen us. When we trust Him, He can show us things we couldn't see when we stand on our own two feet and take us places we couldn't go on our own.
We can trust Him, even when we feel our past if full of evidence otherwise. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding: in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight" Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
I love that verse.
And I love that I am learning to choose faith over fear, Him over me. I love that we can choose hope of a future- even unknown- over pieces of the past.
I love the ride He's taking me on, bumps and all. And yes, there are some big bumps, but that's OK. I know who holds me up. I know who's carrying me. It's a scary, wonderful, crazy, ride, this thing called life. But I trust Him. I feel like the Woman from Snowy River. And I love it.