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More Than Courage

Updated: Jun 11, 2021

I busied myself with pulling things together to head to the barn. I was trying to ignore the growing anxiety I felt. As I envisioned getting back on Rudy, fear gripped me and my chest tightened.

I impulsively grabbed a bottle of wine, poured out a couple of ounces, and gulped it down. This was unlike me, typically I confined drinking to weekends and then only a glass or two. It seemed my primitive brain thought this might help me gain some semblance of calm.

The drive to the barn was less then ten minutes but that was plenty of time for the palpable unyielding fear to grow. My chest tightened with every second that passed to the point of feeling as though I couldn’t breathe while my head swam with thoughts of hitting the ground.

The day before Rudy and I were riding in the lower field when we became aware of a tractor mowing the tall grass on the opposite side. It was a good distance away from us, still I decided it would be best to vacate the area.

I consciously knew I needed to stay calm and forced myself to take a few deep breaths. We were about to cross over a small wooden bridge that led to the upper field when I realized the tractor was much closer than I was comfortable with.

A wave of panic rolled through my body as the noisy thing bared down on us seemingly without regard to the fact, I was on a 1,100-pound flight animal. I hurried us over the bridge and turned sharply to the left away from the tractor. We took several steps before a loud piercing noise rang out. The tractor blade had struck a rock. Rudy startled at the sudden noise. He spun and cantered a handful of big strides before abruptly coming to a halt.

I felt myself come out of the saddle as I flew over his neck and head before flipping over and landing flat on my back with my fingers still gripping the reins. In a nanosecond, I popped up to my feet afraid he was going to run again.

The tractor was stopped and a man was walking toward me asking if I was "okay". I was beyond furious at what I perceived as blatant negligence and tersely said, “I’m fine.”

I was trembling from head to toe as I led Rudy up the hill to the arena. Everyone says “when you fall off you have to get back on” so this is what I planned to do.

Rudy stood calmly at the block meanwhile I was a shaky emotional mess. He dutifully carried me around the arena for a lap before I declared it was “enough” for the day. I lavished him in praise and love post the ordeal. This was as much for me as it was for him.

As I replayed the incident, I realized I should not have turned him away from the tractor but instead turned him toward it. This may have prevented him from spooking. Also, horses can’t back up as fast as they can go forward. I was grateful he stopped as quickly as he did since he could have bolted. I was grateful I sailed over his head and landed flat on my back preventing me from instinctively reaching out my arms. I was grateful he didn’t step on me once I was on the ground. Nevertheless, this event brought me in touch with fear in a way I hadn’t experienced in a long time.

And this was only the beginning of me learning to feel fear, acknowledge it, and work through it. Previously, I had always suppressed, denied, or ignored my fear.

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