Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Too Late

I remember the first time I ever went on a trail ride. It changed everything. It gave me the strength to make life decisions I didn't realize I could make. It was the day I accepted my life wasn't about control, but resourcefulness and reaction. Here's that story.

I had been on trail rides before. The kind where you rent a horse at a dude ranch or resort. I'd even upped that game a little and ridden across farmland with my riding instructor at the barn I took lessons at. But all of those experiences were different. All those previous rides included signing waivers and the watchful eye of professionals. They also involved someone else's horse. I was paying for a taste of an experience I so desperately wanted: to ride and explore the world on horseback with my own mount. The kind of life I read about in fantasy novels and history books.

Those rides taught me a lot but were a totally different from that spring day in 2012 when things changed. Patty Wesner offered to trailer Merlin from the stables he was being boarded at to her farm. There she and I would tack up our horses and go for a ride across her land and a neighbor's. Seems simple right? Nothing fancy. But it wasn't simple. This ride was on private land with a horse I was planning on owning. There wasn't a professional in earshot. We were on our own, in the wild, and all the lessons and dreaming seemed to lead up to this moment. What was it going to be? Two women galloping across the landscape like the opening credits of a movie? Or me strapped into a gurney as the helicopter whisks me away to ICU?

The ride itself was a calm walk and trot. No one got thrown off their horse and the spring weather was overcast but pleasant. I honestly don't remember much about it other than hoping I got home to Patty's farm in one piece. What I do remember as clearly as ten minutes ago was the moment I got on my horse and we started walking down her driveway...

So much anxiety lead up to actually getting into the saddle. This was a big step for me. The entire time I was tacking up Merlin (in all English gear, that was what I knew best) I was clammy. There's a real fear that sets in the first time you venture outside your comfort zone, and I wasn't sure I was good enough to ride beside Patty and Steele. And all of those nerves contorted and swirled inside me. I remember shaking as I lifted myself into the loaned dressage saddle. And then something happened:

It was too late.

From the moment I sat into that saddle and clicked to Merlin to walk and follow Steele, it was too late. I was on a horse. The ride had started. Anything that happened from that first step on was happening during the trail ride I had agreed to go on. All the nerves slid off me like a wet raincoat dumped in a hallway. My brain and body had no use for them. I had a job: to guide this horse well and return to this driveway. There wasn't any use for anxiety here. I had none.

We rode and returned and it was lovely, but it was the click of my brain from anxiety to action that taught me I could do this. I could quit my job. I could someday come out of the closet. I could follow this insane dream... I could do it because the ramping up to the action is the hard part. It is always the hard part - but once I made the leap my brain was just in problem solving mode.  I knew that if I could be brave my mind would follow and lead me safely home. I'd be okay. I'd always be okay because while my fear is a guide, it isn't my leader. It always takes the back seat to decision.

Sometimes being too late is a good thing.