Saturday, June 11, 2011

Limbo - From Stephanie

(He was a smart guy, maybe he can figure this stuff out)


I deeply appreciate the thoughtful and caring messages over that last few days. It means more to me than I can say. I swear I want to copy every response and pin it up on my wall. It's been very empowering to have such friends right now, when, frankly, I need them the most.

I want to share my friend with you too.

You remember Stephanie, right? She bought Cibolo, and recently had a serious fall.

She was there when I walked resolutely into the barn with my folder of information on each horse. I was broken hearted, so many of you in the comments have hit it on the head - kicked in the heart.

I was ready to give the paperwork to Donna. I had spent a day throwing out horse magazines, pulling down photos from all over, just looking at them rubbed salt in the wound that only seemed to be growing inside.

I knew I could sell both horses, even in this market. Morgans are rare around here and a buckskin would go fast. Lily has so much training and is now sound. Then it would be a matter of getting rid of everything else. This was where I was, what I was contemplating.

Because I felt that I couldn't keep doing this. I was putting the well being of my family at stake (i'm the bread winner, what if something happened to me?), that I was pouring time down a sink hole, that I had made no progress in my horsemanship after so many years. I was in a cyclone of disappointment in myself. Because I don't blame the horse. It's never the horse.

(Just to be clear, the spook wasn't a pain issue for Smokey. But he is spooking because of how inconsistent I get him out of his comfort zone. That's my theory, anyway. But we've ruled out pain as a cause)

So there I was, ready to walk away from this five year journey. It was this email made me decide to stop and give my mind and heart some time, maybe a month or two, to decide. Thanks to Stephanie for letting me include this in the blog.

Let me start off by talking about myself a little...

Currently, I'm suffering from the worst injury I've ever had, not to mention the worst I've had from a horse. I'd like to explain my confidence like my fractured humerus. The humerus is the second largest bone in your body, and apparently pretty damn hard to break. You're not born with your bones as powerful as they're ever going to be, but you slowly build them up as you grow (is this lame yet?). Much like confidence, self esteem, self worth, etc etc etc. It takes all these years to form, and just a split second for me to break it. I stayed away from the barn for a month. Not just because I was hurting from a broken bone, but because in all the years I've been riding I've never once had a fall this bad. My confidence is akin to my humerus at the moment. Severed, and taking far too long to heal. You can't fall without losing a measure of confidence. And I've taken a pretty major blow to mine. I'm really trying hard not to show any of this because to be honest, I'm pretty embarrassed by it. I'm crazy embarrassed that I lost my seat enough to fall, let alone break a bone. And every single time someone asks "What did you do to your arm?" something deep inside cringes and threatens to not come out of hiding anymore. I want to say something memorable, something fierce...and yet all I have is a cat and a spook.

So I took a month.

And you know what I did during that month? Absolutely nothing. My mood soured, focusing primarily on bad days at work and the ache in my arm. I browsed Craigs List, looking at horses I could never afford that had all the bells and whistles, training up the wazoo. Beautiful horses, all work and no funny business. And I kept thinking to myself...why on earth do I have a horse that would spook so badly? The would spook nearly every time we leave the barn, and go nuts on the trail with other horses. Why do I kid myself, thinking that I can train this horse to be one of those "perfect" horses. Who am I? What skills do I have that makes me any better than a second day rider?

But bones heal. Slowly...but they do. I've got a pretty nice angle to my arm now. Every couple of weeks I look at the x-rays, compare them to the ones before and think to myself "Wow, it WILL actually heal." Just like my confidence. It's pretty fragile right now, and another fall would surely send me to surgery. But what's the point of sitting by and waiting for something that's not going to happen unless I get off my ass?

All those horses I've stared at, drooled over...they started somewhere, too. And I guarantee they weren't perfect.

I feel like you and I are feeling something pretty similar right now. You took a pretty hard hit to your confidence, just like I did. Fortunately for you, there's no lasting physical damage. I'm not going to tell you thinking about giving it all up is a mistake, because that's for you to decide. Sometimes you need a break. But I will tell you to not make ANY sort of decision right away. All I can do is give you advise, and help you to feel sure about whatever decision you make.

I'm not giving up. It's pretty painful right now, and crazy difficult...but getting up there yesterday...I can't even describe it. Some little spark deep inside of me was set to a slow smolder again. It was scary to be up again, but it felt RIGHT. I don't know about you, but even just the smell of my horse makes life a little more bearable. And I forgot about that. I forgot about all the good times Cibolo and I have had together. The rides alone, the little accomplishments, the slow improvements. Those are mine. I did that. And I know you've done it, too. My fall feels like a monster in the room. Huge, scary...and just like the bogey man, that monster is going to grow as big as you allow it to. The more you focus on it, the more stifling the room is going to become until some point it's so enormous that there's no space to move at all. Suffocating, if you will, on the monster itself.

Or you can accept it. And the more and more you think about all the good times, the smaller that fear is going to become. It's always going to be there...and maybe it'll bite you in the ass every now and then...but the sooner you see it for what it is, the sooner it loses power.

Metaphors and analogies aside....Smokey is a wonderful horse. I've watched the two of you since you first started riding him. I can't believe the progress you've made and how much you've grown as a team. I've seen how happy you are with him, and how happy he is to be with you in return. He has a beautiful spirit and energy and is such a character. He never ceases to amuse me. And like one of the blogs you had before, I really think our horses can be a mirror image of ourselves. And he's you, Winter. Just like everyone around you expects you to be a pillar of self reliance, confidence, and perseverance...The same goes for Smokey. But no one can be that strong. This may be getting too in depth...maybe stepping over lines...I don't know. But from what I've seen, everyone around you relies on you. Your family, your work...Everyone expects you to just ooze perfection and wisdom and cool. But no one is that strong. Sooner or later, you need to just kick your heels up and run. Smokey is like this, too. He tries harder than most horses that I've seen. He tries to be perfect...and in that constant attempt at perfection, wears himself so thin that it snaps. Something snaps...and he loses everything. But that's not what makes him. A break down every now and then is pretty common (I do it).

