By Amy McCollom
When I think of the Fourth of July, the first thing that comes to mind is freedom. Fireworks. Fun. Friends. And eventually, I think of my last freedom ride.
I had ridden a horse once before, at the fair, but I was far from being good at it. I waited patiently behind a line of kids at the park, and I was last in line to ride a pony. When it was my turn, the old man who was running the pony ride let me walk around the carousel of tied-up ponies and choose which one I wanted to ride. I picked a light colored horse, and he lifted me up and sat me on the animals back.
“Now, hold on to his mane.” he instructed, as there wasn’t a saddle, just a scratchy blanket between me and the animal. I grabbed a handful of horse hair, and around in a circle we went. Clip-clop, clip-clop.
I sat up tall, feeling like I was a genuine cowgirl! I hummed a cowboy song to myself, and made clicking noises with my tongue like real cowboys did in the movies. Me and my steed, roaming the range. Hearing all the other horses clip-clopping as we went around and around on that metal wheel made me believe even more that I was riding the open plains of Wyoming, even if it was just for a few moments.
Suddenly, my horse jolted and made a horrible loud noise, and I instinctively grabbed on tight to it’s neck. The horse broke free from the rope that held it to the wheel, and started rearing up on its hind legs, bucking and whinying again and again.
The horse ran and kicked it’s back legs up, then it’s front legs, trying to get me off of it’s back, but I held on for dear life! It all happened so fast, I wasn’t sure what to do except hold on tight. I was scrawny with longer limbs, and being a good tree climber, I held on like a spider monkey. Next thing I know, a woman on a tall horse rode up next to me, snatched me off the back of my horse, and dropped me on the grass by some trees.
It had all happened so quickly, I barely knew what had happened. Then everyone came running up to me with worried, unfriendly faces. I thought I was in trouble for breaking the horse, so I started crying.
Then everyone thought I was hurt, so then there were even more people staring and yelling at me. That was the last thing I wanted. I was a shy little girl to begin with, but now it seemed like everyone in the park was looking right at me, and I broke the horse and the ride was going to shut down all because of me. I felt horrible.
Well, I wasn’t actually hurt. I had no broken bones. I don’t remember if anyone explained to me that it wasn’t my fault, but I still felt bad that the pony ride packed up and left before all the kids got a ride. And even though it was scary, I was holding my own on that bucking horse. I was just getting the hang of it when that lady plucked me off. I was a little disappointed it didn’t last longer.
For a few moments, though, I felt what it was like to ride a beast through the prairie lands. I know what unbridled freedom feels like, and I felt the joy in the feet of the horse when he pulled loose from the rope and followed his own lead. I wonder what the horses who stayed tied to the wheel thought? I wonder what my horse had that those horses didn’t?
I would say he had strength in the face of fear, which is real courage. Plus a burden on his back, me.
I have never been on a horse since that day. In a way, I tied myself up with a rope of fear. For 48 years now I’ve been on that same wheel of fear of horses. I still remember how it felt to ride like a real cowgirl, exhilarating, and I do miss that. Perhaps it’s time to try again.
I think this past year has taught us that fear is overrated. Fear can be more life-killing than the actual danger. You miss huge parts of your life when you live in a cave of fear.
I certainly don’t have the tree-climbing abilities of a spider monkey any more, nor the physique of an 8 year old child, but I have the wisdom and knowledge that living for 56 years gives. Maybe I can find in myself the courage to try again. I really do want to get over this fear of horses. I love animals, and I don’t want to fear any of them. Well, except snakes. It’s ok to fear snakes.
I think a new freedom ride would do me good. My fear has held me back too long already. I believe you can teach an old dog a new trick. Not only for me but for those eyes that are watching me, this will be a good thing. I have to break this rope of fear.
What’s holding you back from doing something? Are you up for a challenge? Let’s conquer fear this year, and go on a freedom ride. It’s been a long time coming. I’ll root for you, if you root for me. Just, no snakes.