Whilst out on my ridiculous adventure last summer, I found myself out in the middle of nowhere with all of the other tourists staying at the ranch that week, feeling my horse test out how well he could round his back under my saddle.
Turned out he was pretty good at it. As he bronc hopped his way through the sagebrush, sending me cartwheeling through the air, I knew I was coming off. I knew I was aiming for a hefty blow on my back when I landed.
And all that went through my head was: Oh my god I’m not wearing a hard hat, I am going to break my skull and die.
Some of the rudimentary judo training that I had when I was 10 must have stuck somewhere, because I managed to land quite squarely on my biggest back muscles, protect my head, and break my fall a little with my forearms. The ground was nonetheless as hard as concrete, and knocked the wind right out of me.
At least Cowboy isn’t here to see that, I thought to myself as I sat up, trying to encourage my lungs to expand fully again.
One of the other wranglers who was on duty that day came over and offered to take me back to the trucks. We had barely started our ride for the day, and I could hear Pony Club wisdom ringing in my ears: Just get straight back on the horse.
“I’m fine!” I said cheerfully, dusting myself off and standing up a little gingerly. “Let’s go!” I got back on the horse, and we rode on.
Five minutes later, the horse bucked me off again, this time choosing a rocky, slippery slope, where I jettisoned myself as carefully as possible from where I clung in the saddle. I rolled, slid, absorbed a good amount of Montana dirt and gravel into the skin over my hip, and eventually came to a rest.
“Could I maybe trade horses with somebody?” I asked, getting up again and discovering I was bleeding from a couple of places.
I had tested all my joints, and they had appeared to work, so I climbed aboard a different horse who carried me home gently and carefully – although this took three hours. When I slithered off at the end of our ride, my left elbow had completely seized up and my back was ridiculously sore.
I had a good cry in the bath back at the ranch house, and then gave myself stern instructions to man up.
Long story short: the next day I insisted I was fine, despite a complete inability to move my left elbow, and attempted to climb on to another horse, with Cowboy’s capable hand firmly on my bottom to help me up. I screamed in agony, and then again insisted I was fine.
He took me by the shoulders, whilst I tried desperately hard not to cry in front of him in case he thought I was being a girl, and he said gently, “You’d better get that looked at.”
“It’s definitely not broken,” I told the doctor, who looked at me as if I was crazy.
“It’s definitely broken,” he told me, after the X-ray of my radial head had been processed. “Would you like some pain relief? I’ll bet it’s pretty sore.”
“No, no,” I said, not wanting to cause a fuss. He gave me the look again. “I’ll be just fine.”
Well, I was. Bones take a long time to mend, so it’s still a little squiffy, but it gave Cowboy the perfect excuse to give me a little extra attention over the next two weeks: saddling my horse for me, helping me mount, taping my elbow. Perhaps it was the making of us.