There was once a day that I would spend every waking moment on the back of a horse. Nothing scared me, not even being on top of a 500-kilogram unpredictable beast. I lived to feel the wind rush through my hair (yes, when no one was looking I would dare to ride without my helmet...don't tell mum), or on the hotter days I guess I lived to feel the drips of sweat dribble into my eyes from the foam of my helmet; that way you knew you were working hard!
Most afternoons I would ride until darkness crept over the arena and it was too dangerous to ride, because more likely than not you would ride your horse straight into the solid wall if you kept riding now blind to your surroundings. This was a comforting afternoon/evening routine for a horse and rider who found comfort in the (almost) predictable rhythms, however, some days we were a little more daring team and would venture into the unknown abyss of the bush.
The excitement of the unknown, the comfort of the unpredictable predictability of not ever knowing exactly what would happen, the journey to muster up the confidence to get on and the emotional perseverance to maintain the confidence, endurance and strength to hold on when things turned pear shaped are feelings that I will never forget.
Ride upon ride remains imprinted in my memory. Stories of daring bravery, stories of the regular same old, stories of trying new things and stories from the awesome friendship between horse and rider. There is the saying that a dog is a mans best friend, I think it was in these years I understood this in the context of a horse being a woman's best friend. A friendship summed up in excitement, adventure, understanding and trusting bravery on the part of both a horse and rider.
Ok so you are probably getting the notion that I don't ride all that much anymore. Somewhere along the way the passion left, the excitement turned to fear and the unpredictable turned to the predictable. When I did ride I would never dare take my helmet off and venturing into the bush was somewhat but a distant memory, who knows what could happen if I went out alone.
Both times everything happened too quickly to recall. Two near death experiences and I was shaken. Although they were 7 years apart both experiences left their mark of fear for much longer than the 8 seconds of combined total duration of the incidents. Not a reflection on my ability but unavoidable accidents that shook my joy and confidence.
I got back on after the first accident when I was 13 after I recovered from a 500-kilogram horse falling and rolling onto its back while I was still astride with a crushing force that even hospital staff were convinced had broken my pelvis.
But with the help of some pretty buff guardian angels, I survived and didn't even crack a bone; some epic bruises were my only battle scars. Yea sure there were many confidence hurdles to jump over the following 7 years but it didn't stop me learning more, growing as a rider and maintaining the horse and rider friendship.
Yet now I find myself again having to rally the confidence to buckle on a helmet, slip on the favourite blue jeans and relax my feet into the familiar and extremely worn in boots. Falling on my head, flicked from the back of a 16hh horse before Christmas 2011 (with a suspected broken neck)…well, it hurt!
Another accident, a sore brain for many months with often jumbled speech and difficulty comprehending written words and an order for a new helmet. Nothing like keeping your guardian angels in good form aye! But again the jitters were back and I had begun another journey to getting my confidence back…
So a year later I sit here watching these two cowgirls train, again pondering what it is that has kept me off these 4-legged friends. It wasn't an inability that caused what happened and in the scheme of things I wasn't even hurt, so what is there to be afraid of? What is stopping me getting on?
This afternoon I have again remembered something...that we were not created to live in fear, but in freedom. For me it is time to rustle up the confidence and get back on!
Out of the saddle
This battle with confidence over the last 7 years has taught me a lot. It has taught me that living crippled by fear and too scared to even sit in a saddle is no fun at all and it certainly isn't good horsemanship. But I think the same is outside of the saddle…
How often do we find ourselves crippled by fear? I don't mean a fear that cripples us from engaging in extreme sports like horse riding…some would just call that common sense…I mean something like fear of the unknown, fear of not meeting our bills, fear of rejection, fear of a lull in a conversation or even fear of not meeting the approval and expectations of others. Are there things holding us in a metaphorical noose of fear, keeping us from getting out and living life to the full? Are there areas where we are so caught up with something that has happened to us in the past that looking forward fills us with so much anxiety that it is just too overwhelming?
Don't worry. You are not alone.
But it was never meant to be this way. Fear is healthy, but not when it controls and restricts us. There is a verse in 2 Timothy (chapter 1 verse 7) that says "for the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline". Now whilst this verse in context is speaking specifically about being sold out for the Gospel, fear is fear is fear…and it reminds us that the Holy Spirit is with us always, giving us confidence to stand for the Gospel but also face any other challenges that may otherwise cripple us from being all that God would have us be.
So let's enjoy the journey, let's ride the ups and downs and be so awestruck with God and sold out in our love for Him that everything else fades into the background. Let's enjoy the ride!
Ps. It is now a year since I wrote this article. My head has stopped hurting. I have bought new boots and a new helmet. In December 2012 I clipped on the helmet, slipped into my favorite blue jeans and well worn boots, braved up and wow I'm telling you overcoming that fear once again, although daunting at first, was the best feeling ever!!
Charlotte (Charley) works in youth ministry and is studying a Bachelor of Theology at a bible college in Melbourne. Charley enjoys writing children's stories, playing guitar and dreaming the impossible.
Charley Goiris' previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/charley-goiris.html