Strength from Vulnerability

Call it luck, call it coincidence, call it divine intervention.

Ever notice how when you’re thinking about something–really mulling it over–the universe helpfully strews your path with little rose petals of information?

Besides my rat-nasty IC flare this week, I had an accident with one of the horses. It wasn’t a big one–I just got clipped on the heel. Friday and I were walking past an irrigation vent, which is basically a pipe sticking up out of the ground that allows air to blow out. And yes, it makes an unexpected (and LOUD) hissing/smacking noise that would scare any horse–even one pastured down the hill from said vent. It scared the crap out of me, too–I’d had my mind on other things, it was a dead-quiet, muggy summer evening, and I hadn’t even been anticipating a vent-out while we walked by.

I was leading her, and when she jumped forward, she clipped my left heel with her hoof.  In true cowgirl fashion, I figured if I could still walk, I was fine–I didn’t even look at the wound.  I was a little pissed at her for getting into my space, and proceeded to move her around all over the road. The vent hissed again while we were working, and she planted–but at least she didn’t jump into my space.

I considered that an improvement.

Anyway, it could’ve been much worse, and the fact she was able to plant her feet when the Scary Noise happened again was really cool. Friday has an innate ability to stop and think when she’s afraid, and that’s something that’s doesn’t come easily for most horses. I really respect that about her.

It wasn’t until I got to my sister’s house that I saw there was blood all over the cuff of my jeans and (gross) all over the inside of my shoe. Walking with shoes on has been interesting the past couple of days–I can put Band-Aids over the cuts, but my heel is pretty bruised up.

So I’ve got a handy physical reminder that keeps making me relive what happened, and of course one of my first thoughts was about what she would’ve done had I been on her back.  A few years ago it was a shoulder injury after my mare came to a dead stop during a bolt. Although the stop was exactly what I’d asked her to do (I was trying to one-rein stop her) I couldn’t stay on. That one took quite a while to get over.

Any incident like this forces us to think about what a huge part fear plays not only in what we do with our horses but how we handle ourselves on the playing field of life.

Fear stemming from shame is also a big problem, particularly for someone with a chronic illness. As  twohorses also pointed out in a comment here earlier this week, the shame associated with diseases like these can be particularly difficult to handle. We don’t talk about this stuff with people because we don’t want to appear vulnerable–we’re afraid of what people will think of us.

Compare that kind of disability to a broken leg. If you’ve got a cast on your leg, people will leap over themselves to help you. They’ll even autograph the damn thing.

These days, attitudes about formerly “embarrassing” diseases like prostate and breast cancer are changing thanks to in-your-face marketing ploys.  Witness all the “Save the ta-tas!” t-shirts and bumper stickers…and oh yes,  the black “BOOBIES” bracelets. This morning at Safeway in Moses Lake, the checker asked me I wanted to donate a dollar to prostate cancer research. Can’t imagine that happening twenty years ago.

It’s not like I mind any of that stuff…in fact, I bet it’s been extraordinarily helpful for those folks with those kinds of cancer. I doubt, however, that I will live long enough to see the day when those of us with chronic digestive and bladder problems become poster children.

After my last post about riding without fear when I was a kid, Winter wrote,

“What is it that we fear? Is it really a form of the same things we fear in our day to day life – broken hearts that keep us from opening up, bad bosses that keep us from switching jobs…The dance for me, that fascinates me, is that we continue despite our “maturity,” despite knowing that the horse could step on a girl in camp, or that a fall could change our lives. We dance with, through, and over our fear and our knowledge, and that’s where the real courage comes. So it makes sense, doesn’t it, that it would be harder?”

Yes, yes, yes. And shouldn’t it also makes sense that fear and embracing our fear is a necessary part of developing a true relationship with our horses?

I know it’s necessary to do some desensitizing work with horses, but I know I’m not the only one who’s worked with a horse so deadened by imprinting that they were impossible to handle. People have figured out that if we take fear away from our horses, they ironically more dangerous and more difficult to handle. I once watched an imprinted mare break her owner’s fingers when they were trying to load her. They never had any idea when she was going to blow, because she never gave normal “horse signals” when she was getting emotionally overloaded–she acted dead calm until she’d had too much.

As Brene Brown says in her talk below, humans can’t selectively shut down those feelings that make us uncomfortable, either…not unless we want to limp through life.

Thanks for the petals this week, universe. And thanks to all you generous horse bloggers out there–your time spent writing about your horses always gives me something useful to think about.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Strength from Vulnerability

  1. Watch this when you can:

    Life, well lived, is vulnerability, isn’t it? Otherwise we aren’t much different from the numb horses. A prison of the soul…

    • Dang, I thought I was able to paste the HTML code for this very video at the end of what I wrote this afternoon–the video you linked here was indeed one of the things that inspired my post! Is the video not showing up for anyone?

      And you’re exactly right about how trying to avoid fear can imprison us.

  2. Beautiful horses. IC is a horrible animal to have.

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