Why You Should Get Back On The Horse Even If He Nearly Broke Your Hoohah

Author Kelly Byrne meme ready to fly

My mother’s the kind of woman who loves a good belly laugh. Who doesn’t, right? Growing up, many times, those laughs would come at my expense, and usually after something kinda sorta bad happened. As long as she knew my parts weren’t broken beyond repair, or I wasn’t bleeding out, she’d more than likely be in hysterics if it was just bad enough to be really funny.

It’s called schadenfreude, folks. And, crikey, it’s hereditary.

I’ve got mad love, admiration, and respect for my mom though, because she taught me to laugh at myself too, and not take things too seriously.

So when I was nine we had The Christmas of all Christmases. You know, the one all others are weighed against, because Mom gave me the ultimate present: horse riding lessons. I’d been obsessed with horses since before I could feed myself, so this was the Holy Grail of gifts.

In preparation for my western riding lessons, Mom had bought me some sweet cowboy boots. You know, the kind of cool shit-kickers with heels all the serious cowboys wore. At nine years old, I was ready to be serious.

Author Kelly Byrne with horse
Star, Me, and my serious boots.

I met Star, the demon horse, on a rainy Saturday early on in my lessons. I’d been scheduled for a private that day, but because of the rain, I had to switch to the indoor paddock and take my lesson concurrently with a group of advanced riders. Advanced jumpers.

Nobody bothered to mention Star’s propensity for jumping until after I was locked in the death chamber with him and the other riders.

My friend and neighbor, Dusty, had accompanied Mom and I that day to watch all the fun horsey action. When I was forced inside with the equestrian Flying Wallendas, and Mom found out Star was a jumper, she only had seven words of warning for Dusty.

“No matter what happens, do not laugh.”

In case you’re wondering, a western saddle has that big horn sticking up in the front that you grab onto for dear life when your horse gets spooked and takes off, hurtling forth at Mach 1, in the middle of an open field. Or when he tries to buck you off by bouncing around like a giant, angry four-legged flea. You’re not meant to jump over hazardous obstacles riding western unless you’re the Lone Ranger or Hugh Jackman in Australia.

Star was feisty, like me, and my instructor tried her best to make me understand that I really needed to “keep him on the wall” and not let him peek over toward the interior of the paddock where all of his friends were jumping and yahooing and having a grand ole time flinging themselves over high, scary objects.

The more I struggled, the more he fought. Funny thing happens when you look where you want to go. Or where you don’t. You end up going there.

Because I was a wee nine-year-old with little riding experience and weak arms, pitted against a stubborn and strong-willed creature with a mind already made up, we inevitably parted ways.

I flew, limbs flailing, right over that damn horn (useless if you don’t get a good grip on it) as Star sailed, much more gracefully than I, over the jump he’d had his eye on.

I landed with a thud on my tailbone in the dirt, with the left heel of my fabulous cowboy boot jammed into my inner right thigh. It had come dangerously close to damaging my hoohah. The purple bruises stayed for weeks.

First thing I heard when I stopped hyperventilating? The peels of laughter coming from my mother. As soon as she knew I wasn’t permanently broken, she. Could. Not. Help. Herself.

Then she hugged me, wiped away my tears, and, in the middle of her giggle-fit, made sure I was going to get back up on that horse.

Now, I’d always wanted to fly, but that ordeal wasn’t exactly how I saw it going in my head for my first time. So I made sure that hell-to-the No. Way. I was petrified. And in pain. And pretty damn embarrassed to boot. I wanted to tuck my tail between my swollen legs and skedaddle.

But that’s not what you do when you fall off, when you fail. You get back on the horse, even when it scares the shit out of you. Especially when it does. And you laugh about how silly you looked and sounded flying through the air screaming that first time.

When you’re battered and bruised and your mother is in hysterics over your failed equestrian acrobatics (rightly so), you pick yourself up and get back on that horse. When you’re nine, or ninety-nine.

Because the only way out is through.

