One of the most common things I’ve heard this summer is “Gosh, you’re so brave!”
Sometimes it’s just for the act of moving that incites this compliment – some people can’t contemplate leaving behind their lives for new ones. (I couldn’t contemplate not leaving behind my old life.)
Mostly, though, it’s because I admit that I go out in the morning and ride horses on the racetrack.
You’ve all ridden fresh horses. How many of you have ridden OTTBs, or, for that matter, remarkably bad ponies, at horse shows? Cross-country? On trail rides, past washing machines and scary Other Horses? How many of you have had heated arguments with flustered and rambunctious horses in barn lanes and in dressage arenas, and how many of you stuck it out, won the fight, went on to ride still more to teach that damn horse who was boss?
Come on. We’re all brave. Anyone who gets on a horse is brave. And possibly a little crazy and maybe a closet control-freak.
The challenge of riding racehorses comes from the perception of it. It’s a racehorse, on a racetrack, and I’ve never ridden that horse before!
But I have ridden Thoroughbreds across open fields, with often-chaotic results. And I admit, I did ride yearlings and two-year-olds. Which was pretty scary from time to time. But I’ve had much scarier moments taking Warmbloods into jumping arenas, too. My thought was, basically: a fresh horse is a fresh horse. Put your feet forward for a bucker, put your body forward for a bolter, and hang on. The rest will come to you with time.
We’ve all done it. We’ve all gotten on horses we didn’t want to ride, and we’ve all ridden them through crap when all we wanted to do was jump off and go hide with our heads under our pillows. In an arena, in the woods, in a field, on a racetrack. We’re all brave.
Bravery, friends, is just getting on a horse. Any horse can dump you. (Remember, I’m scared to death of Quarter Horses. And it takes courage for me to admit that.)