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Across the fence: Get back on

Marci Whitehurst for Progressive Cattle Published on 25 August 2020

Wrong and right are not quantifiable. Believe me, I’ve tried.

Doing it ‘right’ isn’t a status I’ve ever achieved. I’ve wanted to achieve it because in the moment it feels like if I could do it perfectly, then I’d never hurt anyone or waste money or time.

But we all get thrown off the horse sometime. Usually a lot of times.

Several years ago, our oldest daughter (then 14) was out riding her horse. My husband and I weren’t home at the time, so she was feeling the excitement of riding down below the house to check on a few pairs. Our son, who was 10, hopped on his horse to go, too. Grandma happened to be visiting.

Grandma heard a scream.

A little back story: Grandma isn’t used to our ranch life. When the 4-H steer got out, she suggested everyone stay inside, but our middle daughter (age 12, 4-foot-11 and under 100 pounds) went out and grabbed his halter and led him back to his pen.

Grandma was concerned, then, when she heard a scream.

Our son came up to the house leading our oldest daughter’s horse – and explained that our daughter’s horse had been feeling a bit frisky and had dumped her. She’d landed on rocky ground, which isn’t the ideal place to fall. It had knocked the wind out of her. He quickly reassured Grandma that she’d be OK and told Grandma he was going to drive the truck down to get her.

Grandma drove.

Our daughter talked Grandma out of calling an ambulance, but she didn’t get out of a doctor’s visit. The doctor said she was bruised, maybe a mild concussion, to take it easy and to get back on her horse in a few days.

Good ol’ Doc.

So she did. She got back on and didn’t get dumped the rest of that summer. Or the summer after, but just recently she took a little spill and got right back on her horse.

I’m proud of my kids.

I’ve taken a number of spills. The last one I had was years ago, but it seems I’m quite a bit more cautious now than even I want to admit. I don’t want to get back on – and it isn’t because I no longer trust horses; it is because I no longer trust myself.

Somehow, in the midst of a spill and an injury, I don’t trust myself to read the horse’s cues or to make the right decision in a pinch. I want to be Annie Oakley, and I feel like Amelia Bedelia.

I’ve heard a lot of people say the same thing about this season of life.

None of us predicted a global pandemic in January, yet we wonder how we could have been more prepared.

It isn’t just the pandemic, though. It seems as adults we lose our ability to just get back on the horse. Or jump back in the ring. We are much better at making lists of everything we’ve done wrong, instead of reminding ourselves of who we are meant to be and what could go right.

A pastor I was listening to recently talked about prayer and how many people pray by telling God how awful they are, begging forgiveness and reminding God of all the ways they’ve failed. He comically commented that those kind of prayers leave us worse than when we started. He encouraged us to focus on gratitude: “Thank you that I’m forgiven. Thank you that you love me. Thank you that you’re working with me.” It certainly shifts our focus.

Yet, don’t we do this throughout our decisions, too? “Wow, I don’t know if I want to do that.” “Remember when we lost that money?”

“I did it wrong last time. I want to do it right this time.”

Wrong and right are not quantifiable.

Believe me, I’ve tried.

Doing it “right” isn’t a status I’ve ever achieved. I’ve wanted to achieve it because in the moment it feels like if I could do it perfectly, then I’d never hurt anyone or waste money or time.

But we all get thrown off the horse sometime.

Usually a lot of times.

I hear myself telling my kids to get back up and try again after I make sure they are OK. Yet I wobble in fear when I tell myself the same thing. Age brings wisdom, but it also brings the reality of everything that is possible – we understand a lot more of what “might” go wrong.

It is a delicate dance to know when to get back on the horse. Right away? In a few days? That’s where wisdom comes in.

We may not always have life figured out, but there are a few things I’ve learned over the years from my kids:

  • It’s nice to have people around.

  • Play hard.

  • Dance, walk or sing with your heart.

  • Daydream

  • Be naïve. It’s OK every once in a while.

  • Talk to friends.

  • Once the tantrum is over, you feel a lot better.

  • Read, watch TV – enter a different story for a little bit.

  • Eat food you like.

  • Make time for fun.

  • And if all else fails: Join 4-H. You’ll make a lot more money than regular market value. Just kidding.

  •  Most of all: Get back on the horse. end mark

Marci Whitehurst is a freelance writer, ranch wife and the mother of three children. You can follow her on her blog (Cowboy Wife).

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