How did you reach outside your comfort zone this week?
This week's stretch was HUGE: I rode a horse. Wait, that's not entirely accurate. Rode implies active involvement and control on my part. What actually happened was I sat on a horse named Red and held onto the reins and saddle horn for dear life while Red followed other horses up then back down a steep rocky trail above Flathead Lake the good part of an hour.
I am a third generation Montana native. My grandfather owned stockyards, and I sat on my first horse before I could walk. I hail from ranchers, saloonkeepers, hunters and homesteaders. One would assume I have hearty cowgirl blood in my veins, but thus far in life, as a horsewoman, I am a pathetic reflection of my western heritage.
The truth is, horses scare me. Always have. I'm convinced every single one of these big, willful, mysterious, big-eyed animals secretly wants to buck, kick, bite and/or stomp me to death. Horse people tell me this is absolutely untrue, that horses are smart and loving. I want to believe them. I try to believe them. But I simply can't. (Can't ... or won't? Maybe I was an unlucky barrel racer in a past life? I don't know!)
Before Sunday's ride/sit with Red, my last time on a horse was 10 years ago. My parents and I were driving across Montana on Hwy 200 after celebrating my great-grandma's 100th birthday in Havre. If you've ever driven this stretch of road, you understand with the type of understanding that seeps down and shivers at the very core of your being why Montana is called the Big Sky state.
Mile after glorious mile there ain't nothin' but impossibly big blue skies, white fluffy clouds, majestic snow-topped mountains and great wide soft golden plains.
Until I spotted two cowboys on horseback, riding slowly across the distant range.
"I'd love to ride a horse out here." I said to no in particular. "With real cowboys. Wouldn't that be cool?"
Thing was, the no one in particular who was driving, my Dad, interpreted my idle musing as a burning desire, and before you could say hot diggity the car screeched to a stop and my Dad was running towards the cowboys, waving his arms, flagging them down.
I was mortified.
What could I do? I climbed out of the car and walked onto the range.
What I vividly remember about the cowboys is that they were incredibly young, early 20s, skinny and only one was cute. They worked at a nearby ranch (in Montana parlance, "nearby" means within 200 miles) and were out looking for a missing steer. They wore guns and holsters (hot diggity!) and were highly amused by this crazy request which I never imagined nor realistically hoped, even, would come true.
My strongest memory is how this horse -- Buddy -- who I most definitely did not "ride" but managed to merely sit on, just barely, wanted nothing more fervently and urgently in all his horsey life than to get my ass OFF him the second I sat down in the saddle.
The cowboys laughed and laughed as Buddy fidgeted and whinnied and repeatedly tried to wrench the reins loose so he could -- and I have no doubts about this -- bolt away in a full tilt breakneck gallop across the open plains bucking this anxious, horse-fearing, quasi-urban, sandal-wearing, wussy third generation Montana native sky high perhaps to infinity, perhaps to a paraplegic rehabilitation center ... anything, anywhere, to get me off his back.
So that's my stretch this week, along with a little backstory why it's such a big deal. May be clichéd but it's also true: it's downright liberating to face our fears. Exhilarating too! Works out our courage muscles like nothing else in life.
"The death of fear is in doing what you fear to do," wrote Sequichie Comingdeer.
Have a wonderful weekend!