Today was Thunderhorse Day, and it was a beautiful day to overcome a baseless-but-longstanding fear.
S. and I drove out to Bobby’s Ranch for a trail ride; it is a lovely place on the edge of a huge expanse of conservation land. Bobby himself welcomed us warmly and pretended not to notice when my hands shook while signing the waiver. We got to spend some time wandering the grounds and meeting all the animals; the chickens and ducks in the roost, the goats lounging on the patio, the donkey and the sheep and the bison (!!), and even the teeny-tiny miniature horses (I cannot even fathom that these are real things, they are ridiculous), as well as the resident Great Pyrenees dog keeping a watchful eye over his charges. I might just have been a little trembly when I met the horses through the fence; they are fairly intense animals and would just trot up and fix us with a stare.
Our trail guide introduced us to our horses, Oreo and Foxxy, and sat us up on their saddles. The worst part was actually sitting up high and feeling the horse shift its weight underneath me; it’s difficult to get used to sitting on top of a living, breathing thing, and all I could think of was the fact that William the Conquerer and Genghis Khan are both rumored to have died from horse-related accidents. Once I was in the stirrups and relatively sure that I wasn’t going to tumble off Oreo’s back like a rag doll, we started our casual stroll along the trail.
Our horses handled the puddles and rocky hills like champs, and were super-mellow. We wound past streams and small bridges, listening to bird calls and running water, and after a few minutes my white-knuckle grip on the pommel relaxed a little, and I started to focus on the clean air, quiet, and gorgeous landscape. (I don’t get out into the woods as often as I’d like, so trees continue to be something of a novelty to me.) S’s horse was a glutton who decided to be difficult, stopping reguarly to grab mouthfuls of hay or grass from the side of the trail before our guide switched horses with him. Before I knew it, we were wandering back to the ranch — the horses had walked this route so many times before that they picked up some speed in anticipation of getting back to their busy schedule of munching on hay.
Sometimes, with fears, your brain needs to be proven wrong. Even though I knew full well that tons of people spend time around perfectly pleasant horses every day, I could not wholly convince myself that every horse wouldn’t sense my nervousness at being around such a large animal without turning into Thunderhorse The Untamed Stallion. I had to experience it for myself to actually accept it. Small steps just didn’t come close to climbing on and going for a ride, damn my nerves — a body can only pump out adrenaline for so long before it has to take a breath, look around, and realize that nothing is going to go wrong.
No lie — there is no better feeling than beginning a trip as a bundle of nerves, and wondering what the big deal ever was on the way back. At this point I almost feel like I was just being a huge wuss about nothing.
What are you afraid of? Is it time to dive in?