"Aren't you scared?" He asked me after I brought Wes in from a full gallop.
"Of what?" I asked, stretching my feet out of the stirrups and letting Wes walk around before his rubdown.
"That the horse will stumble and you'll fall off." My friend had come to take pictures of horses while I rode that afternoon.
"Oh, I've fallen off. Several times," I added, as Wes nuzzled me for a peppermint. Those people who think horses aren't smart have never carried peppermints in their pockets. Wes knows just how to stick his nose into my pockets if I'm not prompt enough in his opinion.
"And yes, anyone who rides horses has some level of fear," I said, "because we will always fall. A Mexican quote says, 'It is not enough to ride. She must also know how to fall'."
He nodded, fairly unconvinced that he was willing to fall for some new experience. Instead, he took a picture of Wes, grazing on some grass while I began to strip off his tack.
My riding instructor says there are two types of riders: Those who have just fallen off a horse and those who are about to fall off a horse. That's very true. If you ride a horse, you will fall. Maybe you'll get lucky and fall off in some graceful way, but I never seem to do that. I fall ass-over-teakettle onto the ground. Instinct tells me to make sure I'm away from hooves and to sit for a moment as I make sure all of my bones are still in tact. So far, so good.
Falling isn't the only fear around the amazing and large creatures. I've had my feet stepped on by horses, who are considerably larger than we humans are. Steel-toed boots help, but not that much. And those boots are made for riding, not walking, so they give a fair number of blisters on their own. I've been bitten by horses, and their bites leave big, ugly bruises. A couple of the horses in the stable enjoy chewing on my shirts and adding attractive holes in them. And occasionally they nip on my skin as they create my horse-designed shirts. The stronger-willed horses need tight reins, which almost always mean blisters on fingers to match the ones on my feet.
Riding is one place where my soul is most, well, fully my soul. Bruises, blisters, aching tailbones from abrupt meetings with the ground - all are part of the experience. And yes, so is the fear. When a beautiful horse takes off on a full gallop, you are along for the ride. Yes, you could fall. Yes, you can get hurt if something happens. And yes, you also get to come as close to being full Spirit as one can be on this side of the Kingdom, at least for me. No matter how crazy my week or how overwhelming the days have felt, time on a horse is God's reset button for me.
My holy horse reset button, like everything of the Holy, does not come without risk and fear. Faith is not the knowledge that nothing bad will ever happen. Faith is simply, for me, the courage that God is with me in the love, in the fear, in the uncertainty, and in the mess of life. Faith allows me to meet fear and acknowledge her, not ignore her.
Fear will never be enough to discourage me from being fully my soul with God's beautiful creature, the horse. Perhaps riding with fear as a companion makes me more fully in my soul. Perhaps my horse-found relationship with fear allows me to listen to her more completely, to distinguish between those fears that are valid (like when a horse makes that small shift from spirited to dangerous) and those fears that need to be silenced (what if I look stupid?). Who knows.
When we try to live life without fear, we aren't living. And when we act as if we aren't fearful in this experience called life, we are lying. We fear things in life because they hurt, because we've had a bad experience before, because we don't want to make mistakes, and because any number of reasons that are logical and illogical and all valid. Living life leads to blisters on our hearts, bruises on our souls, and holes in our spirits. We stumble and fall because of our own mistakes. We crash to the ground because we are pushed by others. We may even find ourselves sitting in a pile of manure (yep, that happens when you ride horses, too).
We fall. It's a rule of life. If you're living, you will fall. And when we fall, just fall. Sit for a moment. Cry if you need to cry. Be stunned and shocked if you need that, too. Falling hurts much of the time, so be still and know. Feel your bones and soul. Let them heal if need be. Stretch to see what hurts and what doesn't. Then, when you feel ready, take a deep breath.
And get up. Your soul is waiting to ride the Holy Spirit. She wants to soar and gallop with you in life.
So saddle up with fear, because she's there. And saddle up with love and courage, because so are they.
And ride. And fall.
In living life, it is not enough to know how to ride. We must also know how to fall.