I think before you make any sort of decision...you need to think. Horses, like people, aren't perfect. They have bad days, just like we do. No horse will ever be perfect, just like no human will. Smokey had a bad day, and so did you. And for that, I'm sorry. I wish there were never bad days...I really do. But even those "perfect" horses you can buy for $30,000 will throw a shitty day now and then. I sure as hell don't have a perfect horse. But I love him. I love who we are together...and the good times we have together are just that. Fantastic. We work together as a team...and slowly but surely, I know we'll get better. We may not ever be able to ride in a huge group of horses without dancing and sweating...but I'm going to try. Maybe one day it will all click together..maybe it won't. I don't know. And to be honest, it's still a bit frightening. But I want to do it. And I really hope you'll be there with me because I could really use a friend in all this. I love having someone to share the good and the bad with.

With this email in my heart, and tears in my eyes, I left for a trip to Washington for a week.

When I came back, the horse I found was nearly unrecognizable. It was that interaction that made me realize even more about myself and my journey with horses.

Which I'll explain in my next post.

11 comments:

Shirley said...

Wise girl, that Stephanie.

Carol said...

So glad you've paused to think. I just read your previous post as well. I know you recently witnessed a friend take a bad fall too, so it's no wonder your confidence is shaken. I hope you decide to stay with riding. I don't think you'd be happy without it in the long run. I feel bad for Stephanie too - why would she feel emabarrassed about falling off? The only people who don't fall are people who don't ride. It can happen to the best riders. Be kind to yourselves.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rising Rainbow said...

I'm with Shirley on this. Not only wise, but a great friend too. Sticking her neck out and sharing her thoughts to comfort you. Pretty cool.

aurora said...

I am glad you have ruled some things out, and are starting to sort through others. What a wonderful friend you have, the best kind - those that encourage you to follow your heart.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Beautiful words from Stephanie. Your horsemanship has improved immensely. You rode a green horse in a parade, for Pete's Sake! I would never have the courage to do that. You may remember that Bombay broke my arm when he took me for a wild bronc ride. That has never happened again. Everyone who sees him thinks he'd make a great lesson horse for inexperienced riders. Time will put things in perspective. Progress can't be consistent. We all have setbacks.

Kate said...

Weird timing with all of this stuff. . . Remember that I didn't feel comfortable enough with Dawn to canter at the clinic? And guess what, just this past Saturday I had one of the worst falls off a horse I've ever had - off Pie of all horses - but it turns out that it was probably a freak thing (my own cardiac problem that I didn't know about) but I'll never know for sure since I have no memory of what actually happened.

All you can do is know what the limits of your comfort zone are and only press on them if and to the extent you can - and sometimes that means not at all. There's no shame or dishonor in that.

Nice to have a friend like her at a time like this.

lytha said...

thank you for sharing this. *hug*

Maia said...

So beautifully written, you are truely blessed to have a friend like that.

porkbellyacres said...

What great posts. It seems weird that sharing these kinds of feelings should help other riders with their confidence levels, but in a crazy way it really does.

I read the other day that 93% of people think their driving skills are in "the top ten percent." That made me laugh, but it also made me think. I used to take pictures at accident scenes, and after particularly nasty ones I'd be shaky behind the wheel. Sometimes I'd have a hard time shutting off my imagination (that truck is coming over into my lane! That person is going to pull out right in front of me!)

So when we're talking horses, we're talking about creatures that we have a deep emotional connection with on top of everything else. So when an accident happens (and they will) we really should EXPECT it to throw us for a loop and not have this expectation we'll be fine afterward.

Maybe we all have to be in denial, a little bit, to do the things that put us at risk. Maybe in order to do this kind of work we all have to cultivate an image of ourselves as fairly talented and skilled (just like car drivers) and one of the reasons falls hurt so much is because our self-image gets hurt, too.

Dan and Betty Cooksey said...

I just got back from vacation so I'm catching up and some or all of the things I'm about to say may be redundant to what others have offered.

We connected just a little over a year ago so you're not familiar with my wife, Betty's, journey through pain and fear. To make a long story short her first horse threw her off and Betty landed on pavement. Her left leg was broken, a vertebra was burst and, worst of all, she had several fractures in her sacrum. She was in the hospital for 6 days and it took over three months to begin healing.

Betty has dealt most of all with the fear over the past three years. She tried riding her first horse, but she never trusted her so we found her a new home. Betty's riding my horse now and enjoying riding again. I'm riding the horse we got to replace her first horse.

What we learned from this experience: (1) the fear is real and you have to face it whether you ever get on a horse again or not, (2) as others have said, take your time - don't make any decisions too quick, (3) as much as Betty loved her first horse we decided she was not the horse for her, (4) spend lots of time with your horse (old or new) just on the ground to reconnect, (5) start real slow again if you do decide to ride whether it's Smokey or a new horse, (6) give yourself time to face and deal with the fear - it won't go away quickly and maybe not at all to some degree, but you can learn from the fear but the lessons will be your own - just as Betty learned from her fear, (7) and, finally, take everything I have said with a grain of salt - your experience is your own and only you can face it and deal with it.

I wish you all the best whatever you decide.

Warmest regards,

Dan