Keep Looking Forward


Head up and eyes forward.

The blood splatters as it falls, like warm rain on a summer day. I am on my knees in the dirt staring into my riding helmet. I watch, mesmerized by the pool of scarlet expanding in the silk-lined hat. I feel both pain and numbness in my head. I sit stunned, like a cartoon character with stars and tweeting birds circling around. I have a vague recollection of retrieving my helmet. I don’t understand what happened. How the hell did I come off my horse going over a fence? For fox sakes not again! I was the number one student in the hunter jumper class. Number one for coming off my horse.  All movement is happening in slow motion, people burble when they speak. I can’t understand anyone. My riding instructor takes me to Emergency in my dream like state. I have a concussion, and receive stitches to accent the scrapes and bruising. I guess that’s what happens when you take a bridle off your horse with your face— in midair— going over a jump. Where was YouTube then?

My instructor and I have a chat in her office the next day. I sit in a chair, without a seatbelt feeling hollow disappointment in myself. It was my fault. I knew that. “So what did I do wrong?” I ask, looking down at my hands.

“Debby,” she says with seriousness in her tone, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Well, at least I’m original, I think, making an internal attempt at lightheartedness. She shakes her head, “You had me worried. I’ve never had to take a student to the Emergency.” She sighs with obvious exasperation, “You need to start keeping your head up, and your heels down. You better start focusing on what’s coming up on the course, and have a plan in place. You looked down, you lost your direction on forward movement. After that, it was ass over teakettle for you my girl.”

Well, that explains it, right up to that point, everything in my life was ass over teakettle. It was my signature move. Grace and I were strangers, but clumsy and I hung out all the time. And never mind diamonds— stitches were my best friend.

My riding instructor gave me stellar advice. I get it now. It’s taken me years, but I finally understand the importance of being present, and keeping your attention on what’s ahead. Why look down or back? You’re not going that way. Much of the damage I inflicted on my poor body was due to lack of focus. It is a magical thing to be forward thinking, to figure out what you want, and how to get it. You will accomplish your goals. You will get over that hurdle— without ripping your face off.

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