On my recent trip to Jamaica, I had the opportunity to check out Chukka Caribbean Adventures, an adventure sport company that offers horseback riding, dune buggies, ATVs, and ziplining for the adventurous types who don't want to spend their entire vacation vegging out in a lounge chair by (or in) a pool. Whether or not I'm the "adventurous outdoorsy type" is open to some debate,and a great deal of raucous laughter by all who know me. Sign me up for the "Old Lady Beach Chair Tour," featuring hot cabana boys with an endless supply of frozen drinks with umbrellas in them, and I'll be your spokesmodel forever.
The night I arrived in Jamaica, our Jamaica Tourist Board guide and host, Jarron, told me with much delight, "We've arranged for a special horseback ride for the group, followed by going into the ocean on horseback! It's called a 'Ride and Swim'."
"Great!" I replied, trying to muster up as much enthusiasm as I could, while thinking to myself that this was combining two things that I fear most in life in one neat little package. I wanted to ask him if maybe we could add on a colonoscopy at the end, just to make it a little more exciting for me, but I held back. I didn't want to appear ungrateful for the opportunity, after all.
Part of my discomfort with horsebacking riding is that large animals tend to scare me. Maybe it was some cow-tipping trauma in my rural Ohio youth. Maybe it was too many forced viewings of creepy Mister Ed during childhood. I never went through a horse phase like most girls I knew, with the repeated readings and viewings of Black Beauty and My Friend Flicka. Despite living in a farming community, I never participated in 4H livestock raising contests or had any desire to muck out a barn. It just wasn't my thing.
I thought long and hard about the prospect of riding a horse the night before the ride. People have ridden horses for centuries, I thought. They're gentle trail horses, not wild mustangs. I'm sure they don't bite...I'll let them know I'm a lawyer and show them who's boss. Don't mess with me, Seabiscuit, or you'll be on your way to the glue factory by dawn. Random thoughts of a clearly disturbed mind.
It wasn't actually the horse I was afraid of, it was the fear of falling off and breaking my neck. Even if I didn't break my neck, what if I fell off and was not able to hoist my ample backside back up on the horse? What if my horse didn't like me, and was secretly judging me and wishing I'd actually used Weight Watchers for the past year rather than just paying for an online subscription and losing my password? There were a million what-ifs, not many of them good.
I decided that I wasn't going to make a big deal about it, that I would try it, but hope that the Chukka people would understand and let me off I couldn't hack it. I thought I should probably just do it, in the spirit of Nike commercials, bucket lists, and the "feel the fear and do it anyway" crowd. I thought about my son, who's not afraid of anything other than green, leafy vegetables and heard his voice urging me on to try something new. I steeled my resolve and cheerfully boarded the bus to face my fears and live out some fantasy I didn't know I had to become Dale Evans and Xena Warrior Princess rolled into one.