My Senior year of high school, I was working with a very inexperienced paint horse I had named Pink Floyd. Pink came to me on a buddy deal, and I honestly knew better than to take on such a job at this busy time of my life, but nevertheless, I started working with him.
In the Spring of 2016, I hauled my horses to a local arena alone, as I had done countless times, to work them. I saddled Pink and began working on simple skills as we always did; nothing out of our typical routine. About twenty minutes into our session, Pink became agitated and began refusing to cooperate with simple cues he had mastered and learned to read with ease. Before I knew what had happened, he lunged into the air rearing up. I leaned forward to regain my balance, bracing on his neck as he lingered in the air, but he didn't feel right. I felt his balance faltering and began getting ready to bail.
As I tried to kick my stirrups off, Pink fell backward. I bailed, barely landing out of the way of the saddle horn as it stabbed into the ground. My vision was foggy as I caught glimpses of the horse rolling over the top of me in his struggle to regain his footing. I passed out waking up to an unnerving numbness.
I laid in the sand of the arena in complete fear. I was scared to move. I began trying to prepare myself for the worst-case scenario. After what felt like an eternity, feeling began to come back. My head ached, there was a stabbing pain in my lower back, and a throbbing sensation in my right leg. I rolled onto my stomach and my world was spinning. As I blinked sand out of my eyes, I caught a glimpse of Pink standing quietly at the far end of the arena. I managed to get onto my knees, then stood up with stinging tears in my eyes.
I hobbled across the arena to check him out. Through gritted teeth, I managed to check him over. He seemed to be unscathed. I unsaddled Pink and loaded both horses into the trailer before calling my mom. After both horses were safely home, I agreed to go to the doctor.
After X-rays and an exam, it became apparent that I had done serious damage to my sacroiliac joint, the joint that connects the upper half of your body to the bottom half. In addition to the damage to my back, I had a concussion and a hematoma on my right leg. To this day, I have issues with my back, but I am so lucky. Although I was bedridden for several days, I was okay. I was so fortunate to have been spared from life-altering injuries, and there's not a day that goes by that I don't appreciate how blessed I am to have survived being crushed by an 1,100-pound animal.
After the fall, however, I had some trepidation about climbing back into the saddle. I'll be the first to admit that I was scared. I was scared of falling again and I refused to ride any of my horses. It was hard to face the horse that could've killed me and even harder to accept that I was afraid of something that had once given me such joy. But, more than anything, I was ashamed that I couldn't find it within myself to face this horse. In the world of western riding, you're told to be "cowgirl tough" and I felt like a failure. I considered quitting, I almost thought cutting my losses and selling my horses would be better than getting back on that paint horse.
Finally, almost two months after the fall, I decided enough was enough, and I pulled him out of the pasture. With shaky hands, I saddled him, and with wide eyes, I mounted him. I rode him like a beginner, clinging to the saddle horn for dear life, but I rode him. It wasn't pretty, and it was a short ride, but I did it, and I am so glad I did. I faced the horse that could've ended my riding career, and I am all the better for it. I do not claim to be the best rider, and I am no cowgirl, but I conquered something monumental in my life. An insignificant ride to most, but probably the most important ride of my life.