Saddle Back Up!

If sometimes we need to do a little Texas two-step to keep moving forward, we also need to learn to saddle back up!

A seasoned rider since the time I was small, I recall with great clarity the ease with which I once rode my proverbial horse wild and free, feeling on top of my game! I had grand vision, relentless drive and an enthusiasm that left little room for doubt. I vacillated between a Western style that afforded me more opportunity for hard-charging freedom, and the more structured and controlled nature of the English saddle.  Always prepared, I rode in environments that encouraged me to explore and expand my limits, while challenging me to step around or jump over obstacles in my way.

But even with the best preparation, things don’t always go as planned. Even with strong skills and experience, we can be knocked off our horse (though the choice to get back up is always our own).

Until the first fall, our courage, strength and resiliency remain untested. Until the first fall, we do not fully understand risk, fear or failure.

I remember my first significant fall.

stamp.phpHer name was Polly. A stubborn, yet beautiful pony. Returning home from an English hack, we stepped out of the woods and into an open field that led to the barn. “Be sure to stay together!” our leader told us. “Always maintain control!” we were again advised, for it was this time above all others that posed the most risk to riders. From the ponies’  perspective, it was a race to the finish where the reward (food) could finally be reaped.

Sandwiched in the middle of the group, Polly broke out ahead of the rest. Unable to restrain her, I was violently thrown off, lying perpendicular on the ground to the remaining ponies who proceeded to jump over me along the way. A single kick to the head could have been fatal, so I held tightly on to my hat, closed my eyes, breathed deeply and waited for the stampede to pass.

Shaken, tired, sore and frightened, I stood up and wandered back to the barn in a dazed and haphazard way. As I approached the gate, Polly looked up at me from her oats as if to say, “What took you so long?”  

In that moment, I had a choice: Walk away or saddle back up.

Never one for quitting, I brushed off the dirt, secured my hat, and climbed back on. I walked slowly at first to regain my footing. I reflected back on my missteps and took measures to refine my technique. Polly would smell no fear from me and I would ride again.

And so we did.

Many times.

Sometimes she would stubbornly stop short of a jump, refusing to budge. At other times, we moved seamlessly in sync. When she taunted me, I learned patience. When I struggled to hold on, I learned to dig in. Over time, I learned that fear would always undermine progress, while courage, confidence, trust and respect could take us both far.

I’m curious…

Have you ever had a time when you fell off your horse and struggled to saddle back up? What lessons did you learn and how have you applied those in your life moving forward? What did the circumstances teach you about others in the process? How did your understanding of courage, strength, resiliency, risk, fear and failure deepen as a consequence of your fall?




7 thoughts on “Saddle Back Up!

  1. Hi, well done.

    Falling builds strong character. If all rides came with little effort, we would soften and not be as equipped to handle a good fall.

    Ride on!


    1. Thanks, Pete! No one likes to fall or fail, but you’re correct in pointing out that falling builds strong character. In times of failure and struggle, we not only learn about ourselves, but with a little guidance and perseverance, can learn to leverage difficult circumstances for positive life change.


  2. That’s the only way to get what you want out of life. Contrary to popular opinion, failure is not only an option it is a very real prospect. It is also how we learn, grow and improve. I have fallen off my proverbial horse MANY times. Unlike yours, Sharon, I think mine may have kicked me in the head. Sometimes I’m a very slow learner!


    1. You’re correct, Rebecca — failure is indeed an inevitable part of life. Too often, however, in our relentless efforts to succeed and be perfect, we actually miss these important opportunities for learning and growth. I may not always be a slow learner, but I’m often a stubborn one!


  3. Having ridden my entire life, my heart felt you for sure….You capture resiliency and courage…I was with you the entire ride! The most powerful sentence and one that jumped out at me…’I learned that fear would always undermine progress’. Insightful, Real and Powerful article! Thank you!


    1. Thank you, Denise. I’m really glad my story spoke to you. One of the first books I read on fear many years ago was Mary Kay Ash’s book, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. The cosmetic empire she built for herself and others is a great testament to the power of that principle. We can feel the fear, but if we let it stop us in our tracks, we’ll never reach our full potential! As with all things, working through fear is an on-going process and part of what makes us fully human. Ride on! 🙂


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