So Mom kissed my booboos, I dusted myself off, and mounted up. It took all my strength mentally and physically to get back up there, and I probably invented a few fun, new curse words that day, but I kept the plucky bastard on the wall in the end.

Author Kelly Byrne on horse
Together again.

When it came time to jump months later? Star was all mine. It’s a good idea to learn from our mistakes and use them to our advantage.

And always try to remember to laugh when it goes spectacularly wrong or let someone else do it for you, because, really, life is too damn short not to find humor in our unintended fails.

It’s true that if you never try you’ll never fail. And you’ll also never fly. Jenny Hanson wrote a great post about taking the leap on her More Cowbell blog last week. Please check it out only if you’d like to be inspired.

If I’d quit riding that day, if I’d let my fear (or my mother’s hysterical laughter) stand in the way of my desire, I’d never have felt the glorious rush of intentionally taking Star over that first jump months later.

I never would have experienced the amazing unity you feel when you’re so in sync with the animal beneath you, or the dream in front of you, it’s as though you’re one together and you are flying.

Thank you for that, Mom. And thanks for laughing me through it. And through so many other things along our journey.

Friends, what horse did you get back up on after your mom laughed you out of the barn? Or have you walked away from the horse, never to return? Do you suffer from schadenfreude too? Sadly, there’s no cure. When did you take a flying leap? Did you fail spectacularly and try again, or did you fly first time out? Are you thinking about taking that leap now? Do tell.

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Kelly Byrne
An award-winning writer in many a genre, I currently herd words into novels and short stories about wildly flawed, but lovable characters. I strive to uncover the extraordinary in the ordinary, for those who believe in the possibility of the impossible, and those who always believe in love. My fiction embraces the idea that extraordinary things can and do happen in the real world. These whisperings of supernatural elements give my work a strong emotional edge, lending surprise and wonder to every story. I live in Los Angeles with my desperately handsome boyfriend where I’m working on my next novel.


  1. What a nice present to come home to! Thanks for the link. I’m thinking about all the stink-eye your mama probably got from other parents through the years for her giggles, and how good they were for you. I wish someone had laughed me back up the cliff when I got thrown off (rappelling) in college. Instead of being hideously afraid of heights, I’d likely be jumping out of airplanes.
    As Steve Harvey says, “You’ve got to JUMP.” 🙂

    1. Hi Jenny – thanks for stopping by! I’m happy to link up your great blog here.

      ‘Stink-eye’ – ha! Hilarious. Yeah, she probably did. I’ve always loved my mom’s sense of humor, even when I was in the crosshairs of it. And I say that with love.

      You fell off a cliff? Holy moly, woman! Uh, no wonder you’re afraid of heights. Not sure laughing you back up would have helped in that case. Jeesh. But if you ever want to try it, I’ll volunteer. Like I said, it’s hereditary, so I’m very much my mother’s daughter.

      And you’re still jumping, for sure, just not out of planes or off high rock formations. It’s all good. 🙂

    1. Hi Amy! Thanks for stopping by and joining the conversation. I’m so glad you enjoyed my post, and the message, and even more happy to hear I have a schadenfreude sister in you. We must stick together. 😉 I hope to see you again soon.

  2. This was every bit as good as I thought it was going to be. Nice!! You’ve so inspired me that I will definitely be pony-backing on your post with my own hilarious horsey tale very soon.

    I’m so glad your hoohah wasn’t permanently damaged…that would have been nothing to giggle about!

    And what is it about our near maniacal, uncontrollable *compulsion* to laugh at another’s embarrassing (albeit not life-threatening) pain? It must be more than genetic…it’s probably evolutionary. Geez!

    1. Thanks, Kel! And I can’t wait to read your pony-back post. Hilarious horsey tales are…hilarious.

      Yes, luckily the hoohah was still intact. Definitely wouldn’t have been giggle worthy if there had been any permanent damage.

      Evolutionary sounds about right. Crazy, silly humanity. We make it so easy and so much fun to laugh at each other. I mean with, with each other. 😉

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