I just don’t have the heart for this.
The first few times I jumped, it was not a pretty thing. Here’s my first (very tiny) oxer:
My calves were weak, my elbows were locked, and my gut was twisted with fear. Whenever I jumped, I had to talk myself into every crossrail (don’t all adult amateurs have to talk themselves into doing things that our well-meaning brains like to deem “Bad Ideas”?) and oftentimes it was only my trainer’s demand that I “do it anyways” that pushed me to the other side of the fence.
I wish I was more brave.
When I was younger, I was brave—or maybe I was just stupidly optimistic; sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. I believed that the Universe had blessed me and that my karma was unshakably skewed towards happiness and joy. The world watched over me like a sheepdog might watch over a lamb fumbling through its first steps, while I meandered through life with a stalwart faith that things would always work out.
As an adult, I still believe that the stars will align themselves for me and that my cosmic scale will always tip more towards the good than the bad, but I also recognize that sometimes the Universe works in unorthodox ways. It breaks bones so that they can grow back stronger. It puts you in a position to make mistakes so that you can learn from them. It gives you a horse that teaches you hubris and then it finds you another horse that builds you back up. It opens doors and it closes them, brings you opportunities that turn out well and opportunities that make you question where you’re headed in the greater scheme of things.
Maybe I’m not cut out to jump.
But the more I learn about myself, the easier it is to recognize moments where the Universe’s plan is unfolding. When I went to look at Ragland, I saw the strings of fate knitting themselves together. I’ve learned that when opportunities come, you must seize them. I didn’t know if I was ready, but I knew I was sick of being something fragile and afraid. It was time to expect more from myself. It was time to think less with my brain, which is an anxious and self-sabotaging thing, and more with my heart.
I went with cash in hand, because I already knew what path I’d be walking next.
Last year when the words for a blog started to come to me unbidden, I called myself “Undaunted”—partially as a humorless joke about my own sense of bravery and partially as a prayer for the future. I went into my ownership of Ezhno with formless dreams of finding my confidence again—dreams that came into fruition thanks to patient trainers and an even more patient Paint gelding.
But now my dreams aren’t abstract, amorphous thoughts about strength and wisdom and courage. That chapter of my life is closing, and as I start to go through the process of drawing up the paperwork for Ezhno’s eventual sale, I can see my dreams congealing into a recognizable form. They’re shaped like water features and coffins and halting on X. They’re tangible things that can be measured in meters and seconds and percentages. They’ve got a rhythm to them—the lofty beats of a jump-worthy canter and the count down of three, two, one, HAVE A GREAT RIDE.
That’s not to say that my fear is gone entirely—Undaunted I am not. There are still times where my mind plays tricks on me, where it tries to convince me that Bad Things are Bound to Happen.
What’s the worst that can happen? I fall off and die.
But I’m starting to learn that riding is a two heart sport and the best way to combat those thoughts (and my irrational fear of things like oxers) is to make the conscious decision to trust my horse to always put his heart on the line for me. Despite being large and inherently dangerous, these creatures are filled with an undeniable good will—I truly believe that they do their best to work with us and keep us safe.