A few of years ago I was jettisoned out of the saddle and into a wall, injuring most of my left side. I broke my ankle, severed my Achilles tendon; cracked my knee, hip and shoulder. But worse yet the incident broke something inside me.

With surgery, rehab, meds, family support, a great trainer and the help of one heck of a great horse, I worked my way back to riding. It was a long and tough road and It took over a year before I got the clearance to ride again. Then I discovered a whole new problem… the feeling of FEAR!! Yes, after 50 years of riding, I was freaking terrified.

I went back to my old, trusted, best buddy to find confidence. Twister, a horse that has been with me for 20 years, a horse that took me and then my son to places where dreams are made of.

On the days I planned to ride, I’d spend the entire day at work telling myself it was ok. The horse I was going to get on tonight wasn’t the one that tossed me. He was safe and he would take care of me. No matter what I said to myself, I couldn’t quell the fear.  I’d throw up on my way to the barn. I’d have panic attacks in the parking lot. I fought hard to force myself just to get in the saddle; then baby step my way forward.

My trainer is a saint. So is the horse. I can’t even find the words to describe the crazy lady they had to contend with, trust me she wasn’t pretty. I’ve worked through fear issues with plenty of riders over the years, and I can tell you here and now; I would have dumped myself in a heartbeat. So I am more than grateful to both for being so patient with me.

Last year was a test year, the year to leave the barn and try some clinics and shows. Everyone said, ‘Keep it light. Keep it simple. Find the joy again’. So I did… I decided I’d stay walk/trot. No pressure. My goal for each event was to LIVE!!!

My first event out of the gate was a preseason “boot camp” type clinic. I sucked!!!  My stamina was only good for about ten minutes. I went into a panic if a cloud went over, I found the ability to assume the fetal position while trotting when a duck came out of the pond next to the arena.  I cried for months after this event. I felt like I didn’t deserve such a sweet horse or such a good trainer. I believed I had failed them both. I had nothing but fear in every cell of my body and it PISSED ME OFF.

So I spent the entire year rebuilding. I did a couple of shows, I added more each time I rode. I joined a health club and hired a personal trainer to build my stamina and strength. Physically I felt stronger but I still had days where I threw up before a ride. I saw progress! Coming out of a long hard winter, I can ride strong for a full hour. And while my left leg is still too weak to canter, I could feel redemption in the wind. So, I signed up for boot camp again. On the enrollment form for boot camp we had to explain our goals and our riding level. I put down ‘walk trot but getting stronger.’

The week before boot camp, I was at a meeting when I overheard a respected professional Equestrian laughing and joking with others in the room about my walk/trot only abilities. I’m shocked how fast the comments deflated me. I felt like I was hit with a baseball bat in the forehead and completely deflated.    

Background: I am a “can do” type of woman. I am well educated and in my professional life, I have no problem making business decisions every day. I am a leader, a mentor, a wife and mother. I am a motivator, a volunteer and can organize the un-organizable. If called to help a friend or neighbor, I can be counted on to show up prepared and ready to rock it out. My friends and family will tell you I have a big heart. But I also have a low tolerance for mean people and have zero problem standing up for anyone who needs a voice. I share this because it begs the question.. “Why then, did this offhanded comment make me feel so incompetent? Bullied even.” For most of my adult life I have been self-driven and really have not concerned myself with what other people say. But this time it hit me pretty hard. I didn’t stand up for myself. I have not even been able to rally.

Words are a more powerful weapon than imaginable. If such an offhanded comment meant in jest could take a strong person like me down so hard, I feel for the children that are picked on daily.  It’s time to really stop and think before you open your mouth. Try to build up not destroy. If you don’t have something good or positive to say then SHUT UP.

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