Seven years ago exactly I found a melanoma growth on my back, left leg. I was only 34 years old, so I was surprized and really disappointed in my "loser" body--giving it up to cancer so early.
Not that I'd been a poster-child for healthy living. I had tanned in tanning beds a little when I was in college, I had an occasional cigar (sometimes too many, I'm sure), and, at the time I came down with it, I'd let myself get pretty depressed about life.
Looking back, I think hopelesness or depression had more to do with it than anything.
But needless to say, when I came so close to NOT finding that darn mole--or not believing it truly was cancer until forced to a doctor visit, I decided if I was going to die I'd rather do it on horseback than waiting around for some stupid freckle to do me in.
During those years it was like a return to my teen years when I KNEW I was invincible and dared life to disprove it. I took risks on horseback that I would not have normally--ponying my colts through ravines and creeks--up and down hills--anytime I had that voice of caution talking to me, I tried not to listen to it. It was like I was running from what I considered a "bad" death--a quick death by horse seemed like a good one.
But as the years went by and there was no recurrence of the melanoma, I started to think I didn't want to die at all--on horseback or of cancer. So, I got more and more cautious.
Today I'm solidly a cautious rider. I never take risks I don't understand beforehand. I scout out trails before I take my horses on them, and I never ride a trail with my horse that I would not walk myself. I worry just as much about injuring them by a stupid decision as I do about injuring myself from one.
And, I don't mind being in this place--this safe place. I enjoy riding my horses more than ever--I don't let caution keep me from getting out there and being with them every day. I actually feel like I'm a better rider because of it. I feel like I'm a better handler on the ground because I look and listen all the time.
I respect the power and nature of the horse.