Come­backs: ‘I’m Not Alone’

Horse & Rider - - We Hear You - KATE BURGESS, New York

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

E-mail your let­ters to Or, send them to Horse&Rider, 5720 Flat­iron Pkwy., Boul­der, CO 80301. To be con­sid­ered for pub­li­ca­tion, your sub­mis­sion must in­clude your full name and your state. Pub­lished let­ters are sub­ject to edit­ing for brevity, clar­ity, and ac­cu­racy.

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.

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