“And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
Thomas Wayne in Batman Begins, 2005
The rhythmic cadence of his canter under me was familiar and soothing. It had been awhile since I had last ridden, but my heart found a piece of its rescue on the back of a horse years earlier. It is a place where I can breathe and be and feel God’s pleasure.
Spring break found me in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, once again – another place where my heart found rest, away from the chaos and night terrors visited upon me at home by my father. Rest was found in the salt of the air, the breeze off the ocean, hot sand between my toes, and late nights fishing the intercostal waterway that quietly lapped past the back of the hotel we visited every year.
The heat was full, causing sweat to drip out from under my riding helmet, down the back of my neck and upper back and down my forehead, stinging into my eyes, but I didn’t care. I was in my joy, the sweat-spot of riding where I felt one with the horse, heart pounding, breath matching his – power and delight as we moved along the rail of the ring.
In the distant, someone threw open the barn door. In an instant I found myself momentarily suspended in the air, no horse beneath me. My backside met the ground with such force that I sustained a concussion without my head hitting the ground. All air was knocked out of me.
I sat on the ground, stunned. My ears were ringing; my head was spinning. I couldn’t believe it! I had actually fallen off a horse! I had never fallen off a horse, even when one bucked and reared in fright when a car backfired next to the ring I was riding in. I knew how to stay atop a horse, even a frightened one, even a frisky one. How in the world did I end here, on the ground, off the back of my horse?
As I sat on the ground catching my breath, reorienting myself, and completing a body scan, checking for broken or dislocated bones, one of the stable hands brought my horse back to me and asked if I was okay. Looking up to answer, I saw the problem and realized what had happened a few moments ago. The saddle in which I was riding, which was to be securely attached to the back of the horse, had slid 90 degrees down the side of the horse, leaving the left stirrup dragging on the ground.
How in the world…? My thoughts drifted off as I did a quick recheck in my mind of all I did after I first mounted the horse. I adjusted stirrup length and checked saddle secureness and began walking around the ring. What I had neglected to do was retighten the girth after a few minutes atop his back – an important safety measure since some horses will hold their breath when being saddled up. General practice dictates that a rider should stop and retighten the girth after riding for a few minutes to prevent the saddle from slipping. In my excitement to be riding, I forgot this one simple rule. And it cost me.
And I learned from that fall.
I learned that my security on the back of a horse can only be as secure as the girth that holds the saddle. The girth’s ability to hold the saddle to the back of the horse can only be as certain as how securely it is fastened around the horse’s belly. The tightness of the girth can only be assured when checked after the rider has mounted and ridden the horse briefly to ensure the animal is breathing. And boy! Did I learn!
And I refused to be afraid. I refused to be afraid to get back on the back of a horse. I refused to allow that fall to keep me from a place where I found goodness and delight.
I refused to allow the fall to steal my joy.
After getting up off the ground, brushing myself off, and rechecking myself once again, the stable hand helped me to resaddle my horse. I gingerly remounted and began riding, this time at a slow, comfortable walk as my head continued to pound sharply. But this time, after a few minutes of riding, I stopped my horse, checked the girth and retightened it. This time I was confident in the girth’s adjustment. I was safe and secure upon my stead. And it was good.
Erin O’Connor’s favorite name to be called is “Grammy.” She enjoys spending time with her two grown children and her granddaughter laughing and playing board games. Erin lives in a suburb of Chicago, and is a professional counselor. She enjoys mentoring others, reading, writing, and seeing God’s handiwork in nature. Erin is a contributing author of several devotionals published in Quiet Reflections of Hope. Erin continues her journey of experiencing kindness from God, with others, and for herself.