A horse’s saddle seems to be a popular spot for characters in old Western films and cowboy legends to learn important life lessons and reach profound insights about nature or humanity. I’m picturing a lone, rugged cowboy riding across the plains and sleeping under the stars, his horse roped to a tree near the campfire while he plays his harmonica for the “dogies.”
For me, a horse’s saddle wasn’t quite that ideal when I went riding for the first time at a friend’s ranch over fall break. Not that I didn’t experience that quiet, almost transcendent solitude and connection with nature while riding along a river between the mesquite trees at sunset, it was just that I didn’t actually stay in the saddle.
One minute my horse was galloping precariously toward a tree while I tried desperately to reign him, and the next I was waking up, looking at a clear blue sky with three friends frantically asking if I was all right.
Six hours later I was limping out of an emergency room with a fractured back, eight staples in my head, and a ginormous splint on a fractured left wrist.
None of that has actually been as bad at it may sound, and I found there’s quite a bit to learn from falling off a horse.
For one thing, riding a horse is much more of an art than it might look – one that apparently doesn’t come naturally to me.
During my emergency room stay I discovered morphine really is a wonderful thing.
This last week I’ve realized our vertebrae and back muscles are actually rather crucial for jumping in and out of bed, sitting at a desk, driving a car and climbing the stairs. Hands, as it turns out, are also fairly important. If one is temporarily out-of-order, there will be little typing, texting, showering or cooking. Flossing is entirely out of the question.
More than that, I found people have an amazing and humbling willingness to help in so many ways – like bringing flowers, making dinner, carrying a book to class, typing your homework, carrying your laundry, buttering a piece of toast or shampooing your hair.
I also have a much better appreciation for being able to wake up in the morning, get out of bed, put my shoes on, walk places and do a lot of other things I never really considered at all special before.
So while my amateur horsemanship prevented me from any romanticized experience or realization in the saddle, I found just as much to be learned from waking up on the ground to trees and a blue sky. And maybe sometimes it’s good to be bleeding on a rock instead of comfortably secure in a saddle.
Metaphorically, that is – I’ll skip the staples next time.