I have posted about breaking my back in a riding accident before, but my recovery has been long in the making. I was in a corset for two months, could not dress myself, had to sleep sitting in a chair, and had to re-learn how to get on and off the commode. But, by last October, I had fewer and fewer pain episodes, by November I could lift the laundry basket, and by December I started to do the grocery shopping by myself and pick up a shovel in the garden. You do not realize how important these little things are in your life until you cannot do them any more.
Physically, pilates has done wonders to regain my flexibility and movement. I am convinced that I did not have more extensive damage because my back was already strong from having done pilates previously. This winter, using a shovel and hoe and pushing the wheelbarrow around in the garden have built up my strength once again. This progress was very slow and calculated: "today, I will only lift one shovel-full of dirt; tomorrow, 3; the next day, 5."
However, with the return of my strength came a nagging urge to start riding again. Even I was surprised, because I honestly thought that I was done with horses. But, I found myself obsessing, and by New Year's Eve I had made the resolution to get back in the saddle, if only just once.
Little Lady, my psychologist
My trainer and I made a plan. In January, I started brushing one of the lesson horses at the riding center, named "Little Lady". She is a Spanish Purebred, and sort of a mix between mother hen, nosey Nelly, and stubborn old mule. In February, I started riding Little Lady: at first only at a walk, then at a posting trot, and, when I was ready, at a canter.
Spring wildflowers, yum!
Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, it was. The initial adrenaline rush of just getting into the saddle was soon replaced with jitters, hyperventilation episodes and full-on panic attacks. There were days when I couldn't even get my toe into the stirrup and had to walk away. Out into the olive grove. For miles. But, for some inexplicable reason, I kept going back and would not let myself be beat.
Those who do not know what a struggle I have had tell me that I have nerves of steel. Others say that I am audacious or downright ballsy. Others still simply question, "Oh, you're riding again?", and I know they feel I am foolhardy. Maybe they are right. Maybe I am. Maybe it's crazy. I often think so myself.
As you can imagine, there's no one jumping for joy at home, either. So, my inspiration has had to come from elsewhere. I heard a quote by a soldier on the radio: "Fear does not keep you alive; it keeps you from living." Food for thought, ay? Then there's the one from John Wayne: "Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway." Spot on. Oh, and don't forget the clincher: "Never give up on something that you cannot go a day without thinking about." Definitely me.
Simply put, I will not let fear rule my life. And now, after riding for 7 weeks, the confidence is coming back and I have not had a panic attack for about 3 weeks. I am making progress. But, when and if I do feel the nerves coming on again, you'll find me out in the garden. It's harder to let imaginary concerns cloud your head when you've got your hands in the dirt.
Having a toes up with Rosa Banksiae after a ride.
Surely Lady Banks rode horses, too.
My sincerest of thanks on this anniversary to my trainer, Little Lady, John Wayne and my husband for biting his tongue.