Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Three Questions

Good Tuesday morning!  I am going to answer three questions some brave souls have asked me in the past six years.  After they get the answers to what happened and why, some people press on. You may have the same questions in mind. Ok, I'll go ahead and answer them, again.

Question One:  Will you ever ride again?  Well you know the answer to that one.  Then comes the follow-up questions: Why?  Aren't you afraid?  No, I am not afraid. Why do you still want to ride?  Well, I love horses.  I love to ride.

I've been truly riding since I was six years old.  Not being led around on a rope, actually riding by myself.  My only being led around experience was when I was three.  I wouldn't even get off the pony at my school field day.  The woman leading the pony had to take me to my parents to physically remove me from it.  I was a pistol of a three year old.  Are you getting that impression?

I am a horse person.  Horse people are born.  You can't make one after birth. God decides who will be a horse person and who won't.  If  you don't believe in God, then I guess I'd tell you some genetic mystery decides.  Read tomorrow's entry if you are interested in this thought.

So, that answers the question: Why do you still ride?  I don't know how not to continue to ride.  I don't know how to give up horses.  I don't want to know either.

Question two:  Do you wear a helmet now?  Yes, I wear a stupid freaking helmet now.  You have to understand, western riders of my age and older don't wear freaking helmets. 

For people my age and older, a helmet is the equivalent to walking around with a dead chicken on your head.  It's weird.  You just don't do weird crap like that.  Look at professional rodeo riders and barrel racers.  How many of them are wearing helmets?  Not many.

It was my physician, Will, who convinced me to wear a helmet.  He rode growing up.  He races sports cars.  He also rides a motorcycle to work.  He is not a shrinking violet afraid of being hurt.  That's probably who it took to convince me-- a person who does similar things, who is not afraid of life.

At a follow-up appointment in the office, I was grousing to Will about my family, particularly my mother and brother, harassing me to wear a helmet after the accident.  I absolutely understood why my mother was at it.  She's my mother.  Mothers are averse to their young being killed off.

Will knows my family.  He and his wife, Diane, are close friends with my parents.  He knew who I was talking about.  He's known me since I was eight years old.  He knew full well who he was dealing with in all of us.  That's a really good thing in this case.  We are a formidable bunch.

Will is particularly close to my brother.  My brother, Jack, is into very high octane sports.  Ice climbing, high level rock climbing, perilously difficult downhill skiing, motorcycle racing, those are just a few of Jack's sports.

Who in the heck was my little brother Jack to lecture me on horse safety?  He is not a horse person.  Furthermore, he was phoning it in from 2,000 miles away!  What did he know?  I was aggravated.

I told Will, just like I told everyone else who was bothering me about wearing a helmet, "If I had died that day, I would have died happy."  Here's where he got me.

He said, "The problem is if you don't die.  The problem is if your family has to take care of you the rest of your life with a brain injury.  You do it for your family.  That's when I started wearing a motorcycle helmet.  I did it for my family."

I gave it one more weak shot with how weird a helmet would feel after all of these years.  I added the dead chicken on the head metaphor, too.  Will told me, "I know.  I know exactly how you feel.  It felt strange wearing a helmet on my motorcycle, too.  But, pretty soon it will feel normal.  Then, it will feel abnormal if you get on without your helmet."

Ok, ok, he got me.  But, I do not wear what I call one of those "head banger" helmets.  You know, those big helmets they put on kids with severe autism who compulsively bang their heads on the wall.  If I had to wear a dead chicken on my head, I was not going to look like I needed to be riding the short bus to school.

My helmet is a compromise.  It is certified and blah blah blah all that head injury association stuff.   It's a helmet made into a white straw cowboy hat.  Now, to get a hat to fit over a helmet, the hat is big.  I think I look kind'a like Yosemite Sam.  I don't love it, but hey, I don't look like I belong in a special ed class either.  Like I said, it's a compromise.

I groused to my mentor, RW, about the helmet harassment, too.  He said, "Well, yeah.  I understand.  It's probably a good idea."  Of course, I countered with, "Well, why don't you wear one?"  He told me because he didn't want to.  See.  RW understands how I feel.

Mom is on the National Head Injury Association board. I know she's loving my "glowing endorsement" of helmets for western riders. Sorry Mom!  

Ok, let me try again to make my mother happy.  I acknowledge that helmets save brains--if you have a brain to start with.  How's that?   Hey, Mom, at least I compromised! I may look like Yosemite Sam, but she's happy.  What we'll do for our mothers!

The third question:  Will you promise never to go riding alone again?  No.  I do not promise to never ride alone again.  Now, damn it, you've got me in a helmet.  You aren't getting me off my horse.  You aren't getting me to ride with a "minder" like I'm some sort of freaking beginner who doesn't know what I'm doing.

I will ride alone if I want to.  If I'm in the mood for it.  If I'm sick of being bothered by people. I will ride alone.  I am far from a beginner rider and I will ride alone if I want to.  Period.  If you were a horse person you'd understand.

I got sick of people bothering me about it.  So, I talked to RW.  He's my touch stone when non-horse people act like I'm being unreasonable.  He agreed with me.  He rides alone, too. His wife told me she hates it when he does.  See, horse person, non-horse person--very different views.

Now, here's the sort of question a horse person asks me: Have you been back on?

When I finally told RW about my accident, it was almost three months later.  I wanted to tell him in person.  I wanted him to see I was alright.  Even then, I had residual affects in my face.  He asked me, almost holding his breath, if I'd been back on.  Yes, I had.  He was visibly relieved.

Why was he so relieved? Before I told him, in my determined anti-helmet argument, I started investigating the statistics on near fatal horse back riding accidents among people with 30+ years experience.  Yes, those stats exist. 

You know what those stats said?  I don't remember the exact number, but it was a large majority, something like 80% of those riders never ride again.  Those may be horse people, but those are folks who became afraid.  I am not in any way disparaging their experience.  It is not for me to judge their experience.  Just as it is not for anyone else on this planet to judge my experience.

I thank God I did not become afraid to ride.  I thank God that was not my fate.  It would have been depressing beyond words had I become afraid to ride.  It would have been equally depressing had I become afraid to ride alone.

So, yes, of course, I've ridden alone again.  I've ridden Tar alone again.  Not on that same trail, but only because the opportunity didn't exist. I left that barn soon after the accident.  I wasn't mad at anyone.  I wasn't thrown out.  It's just life. It's how I ended-up with my farm, remember?

Usually, that's it for the questions.  Wheather people agree with my decisions or not, they normally stop there.  Horse people don't ask me these questions, by-the-way.  Non-horse people do.  Horse people only ask me the question RW asked.  Horse people and non-horse people--very different souls.  I'll explain tomorrow.
Thanks for reading!  Have a great day!

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