Comebacks: ‘I’m Not Alone’
When I pulled the November 2016 issue out of the mailbox, I saw “Riding Setback?” on the cover and felt it was written just for me.
After many years of being a horse-show mom at 4-H fairs, AQHA shows, and high-school rodeos, I dreamed of learning to ride. About 18 months ago, I decided when I finished my master’s degree, I was going to reward myself with a horse. In the meantime, a friend gave me lessons on her horse to help me prepare for having my own.
The weekend of April 23, 2016, I graduated with my degree; celebrated my 50th birthday; and found my dream horse, Dentley, at the University of Findlay Annual Horse Sale. I took weekly riding lessons and rode every chance I could. I loved it so much, I showed in walk-trot classes at a local show on June 26.
On June 30, I’d been riding Dentley for about an hour, working on trail obstacles and having a great ride. A couple other riders went into the pasture next to the arena to race their horses. Dentley got a little excited, but I settled him down. A couple minutes later, he bolted. I tried slowing him down and did my best to stay on, but off I went. I ended up with a skull fracture, a concussion, five fractured vertebrae, and a rib fracture. During the past few months, I’ve had more than a few moments when I questioned if I should sell Dentley, but my husband and my kids wouldn’t hear of it. While recovering, I visited Dentley and did light groundwork with him when I could. I often worried I’d struggle with confidence issues and forget everything I’d learned.
On October 5, with my doctor’s approval, I headed to the barn to ride for the first time since my accident. To my surprise, once I started walking him around, I felt like I’d been riding all along.
I know I’ll encounter some mental and physical challenges as I get back into it, but H&R articles, like Bob Avila’s “Get Your Mojo Back,” are very helpful and remind me that I can do it and I’m not alone. Thank you for providing a great magazine every month! SUSAN STACKPOLE, Michigan
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was too much of a joy to quit, so after the back brace came off, I got back on. I had a lot of fear. Learning to train my horse with natural horsemanship techniques and great teachers helped me back to joy-filled riding.
I got bucked off for the first time in my life at age 60. I was alone on my farm, and to this day I can see myself slipping farther and farther down his side until my legs finally gave out and I tumbled to the ground. Luckily, I didn’t get hurt.
It turns out that horse had a back problem, which probably caused the blow-up, but the damage was done to my nerves.
I purchased a kind, 20-year-old Morgan mare named Bella, but I was still afraid to ride at more than a walk. She sensed my anxiety, and I knew she’d eventually react to my lack of confidence.
That’s when I found help 15 minutes from my farm. I emailed the trainers and asked if they’d help a 63-year-old woman who’d lost her confidence. They were happy to work with me. I began lessons on a little Haflinger named “Butter.” The trainers were so patient, but most important, so non-judgmental. After a few lessons, they put me on “Sweetie,” a beautiful bay Quarter Horse mare.
I took weekly lessons with Sweetie, and I pushed to expand the limitations of my fearful mind until I was even loping a little bit. But let me be clear: Sweetie never “gave it away.” She made me work for every victory. My confidence grew, and I began showing, and Sweetie and I won our first class together.
It wasn’t just a moment I won’t forget. It was the culmination of years of fighting my fears, working hard at my passion, and not giving up. It was having the sense to know when I needed help and the courage to go out and get it. It taught me that when you’re in trouble, get help from an expert. Get on a horse that’s well-trained and honest. It taught me to “git ’er done” and to never give up.