“In other words,” he continued, “you can’t ride. That’s a drawback. I’ll have to teach you as we go along. If you can’t ride, can you fall?” “I suppose anyone can fall,” said Shasta. “I mean can you fall and get up again without crying and mount again and fall again and yet not be afraid of falling?” “I–I’ll try,” said Shasta. (from The Horse and his Boy by C S Lewis)
When I read this book, I feel certain that Lewis was a horseman at some level. He shows a respect for horses and a good sense of what it takes to learn to ride. For the first many years in which I learned to ride, there was very little falling. I rode safe and careful ponies in safe and careful ways (well, usually). But when I got my first horse, Tigger, I was in for something new altogether. Although I was already a reasonably accomplished young rider then, I didn’t know half as much as I thought I did. I probably could have had a similar conversation with Tigger then, except that it would have involved a lot of bravado from me and immaturity from Tigger–he was quite young and spunky then. I was proud of the fact that I was training him, and it wasn’t until years later that I realized that he taught me more than I taught him. And, often, the lessons he taught me involved falling. Tossing me unceremoniously to the ground was his way of protesting my over-eager and frequently misguided training methods. He taught me a lot about what NOT to do when training a horse.
But in all those times I came off of him, there were only two times that I didn’t get back on immediately. Looking back on it now, I feel like learning to fall, pick myself up, and mount up again was a really important life lesson. I won’t say that I was never afraid to get back on; I think I probably was at least a little afraid every time. Sometimes really afraid. But I think I was more afraid of what would happen–or what wouldn’t happen–if I didn’t get back on. And I think maybe that’s the way we ought to approach life. It’s not that we shouldn’t be afraid of falling, but rather that we should be more afraid of letting that fear stop us from living the life we were meant to live.