Following a debilitating car accident at 16, I gave up the idea of horseback riding lessons, something I'd intended to pursue once I could pay for them. Due to a shattered right femur, hip injury and cracked pelvis, my orthopedic surgeon said that horseback riding would put too much pressure on the leg and hip. I was so happy to be done with surgery, out of the hospital and able to walk at all after a long period of rehab that I dropped the idea without a fight....but every time I saw, and especially interacted with a horse, I was saddened to my core. I told myself to be grateful for what I had and not grieve something I never did.
Fast forward 30 years (I'm on the wrong end of 46 now), and my husband and I went to Kentucky, so that I could see the horses. As luck would have it, we ended up at the Horse Park, where a very easy trail ride is offered - on very docile horses. I screwed up my courage, waited until no one was around, and asked the staff member if I could give it a try. I didn't detail the injuries; I felt, for the first time, an overwhelming need to not define and limit myself according to them. I don't know why it was so hard to ask; I think it's a demonstration of how daunting and permanent a lack of belief in oneself (and the dated pronouncements of a surgeon) can be. Thankfully, I asked the right guy; not only did he select a wonderful horse for me, he (gallantly and discreetly, without causing me undue embarrassment) hefted my overweight butt into the saddle so quick I didn't know what happened!
But I do know what happened next: it was life-changing. Except for the moment of my son's birth and my wedding day, I have never been happier in my life than I was for the hour of that ride. I felt at peace with the universe, and that I had a place in it that I had never envisioned - a place of joy, discovery and connection with the animal and natural world. I suppose I have always been so grateful to survive the accident physically that I never dared hope for more.
I came home determined to pursue lessons, and have found a teacher with decades of experience who understands my injuries well, as she has recovered from her own and has a medical background to boot.
Here's the hitch: I think she is worried about me - and I don't know if maybe, it pains me to say, she is right to be. Although my doctor says I can give it a try, I'm 5ft, 6inches and 250lbs, although muscular and toned from the swimming and weights I've always done to keep my mobility. At this weight, though, I fear I'll never be able to mount from the ground without pulling the saddle. Although my teacher has let me use a 3-step block, I just make it unassisted. I have a weak right leg, still limp when tired and suspect I'm not as well-balanced/coordinated as is desirable. She feels strongly that being able to mount from the ground and dismount without assistance is an immediately necessary step to learn, for safety's sake. Although she's very kind, and maybe I'm just insecure and overly sensitive, I think she'd privately rather I either give it up - or come back 50lbs lighter, and maybe better able to ride well because of it. I surmise this based on specific behaviour: she wants me to come on a pay-as-you-go plan (others at her stable pay for an 8-week session at a time); she has a staff member hold the horse when I mount; she asks me how I'm doing very frequently while on the horse; and, when I ask if she thinks I can do this, she says that only I can know that, and she just wants to be sure I am not hurt. She has also given me run of her stable and offerred generous access to interacting with her horses regularly via their care, assisting at shows, etc. She's a lovely person and this is her livelihood - I can come to no other conclusion except that I am a very marginal potential riding student.
I'm a tough cookie, and I'm in my big-girl panties - literally and figuratively- every single day, so I'm turning to you for your honest thoughts and advice, if you would be so kind. I know you all get the weight thing, and although you're clearly horse experts where I'm completely green, I can see from this forum that you would also get why concluding that I really can't do this after all makes it hard for me to breathe.
I fear that if I give this up now, I'll never go back. Let's face it, it took 30 years the first time! But do I push my teacher (and me) to proceed right now, as I am?
Thanks for reading my story, and in advance for any thoughts/advice you can offer.