An unexpected rodeo and a bruised psyche

It happened so fast I had no time to think, and perhaps that explains why even now I can’t really piece it all back together. Harrison was on Spike, and I had the lead rope. We were watching the 4-H kids practice their equine drills in the neighborhood arena.

Suddenly Spike spooked for no apparent reason. The next thing I knew I was sprinting down an embankment, trying to keep a grip on the rope. I found myself “climbing” the lead rope hand over hand as I ran trying to gain control of the berserk burro, who was running away with my son.

A split-second decision — I knew that I had to somehow get a grip on Harrison and pull him out of the saddle before the whole thing got away from me. I remember getting my arm around him and pulling him off the burro just as I lost my footing. Then, for what seemed like forever, I wrestled in mid-air, flying, twisting and contorting in an attempt to hit the ground first myself and break Harrison’s fall.

We landed in some shallow snow, and miraculously nobody was seriously hurt. Harrison appears completely unscathed. I have a chunk missing from a middle finger down to the meat (I think from rope burn), my lower back is really torqued, and I feel pretty beat up in general.

And then there’s the bruised psyche.

All the magic of the connection between animal and child can come undone in only a few seconds. And then the second-guessing sets in: Is this therapeutic riding thing really helpful, or is it merely my ego at work? Is this just too dangerous? Spike should be a “dead-broke” burro, but one can never fully know what goes on in the mind of an equine. What he did today bordered on psycho.

Despite today’s rodeo I’m hopeful Harrison will get back in the saddle soon.

My friend Mad Dog has lost a friend, an older gent who lived next door to him. Speaking from experience, it’s a hell of a thing when you are in middle age, or maybe a little bit on the other side of it, to lose an older friend, someone you really admire. I know because I went through that when Virgil Lawson passed on a few years ago. It takes a while to come to the full realization that this person is really gone. For a long time the notion of his death would strike me . . . I might be driving somewhere, out running or just outside working. I would feel a deep sense of loss and just think, “Damn, I can’t believe he’s gone.”

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