writing and Photography
Power…that’s my secret. If you ever see me practice or compete, though, you’ll recognize it instantly – and then it’s not much of a secret. Before the accident my power came from the confidence I had gained from twelve years of rodeo. Twelve years of up-before-dawn, hauling hay, studying the ring, training my body; but most of all, twelve years of saddle time. In control and unafraid, I was strong and I knew what I was doing.
Now, half of my body is literally powerless, disconnected from its control center and flapping in the wind. Still, it’s power that makes what I do possible. For years after the wreck that snapped my spine, I was useless. The feeling of moving through the air, of my body and the horse’s body being one and the same, wasn’t even a memory – more like a dream that could never have been real. Before, it would have taken rivers of water to put out the fire that burned inside me. What I got instead was thousands of pounds of metal, snow and ice, dumped on my body in the pitch black of night, erasing any sign of flame or ember in me.
I quickly set two goals: 1) ride, and 2) rodeo. I didn’t know how I would reach them, only that I would. Setting the bar this high scared my family and doctors. They were afraid that not achieving these goals would finish me off; so I used their fear as the kindling to light a new fire inside myself.
At first, Power wouldn’t come near me in my chair. He recognized me, but didn’t know what to make of me. It took months before I could approach him, and months more to earn his trust. Meanwhile, the two halves of my body went in opposite directions: my legs withered, while my torso and arms grew as I worked to build the muscles I would need to ride and, of course, race.
Now, my arms are bigger than most men’s arms and my core is rock solid. My saddle sports a seatbelt and my legs get strapped down at the thigh. I cannot feel anything from the waist down, my legs barely more than window dressing.
Before, rider and horse were one and I could feel the pounding of the engine – my engine – as we cut through the air. We are one again, but now it as if I’m on a magic carpet and Power is making us fly.