This past Saturday, I climbed back in the saddle.
I hadn’t ridden Cash since our fence flipping fiasco. That morning I woke up nervous. Butterflies clung and clawed at my stomach. I withdrew at breakfast, and that’s when my husband asked if I was scared. I nodded my head and tears flowed. He came over, hugged me, and said, “Be courageous. It’s gonna be okay.” What he reminded me to do was trust God.
A serious chest cold commandeered me for a week prior and I originally had a Wednesday riding date. It was canceled. Coughing and dizziness are normally a signal to remain with feet planted on the ground, not in the stirrups. So it was Saturday morning, and the fear meter began to climb. I ate. I prayed. I gathered my chinks, cowgirl hat and helmet and headed out the door.
The drive was short. A ferry ride across the Columbia River and twenty minutes to Hunters, a town south of where I live on the Colville Confederated Reservation. Once there, I mustered some of that courage my husband talked about, and stepped out of my car. I heard the gravel crunch under my feet. The smell of horse wafted in the warm air, and I walked toward the pen I last knew Cash inhabited. The office door opened and Steve Rother, owner and trainer of Rother Horsemanship on Horse Creek Ranch, waved me in. I sat down and talked with him, Francesca (Steve’s other half), and Kevin, one of their apprentices who’d been riding Cash. Kevin is fourteen! Fourteen?
“Cash is doing great,” said Steve. “He’s had a few trials, but is coming along nicely.” I felt okay until he said, “Kevin here will ride Cash, so you can see him in action and then you can just jump on.” I’ve worked with Steve three times in the past and even though his words were a compliment to me, I was not ready.
I froze. Shook my head. “No!” My palms sweat.
“Why?” Francesca asked.
I looked blankly at her, knowing she’d understand as she’s been in a worse accident than me. “It’s in my head. I want to do ground work first, then get on,” I said as tears once again flowed. Tired of crying, I wiped them away and tried to swallow some more courage. I gave that fourteen year old a sideways glance. If he can…
“You can do whatever you need to do,” Steve and Francesca said in unison.
We went outside. Kevin took me to see Cash. He stood saddled and tied in the indoor arena. When I approached, my rust-colored colt looked at me as if confused. I walked up to him and stroked his neck. He sniffed me, and then placed his head in my chest as if to say, “Mom, its you.” We stood for a moment, and I could feel God telling me that everything will be all right. The trust meter began to rise, but not enough. Not yet.
Kevin grabbed Cash and I grabbed my cellphone (for pictures), my chinks, my hat. Didn’t need my helmet because I wasn’t ready to ride. But it was hot and a good cowgirl hat always keeps me cool. I couldn’t find my wrist splint. Didn’t need it anyway. Not then anyhow.
I watched Kevin lead Cash in the arena where nine other people warmed up their horses. Steve hosted a clinic that week and I was in the tail end of it. This was a great distraction, and I knew a head of time they’d be there–a group from British Columbia, Canada that came every year. Three years ago, I’d attended one of Steve’s week long clinics and knew what to expect. Kevin climbed into the saddle and began to warm up Cash.
What? No ground work? Hum, I thought.
I watched Kevin circle Cash, do a few turnarounds, which is the beginning of a reining spin, and then walk and trot him around. Once Steve came into the arena with his horse, Cash was up. His job was to chase a couple of herd bound horses around and help teach them a few manners. My eyes lit up as I watched my colt work. And with no ground work. Basically a cold start. Cash was quiet, responsive, willing.
My courage meter shot up. But still not enough.
I continued to watch that fourteen year old ride my colt. Work horses, canter, teach the beginnings of a roll back off the fence. My meter continued to rise.
Finally, Francesca hollered to let me know when I was ready to jump on.
“Now,” I said.
Kevin brought him to me and I jumped on. I still wasn’t feeling up to speed, but I was ready. Cowgirl up.
I walked him around. Trotted. Got the feel back. Then it was time to get out of the arena and gather some cows out of the field, cross a stream and prepare to track the cattle out of the chute. I grabbed FBrancesca’s helmet, which was closer than mine, and we headed out. We all walked our horses down to the creek and I gave Cash a drink. He went right in. I walked him up and down a steep bank, back into the water, down the creek and my trust meter just kept climbing.
We gathered the cattle and brought them back up the hill and into the chutes. By now I had the courage to canter. And I did. I’d never not had the courage to canter. I suppose feeling a little puny didn’t help. But I knew I needed to get back in the saddle and up to speed before I left. I knew Cash was safe and secure. I just needed to experience it for myself.
We cantered, rolled back slowly, tracked cows until my courage meter hit the mark.
I can’t wait for this coming Saturday to climb up and get to work. Cash comes home around the ninth of July and my hubby and I will be ready to head into the mountains, explore and ride together again.
I believe things happen for a reason. There were issues with Cash that Steve and his interns dealt with them; I would have had trouble with my unhealed wrist. He’ll be ready for competition next year and so will I.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear. ~Ambrose Redmoon