Nothing on Earth That Compares

Photo by Beth Rice.

I was just going to say, let’s all just take a breath, and stop being crazy — when a tragedy occurs, and it’s all going sideways again.

Because death affects us all very deeply.

After Ashley’s death in July, my very first cross country ride was at Loch Moy, and after a fairly good show jumping round, we went directly to cross country. Up there, in warmup, I was trying to not get too excited, and was sweating because it was really hot, and feeling a bit weak — then it hit me.

This could be it.

This could be the last time I do this. Right here. Right now. It makes you really stop to breath for a few seconds and think about what you are about to do, where you are going, and what is coming.

So all the sweating and anxiety may not have been from the heat.

I don’t know how my horse just goes and jumps all these things for me. I am grateful he does, and I’m grateful he knows to somehow squiggle, hop, step over, or negotiate an obstacle when I’m really stupid up there on his back.

So I looked down at the mane of my horse, my wonderful, super, loyal friend who has always looked out for me and done everything I have ever asked him to do. And I am grateful for his friendship. And I touched his wither with my hand, and petted him, and soothed myself. “It’s all right,” he said to me. “I know how you feel.”

And I asked him if he was OK to go today. And he said “Sure. Whatever you want, mom,” as he has been trained to do, and I have schooled and lessoned and jumped and galloped and walked on trails in the woods with him. “Sure. Whatever you want, Mom.”

And all this stuff goes through your head literally 30 seconds before start. So you find a way to concentrate on what you are doing, on getting your reins shorter, getting the whip straight in your hand, a push to the watch button, a look at the volunteer starting you with a “Thank you,” and you may as well get on with it.

So you start off. And you say, well, if it’s not good, I’ll quit. So you jump fence 1. And it’s alright so far. And you head toward the big table that is fence 2 and you say, if I am going to jump this, I am not going to approach it or jump it scared or thinking I can quit, or want to stop. That’s not the right attitude here. I need to get my head in this game right now – because it really is all or nothing.

So I channel my inner Scarlett O’Hara, and decide I’ll think about it tomorrow. And you saw my distance, sucked my leg on, softened my hand, poked my butt in the saddle and my chin up.  And when I landed, I thought, “There,” and looked for fence 3.

And so it goes. One jump, one obstacle, one question at a time. Concentrate. Adjust. Get the job done right – not just done. If you’re going to do it, do it as well as you can, be as ready as possible, train hard, school hard, think, prepare, ride to the top of your game. Every jump. Every single cross rail.

If you have done it a million times. Or if it’s the first time.

Of course, there will be bad, sad, horrible days we can’t even.

And there’s no reason for it and there’s no explanation that makes sense or gives any comfort. We don’t know when our Maker says, “time’s up.” We just don’t.

And then there will be days that there is nothing on earth that compares to a great ride on a stiff course that you really nailed, that your horse and you grew a little on. You think about it as you work or drive or wait somewhere, and ride those jumps again. Over and over. And your day is bad, your work sucks, your life is crap, but you have that.

There will be days that there is nothing on earth that compares.

In honor of my friend Melanie Tallent.