I used to be invincible, or so I thought. Now I’m a cautious—okay, sometimes nervous—female baby boomer in Southern California who thinks: “If it ain’t broke, don’t break it.”
For just a few bucks
What “was” can change to what “is” in one terrifying instant. Two years ago, I’d just returned from (mostly) six years in New Zealand. I ride horses, jumpers to be specific, at the low levels and was riding a questionable sale horse at a local training barn. Something just wasn’t right, I thought, for he was extremely slow and weak “behind.” When the trainer pointed to the low, cross-rail jump with six cantering strides to another fence, I was unusually hesitant. I told her so. I had flapping butterflies in my stomach. Now I know why. I also know what it feels like to ponder your fate during an emergency.
Down the line we went, over the jump. The horse immediately spooked, backing up quickly and then bucking three times so high my L1 spinal vertebrae snapped in one corner before I thudded into the soft sand. Terrified, screaming and in pain, I endured the dirt in my mouth and the rescue team asking the same questions: “Yes, I can move my legs.” “My name is Stephanie.” Then came the ambulance, the E. R., the waiting, the x-rays, the cat scan, two days in the hospital, the custom-made back brace and the worst hurt, the bill—I ate up that miserable $5,000 deductible in a half-hour. Darn it.
No bed rest
I started power-walking immediately, against the rules. I’m sure it helped, for my fracture healed better “than 80%” of them, my doctor said. I started riding again nine months later, and a month later, I fell off again. Back in the ambulance I went, on a teetering, hard board, then back to the E. R. for an encore. Nothing was broken—this time, my L5 disc complained loudly, as did people who knew me and suggested I “stop riding.” I thanked them very much.
Ten months later, I’ve regained most of my confidence on a horse, even though I’ve had moments of sheer terror and tears. I still gulp when headed towards a jump, even though I’ve cleared hundreds with no problem. I talk to myself, and remind myself that giant 17.2-hand “Gamble” is safe and kind, which is true. I’ve come back mentally and physically, on the big guy who whinnies when he sees me. I’m proud of my tenacity, and of not allowing my fear to be the master.
I ride because I love it, and because I still can. It’s the one thing I do for me that provides so many benefits…and a few risks, too. Life is about choices. What do you do that pushes your boomer boundaries? Let’s both ride on.