13 January 2013

My Little Pony

I have big fears, so I’m trying to learn to do thinks in spite of being afraid. I can talk the talk, but I’m trying to walk the walk - or trot, as the case may be.

Not long ago I was Christmasing in Cuba with my mother Violet, sister Sue, and nephew Caleb. We took a break from being horizontal to do a jeep tour up a mountain. Our adventure included visiting a farm (easy), speed-boating (fun!), lunch (delicious) and horseback riding.

The horses were optional. Violet was one of the first to volunteer no to go, opting instead for a golf cart ride with the Cuban cowboys. Caleb was ready and willing. Sue and I however, were afraid. Years ago Sue had a bad experience on horseback and was really nervous about getting back in the saddle. I’m just a big fat hairy chicken, and don’t like to get into any situation where I may potentially lose control.

There were about 12 beginners in our group, with the exception of one gal from Alberta who was an experienced rider with nine horses of her own. Our cowboys assigned each of us to a horse. I requested (in bad Spanish) a small gentle ride, but I don’t think the boys understood, as they led me to ten-foot tall monster named ‘Jeri’, who was the biggest and most terrifying horse in the group. Horrified, I refused to climb up.

But assured that I would be just fine, I got up the horse. Feeling shaky, I looked at the ground. It was a million miles away! I looked over at my sister, who was sitting on a horse of her own, and she smiled nervously. If she could do it  so could I.

Meanwhile – Alberta gal was still on the ground demanding that she have a big strong fast horse that could ride like the wind. The ‘vaqueros’ gave her the once over, and matched her up with a small horse that was only lightly taller than my basset hound. ‘Oh – come on!’ I heard her mutter as she threw her leg over the horse.

So we started walking. We had a few instructions on how to drive our animals, but I was still really nervous that the horse would start running. In my imagination he’d take off through the woods, and I’d get smacked in the forehead by a low hanging branch,  tossed onto the ground, trampled by the rest of the stampede, and run over by the golf cart.

But things went quite well. There were a few tense moments when Jeri wondered off the beaten pack and onto the road, but I found that steering him was easier than I thought. Sue had a moment where her horse started to frolic in the grass, but within seconds a guide was coming to her rescue.
Reality (Jeri is on the left)

(Alberta, on the other hand, was miserable. She looked like a giant kid who was sitting on the horse at the mall, but didn’t have the 25 cents to make it actually move. To my delight her feet almost touched the ground, and I was relaxed enough to have a silent evil chuckle on her behalf)

A couple of great things happened on this walk. Firstly, being on a horse was Caleb’s favourite moment of the trip – and it’s always very cool to see someone fall in love with something for the very first time. Secondly, my sister and I both managed to do something that scared us.
I'd managed to control the giant stallion  - and not only did we have a  most enjoyable time, but we looked smashing in our riding hats!

But here’s the thing. When I got home, my mom sent me some photos she’d taken of us on horseback. My horse was no giant. Jeri was tiny!  My fear had made him into the Trojan horse, when he was just actually a tiny little creature. If he’d had a pink tail – he could have been in the toy store.

But fear makes things big. Bigger than they should be. So I'm trying to take a lesson from  Jeri. In my big fat chicken head, the idea of riding seemed insurmountable.  But in reality Jeri was just a nice horse and I was a little nervous. And in hindsight,  I rode with ease, and he was just little pony.