Earlier this week, I visited some friends who have a ranch in Nevada. Being a city/suburban kid, the only time I got close to farm animals was on school field trips. There were some ranches around the area I lived growing up, but all I would do is run by them and see the animals from a distance.
While my friend was showing me his horses, he threw out the obvious question,
“do you want to ride?”
Well, obvious to him. It was literally the last thing on my mind, if it entered my mind at all. Of course, I know people ride horses, and I have some close friends who have ridden competitively, but for me, I was a complete newbie (aside from the one very short ride when I was about 13).
I didn’t feel like I could say no. It’s like an invitation to dinner when you are already in the person’s house: saying no is almost an insult to their cooking. He was sharing something that was special to him, and I have learned through various cultural experiences that it is very important to be appreciative when people want to share.
Al and Carolyn began prepping the horses – brushing them down, putting the saddles on (which was a fascinating process in itself), then finally setting the bit and reins. The horses were ready, and so was I, or so I thought. I climbed up on the horse, and tried to keep my game face on, but truthfully I was freaking out. My issue? This thing under me was starting to move on its own, and I couldn’t control it.
They gave me the briefest of instructions, and as I resisted asking all of the “what if’s” going through my head, we were off. We rode up the mountain, and I reacted to every attempt my horse made to run. I wanted to enjoy myself through the ride, but I was too afraid that if I allowed my horse to do anything, there’s no telling where I would end up. I had all of those Hollywood reels running through my brain of horses that got spooked and the poor rider clutching for dear life as the horse ran at full tilt. I broke my death grip on the saddle, and my associated fear long enough to notice that my friends were about as free as they could be – letting the horses do what they wanted, riding without hands, just having fun. I wanted to be that free.
Something happened to me on the second half of the ride. I began to trust my horse. I’m not sure why – maybe I figured I had no choice, or maybe because I realized that the horse was actually working with me. On one occasion I watched as she went away from the trail, and thought she was trying to just go off on her own, but realized that she was just trying to walk on a smoother surface. I relaxed my grip on the rein, and in one sense, gave myself over to the horse. She found her footing aside the path, and followed my friends’ horses down the hill. I looked up, breathed a sigh of relief, and gazed at the beauty of the valley below me. I was finally having fun on the ride.
Giving up control is such a hard thing for me. I like knowing what I am doing, where I am going, and how I am getting there. One of the downsides of this, though, is that I can be so focused on my destination that I miss the journey. There are times, for sure when we have to execute, implement and get things done. There are others, though, when it is appropriate to take the passenger seat, and let someone else drive. Or, in the case of my horsey ride, share the control. This is new for me, as I have always considered myself the “get it done person”. However, I have been blessed with some great people around me. Family, friends, coworkers, even a horse or two. All with great things to contribute, all there to share this journey with me.
I remember something one of the church mothers told me a long time ago. “Don’t ever turn down a gift”. Now, for the life of me, I don’t remember doing it, but she did, and wasn’t going to let me make that same mistake twice. The gift doesn’t have to be monetary, or anything like that. With my ride, the gift was relaxing and enjoying it while my horse did the work.
Next time I go, I’ve been told we will let the horses run… ok, yeah, I’m a bit scared, but not as much as I was before. I figure they (the horses and my friends) know what they are doing, so I can focus on the fun part. I’m actually looking forward to it.