I rode Bridger today. You’ll understand something about that if you read this earlier post. It means a lot.
Last summer, Bridger and I hit a big glitch in our progress. I asked him for a little more than he was ready for, so he gave out a little buck, which was enough to unseat me, which was enough to crack my ulna. Neither the buck nor the crack were such a big deal. The killer was the fear that immediately colonized me.
Fear has not been a big thing with me. Not on a conscious level, anyway. I’ve had plenty of dicey moments on mountain bikes, on snow-covered slopes in the backcountry, with lightning on the alpine tundra, in class 4 river rapids after I fell out of the boat. I’ve unexpectedly come much too close to male moose and grizzly bear cubs. Each event had its adrenaline-soaked excitement and some hindsight shivers, but each easily became a great story to revisit over a beer. Not so with my fall off Bridger.
I am inherently, helplessly scared of heights. I grow dizzy and watery too close to a precipitous fall. I feel compelled to go over — if someone forced me to spend too long on a tiny ledge, I might have to plunge over. So I do have that fear, but I handle it by simply avoiding the situation. I tried rock climbing, which would have been a good match for my other mountain hobbies, but there wasn’t enough in it to overcome the visceral fear, so I left it behind. I admire views from a safe distance. I can’t leave Bridger behind or stay at a distance.
After my fall off Bridger, pictures of people riding horses made me queasy. Being around my horses at feeding time gave me all-over prickles. After my arm healed a little, I got on my older horse, Jack, who is as reliable, slow and calm as they come. I felt sick and loose-limbed. I shed tears.
I mostly got over it. With the superb help of friends, a couple sports psychology books and patient Jack, it eased up and left me. Meanwhile, Kathleen was busy helping Bridger get over his own problem. Six months after the fall, I was riding Bridger in the backcountry on an unfamiliar trail, having a good time.
This year, we hit another glitch, but on a smaller scale. You can learn more about that here.
Again, I backed up and brought Kathleen in. Again, it got better after only a few weeks of focused effort.
So today, I went out by myself and rode Bridger. I fought back butterflies before I got out to the corral. I talked out loud to myself when he wiggled his head and slewed his ribs the wrong way and acted like there was a mountain lion in the bush. It worked out pretty well, but I think I have begun a long-term relationship with fear. For (maybe) the first time, I have a thing, and a family member, that cannot be denied or left behind and that evoke a new kind of fear. I’m very happy I got myself out there and had a nice little ride today, but there is much more to understand.