As I watch my daughter work with her yearling, I am reminded of the horses I rode as a girl. One in particular stands out in my memory – a young horse we had raised from a foal. He was a pretty little paint horse with some very stunning markings, but rather than name him something associated with his appearance, my brothers and I had named him Candy because we thought the little foal was as sweet as candy. However, as he grew his name became a bit deceptive. By the time he was a two-year old he could be quite ornery and could not be trusted to behave well.
Throughout my girlhood there were only a few horses that I rode on a regular basis – and Candy wasn’t one of them – but occasionally for one reason or another I would find myself atop this feisty little gelding. Although I knew he might pitch, I was never fully prepared when he would drop his head and suddenly “let loose”. My Dad would holler out, “Pull him up” and when that didn’t seem to be working Dad would yell, “Hang on, you can ride him!” and “Stay in there! Ride him out!” But despite the words of advice, if I couldn’t get him pulled up quickly, my thoughts were always focused on how I could get off quickly. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that if I could stay on, he would eventually stop. It always seemed to me that he could pitch forever and the only way to make him stop would be to dismount.
In a panic, I would kick my feet out of the stirrups and while clinging to the saddle horn attempt to toss my right leg over the saddle. That was usually all it took and Candy would assist me with the final stages of my dismount – flinging me off onto the hard packed West Texas soil. I was never badly injured, though I might have the wind knocked out of me and a few bruises as a token of my ride, but my relief in having managed to escape the ordeal was always short lived. My Dad would make me get back on and -for both of our sakes- make me gallop around the pen until Candy was as winded as I was and both of us were quite ready to quit for the day.
Looking back on those rides, I wonder at my own reasoning – that dismounting might be easier than riding it out. I know I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to ride it out and that if I dismounted of my own accord I wouldn’t be hurt as badly as I might if I tried to ride him and was thrown in the attempt. It never occurred to me that if I did ride him I not only conquered the horse, but I might also conquer my fear.
I wish I could say that by getting back on and finishing the ride I learned how to face my fears, but it seems that there are some lessons in life with which we must continually strive. So many times I still find myself attempting to just dismount in the midst of a difficult situation only to discover that I simply prolonged the lessons I needed to learn. I am thankful for a Heavenly Father who – although He might allow me the grace to catch my breath – often puts me back on and encourages me to finish the ride.