Keep Trying the Fence
I opened my eyes and saw the sand swimming five or so feet below, where it met the fence that, in theory, I should be sailing over at that very moment. I felt the coarse hair of Sydney’s mane on my face as I dangled from his neck and the pain shooting through my hand, which clutched at the reins. I took a deep breath, pushed myself back into the saddle, and sucked back the sharp twinges from my hand as I took the reins back up and turned around for another go.
I found out the next day that the hand was broken and spent the next four weeks of summer in a cheerfully blue plaster cast. But I kept riding, competing at three horse shows and still jumping three-foot fences.
In finding myself precariously balanced in front of the saddle staring at the ground, I considered myself lucky. Usually I was laying on it, looking up at the clouds floating peacefully through the sky; in fact, Sydney’s temper tantrums were not a rare occurrence. He bolted and bucked and stopped and swerved and fell and dumped me in just about every manner possible. I hated it. Why he couldn’t just leap over the fences, why he had to buck me off or embarrass me by racing other horses around the ring—those little insights eluded me.
In retrospect, ignoring the injuries and jumping Sydney for another twenty minutes may not seem like the smartest decision. But I learned something that day: I couldn’t let Sydney take advantage of me without doing anything about it. That was why I’d gotten back on all those times he’d knocked the wind out of me, broken my bones, or fallen on top of me. The sequence went unchanged every time: I fell, I stood up, I got back on. And it wasn’t foolhardiness, I’ve realized. It was fortitude.
I believe in strength—not just physical prowess, muscle, or endurance, but the ability to withstand mental rigors and still be determined to succeed. I believe in the strength to keep my chin up, sit out the bucks, and gather the reins when things get out of control, the strength to keep trying the fence no matter how many times I fail. I believe in the strength to get back on after the fall, to push through the pain and persevere until everything finally comes together in the end. The strength to ride through the rough times and keep my eyes on the fence.
If I can keep my eyes focused ahead between the ears, I can steer in any direction I choose.
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