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How a Horse Turned Me into Queen Quitter

Winners never quit and quitters never win.” — Vince Lombardi

I don’t know much about Vince Lombardi, but I know he never rode a horse named “Rocky.”  If he had, there would be one less famous quote in the world.

Back when horses didn’t kick my ass.

Before Rocky, I’d never been a quitter. Quick example: I watched the first few years of the TV series Bones on DVD while doped on flu medication. After my illness, I continued to watch the series even though somewhere around season five it became a parody of itself. The main characters solidified as completely unlikable individuals, surrounded by a supporting cast so cartoonish Mel Blanc should have voiced their dialog. Nevertheless, each week I propped my eyelids open with modified eyelash curlers, Clockwork Orange-style, and watched.  How could I quit something into which I’d invested 100 hours of my life?

I didn’t watch Bones because I loved the idea of street-artists morphing into computer geniuses with eponymous all-knowing crime-solving “Angela-tron” computers.  Just saying “Angela-tron” makes me want to punch myself in the face. I watched Bones to slow my own personal slide into apathy.  In my youth, I committed to every challenge with a special combination of fervor and stupidity. To change that behavior would to be to admit I’d lost my edge.  I didn’t want to be a quitter.

Then I met a horse named Rocky.

When my girlfriend asked me to take riding lessons with her, I knew, much like a cast member of Celebrity Apprentice, I’d have to check my self-respect at the door.  She and I rode competitively from third grade to ninth, but I had only been on a horse twice since then. I had no illusions of becoming a spaghetti western stunt double my first day back in the saddle. Largely because they stopped making spaghetti westerns in the late sixties, but also because I understand riding is an art that requires muscle strength I no longer possess.

My first riding lesson damaged both my pride and my legs. I wore the wrong clothes and rubbed deep holes into the side of each calf. An illustrious kulat modeling career was crushed before it began.

For the next lesson, I bought high boots to protect my legs, skin tight breeches because the world just doesn’t see enough of my ass, and a riding helmet. I felt more comfortable in the saddle, particularly once it was discovered I had mistakenly used a child’s saddle the first time.  Still, my ankles and leg muscles ached after trotting just a few times around the ring.  On the upside, the clear reminder of how out of shape I’d become was an excellent way to prompt a mid-life crisis. All my friends were having them and I felt left out.

Third lesson, my steed Rocky decided demonstrate that he didn’t enjoy trotting around a ring anymore than I enjoyed bouncing around on his bony spine.  Rocky threw down his head, ripping the reins from my hands, and bucked like a rodeo horse. I did my best to hold on, but Rocky also eschewed the “quitter” label. He refused to stop until I hit the dirt.

“Wow,” said my unimpressed instructor. “Rocky hasn’t bucked anyone off in like a year.”

I felt honored.

Dejected and dusty, I walked Rocky back to the little step stool and climbed back aboard, hissing the story of dog food manufacturing through gritted teeth.  I trotted around the ring to prove my fearlessness and then headed back to the barn, but I could feel my relationship with Rocky had been inextricably altered. Rocky had my number.

Next lesson, Rocky didn’t bother to pretend things between us were civil. Again he tried to buck; somehow I wrestled back control. I attempted to resume cantering. Ten feet down the rail Rocky again threw his head, splaying me across his neck.  Mane in my teeth, I yanked back on the reins. Rocky stopped dead.

I had underestimated Rocky’s sense of humor. Over and over we repeated this dance.

Head down! HEAD UP! Stop. DON’T STOP! Head down! HEAD UP!!

Flustered, I walked Rocky to the instructor and explained my dilemma.  Too late, I realized I was telling another human being that I’d been outsmarted by a horse.

“Use your ab muscles,” she said.

“Right,” I said. “Why didn’t I think to pick those up with my new boots?”

Horrified, I notice my voice was cracking.

The instructor turned her attention toward my more deserving friend, still trotting around the ring like a pro.

