Getting thrown isn’t what matters. It’s what you do afterwards the counts.
I went to high school in Morocco. My dad was working at a university there and my brothers and sister and I went to the Rabat American School. There were 18 kids in my graduating class- about half were American. The rest came from all over the world. It was the experience of a life time.
Since there were not a lot of after school activities, I took up horse back riding at the university where my dad was working. My teacher was a tiny, energetic Berber man whose name I no longer remember. He was intense. (understatement) And I’m pretty sure his methods wouldn’t always have been smiled upon in the States. But we learned.
After learning the basics, I was introduced to Ford. Ford was an American Mustang stallion, and he was wild. As in, rodeo, bucking-bronco, heels-in-the-air wild. I think the idea was to help us get over our fear of falling. Which is a good thing! And an important element of any sport. And terrifying when you’re being tossed around the ring by a stallion you can’t control.
Ford knew I had no idea what I was doing. And unlike the 20 year old mare I’d been plodding around on for several weeks, he had no patience with novices. I got him saddled and into the ring, but as soon as I tried anything other than that, he threw me off. The other students had warned me. But being the newest one there, I had never seen it firsthand. I landed in the dirt, Ford galloped across the ring tossing his head, and my teacher shouted, “Rebecca! Get back on your horse immediately!” I thought he was joking.
I grabbed Ford’s reins and got back on, only to be promptly thrown back off. I chased him down, got back on and was thrown back off. Over and over and over. All while the other students were working on dressage or jumping or something a lot more fun than landing in the dirt. And my teacher yelled, “Get back on your horse immediately!” At the end of the lesson I hobbled to my mom’s car, went home and soaked in the bath. Only to return a couple of days later to do it again. And again.
We had a deal at our riding school that anyone who got thrown bought drinks after the lesson for the rest of the class. So besides being sore, I was also going broke. The other kids told me it would get better. But they smiled when I bought sodas for everyone and I considered the possibility that this was just their plot to get free drinks. You know- tell the teacher to give the new girl the wild horse? See how long it takes her to figure out no one can actually ride him?
One memorable day I was thrown onto my head, bounced and landed on my tail bone. It took a few breaths to realize I was not paralyzed. Like I said, his methods probably wouldn’t fly in the US. I ripped off a thumbnail at the quick in the reins. I hobbled around school and tried not to cry when I saw Ford’s name still beside my own on the list.
I got better. It started taking longer for Ford to throw me. I could actually participate in lessons instead of spending the majority of the time in the dirt. The day I took Ford through a series of jumps without being thrown once the rest of the class bought me drinks. And at the next lesson, I was assigned a different horse. I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
But I still hear my teacher’s voice in my head when life bucks me off. Rebecca! Get Back on your hose immediately!
Toward the end of my time in Morocco we took a senior class trip to a resort on the Atlantic coast. There were horses we could ride along the beach. They were all kept together in a group, standing placidly in the sand. Except one black Arabian stallion. He was kept apart from the others, prancing and tossing his head. When people walked near he reared up like the cover of Black Beauty. I was enchanted.
I asked the man in charge if I could ride him. He looked skeptical. “I don’t know. Can you ride him?” I said I could, so he untied him and handed me the reins. No papers to sign. No helmet. Just me and a horse and the beach.
I rode bare back, with reins. We tore along that beach like lightening, pounding the sand. We galloped till I was exhausted, then splashed in the water, danced in the waves, and trotted back to the owner. It was the ride of a lifetime, and one I could never have taken if it wasn’t for Ford and my teacher shouting, “Rebecca! Get back on your horse immediately!”
Life still throws me. There are days I land on my head, flip over and crash on my tail bone, and spend weeks hobbling around. But I do my best to get back on my horse immediately. Otherwise, how will I ever get to enjoy those once-in-a-lifetime rides on the beach?