The sun was just about the dip below the Kansas corn field horizon. The arena was empty save my horse and I. A few horses grazed in the pasture adjacent, and my doting boyfriend watched from the rail. It was literal sickening perfection – until I found myself spitting a mouthful of dirt from my lips, looking up at the sky above which no longer looked romantic but instead now matched the crimson color of my cheeks.
I heard pounding footsteps approaching me (where was my horse?), and a breathless boy appeared in my sightline, peering down with concerned furrowed brow.
Ordinarily, this would be a moment that every girl with a dormant princess complex would live for: the handsome man sweeping in to save her from her sure demise.
This wasn’t one of those times.
I left any resemblance to “ladylike” on the ground as I stood up, brushing the dirt from my brand new breeches and unleashing a slew of profanities that I’m not sure the poor guy had ever heard before.
“Uh, babe, you okay?” The concern really only serves to enrage me further, much to his dismay.
“I’m FINE! I’m just getting fairly tired of this spin move every time he thinks I’m not paying attention,” thought I wasn’t willing to admit that I 100 percent was not paying attention and that my horse was, in fact, right. Perhaps that’s where the anger originated.
“Hey, you dropped your whip,” he proffers the crop as my horse ambles back over, looking as if he’d just returned from giving a leadline ride. Silently, I take it and gather the reins to head back over to the mounting block.
The rest of the ride is uneventful, thankfully. My pride probably wouldn’t have withstood another fall.
The problem isn’t that I fell off, I promise. It’s the fact that I was caught unaware, and it also happened to be the very first time I’d brought my boyfriend to the barn.
After all that talk of relationships with your horse and trust and all that jazz…surely he thinks I’m just another weird horse girl that he may have bumped elbows with in high school years earlier.
He follows me back to the barn quietly – I’m sure he felt uncomfortable, in hindsight, and I wasn’t making this first trip to the barn easy on him. So I threw him a bone.
“Sorry about that. Sometimes I get a little embarrassed when things like that happen, and I tend to overreact.” My words seem wilted and insufficient as they leave my mouth.
“Hey, no worries,” he responds easily. “I’m sure you’ll see me eat dirt on the track [he raced motorcycles] at some point, so at least we’ll be even then.”
You see, I’d spent a good chunk of my dating life wanting to pull off this image of myself: confident, cool, collected – all of which absolutely do not describe me on a normal day. His easy and calm reaction to my embarrassment soothed me. In that moment, I resolved to shrug off this idea of what it meant to “impress” someone I cared about. If my man couldn’t accept me for my dirt-covered, manure smelling, fragile ego-having self, then I wasn’t sure I wanted to be with him anyway. And that probably felt the most liberating of all – the feeling of no longer caring and knowing that this person could see through the complicated (and collectively un-cool) layers.
A week later, he wiped out on a jump with his dirt bike. As cool and collected as he was with me that day at the barn, let’s just say – his face was pretty red, too.