“You need more confidence,” she said, striding away.

I walked Rocky back to the rail fighting tears of shame and frustration. No one had ever told me I lacked confidence. I’d always been the brave one. I could demand a different lesson horse, but I wasn’t even enjoying myself.

I was trapped between a Rocky and a hard place.

Back at the barn, my friend asked if me if I was OK, and the answer rushed from my lips before I could stop myself.

“I quit.”

A peace came over me. No one wants to be a quitter.  But not every cause is a winner. Many of the things I committed to finishing in the past I did so due to lack of money, desperation or inexperience.  Now, I was older and in a more comfortable place. I didn’t have to commit to winning the war against Rocky.

Maybe it was time to redefine “quitting” as “making a wiser decision.”

Enjoy your sweet feed, Rocky.   You gave me bruises, you gave me scars, and you freed me from the tyranny of foolish commitments.

You miserable, old nag.

Or quit. That’s cool, too.

Article first published in Skirt! Magazine.

Amy Vansant

Amy Vansant

Author Amy Vansant enjoys long walks on the beach, anything to do with her Labradoodle Gordon and frantically getting nothing useful done.
Amy Vansant

21 Responses

  1. SarcasticNinja

    Oooh, sounds like Rocky couldn’t stop horsing around!

    *crickets*

    But really, it sounds like Rocky was a stroppy teenage horse, except you couldn’t ground him or take away his car keys, and he *could* potentially trample your ribs into rib-dust. So I think you made a good decision.
    SarcasticNinja recently posted..It’s Tough to Be the Queen – Part 1

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    • Amy Vansant

      Rocky was like 102 years old and his cranky ass knew my cranky ass just wasn’t into it, so he made the executive decision to separate our asses. What an ass. (well, technically not an ASS, he’s a horse.)
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  2. Nicole

    I think after you are old enough to make your own decisions, it’s not quitting. If you were 15, begged your parents for the lessons, they paid for it, and THEN you decided Rocky was a jerk and you hated him, THAT would be quitting.

    But you’re an adult, you used your own money for the lessons, during which you discovered Rocky was a jerk and you hated him. I call this an amendment. 😉
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  3. bill major

    lmao,, i used to work with them , cleaning stalls so i could ride for free and one day ,and im 12, this house saw something on a trail i was on just getting ready to cross a highway and bam! he rolled, i held on ,s******G myself at the same time and he hauls ass down the lane where traffic was coming straight at me ,i held his mane like it was my mama and i was breast feeding. he finally shifted over to the shoulder,i got off and walked his crazy ass back to the ranch and that was taht till o4 in arizona..

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    • bill major

      lmao, i know how stupid we are. in sedon the traial was a foot wide ,a big clff on my left and of course i had a hourse that looked like a clydale, i was petrified the whole time , then were crossing a river and the guide says dont let them drink any water , well letr me tell you something , when i tried to pull the reins and lift his head ,that horse about catapulted my ass across the other side so i said to myself , drink well you #$%^&

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  4. Christian at Point Counter-Point Point Point

    I can totally relate to this post. Minus all the horse stuff.

    I am the same when it comes to quitting. Especially TV shows and movies. I pretty much never stop watching a movie until it is over no matter how bad it is. And I’ve finished out a few TV series that I was well past finding any enjoyment in.

    But also similar to you, now that I am older I have been more willing to “make a wiser decision” then continue doing something that I’m not getting any benefit from.
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    • Amy Vansant

      It was fun back when we did it as kids… this time, I MIGHT have had 5 minutes of that glorious tired feeling you get after doing good work… and then I was just sore.

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  5. Happy Little Feet

    I can relate to this very much. The last time I was on a horse it bucked me off and while I was lying on the ground dazed it turned around and tried to trample me. Luckily I am small and by some small miracle I jumped through a tiny hole in the fence just in time. Quitting riding horses is a good choice!
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