Sneezing. Laughing. Also running, yoga and sitting. This is a list of activities made more challenging when one has a bruised coccyx.
How, you ask, does one get a bruised coccyx in the first place? Mainly by bouncing hard in the saddle while learning to canter — as I did the other morning. I’ve been taking riding lessons in a bid to overcome the intense fear I experience whenever the horse travels any faster than a trot.
I’ve made progress, but it has come at a price, so that getting into and out of my car now involves several minutes of grimacing and gasping while I ease myself into position. Now I know what it feels like to have haemorrhoids, or be 90-years-old, or both.
I’ll put up with the pain, though, because this is important. I badly want to learn to ride properly. My fear of falling off horses has come to symbolise so many of my other fears; conquering this one means tackling the others, too.
One of the hundreds of horses I’ve painted over the years.
I have been obsessed with horses my whole life. My first word was “horse”; over the years I must have drawn hundreds upon hundreds of horses, in crayon and pencil, water colour and chalk pastel, even lipstick. I fell off a horse for the first time when I was four years old, and after that, my parents wouldn’t allow me to ride on the grounds that I was accident prone and likely to brain myself. They sent me to ballet instead.
For years I channelled my desire for all things equine into an obsession with horse racing, until at varsity I made a friend who had horses. One day, on an outride, I rode my mount up a brick driveway in an effort to get out of the way of cars travelling up our backsides. The poor gelding slipped and fell over onto his side; I was very lucky to escape with nothing more than a greenstick fracture of my left elbow.
Five years later, I fell off a horse for the third time while on honeymoon in the Midlands. My mount bolted with me and, not wanting to end up like Christopher Reeve, I elected to part company voluntarily. I ended up at a local chiropractor but even after treatment, climbing into and out of bed was even more painful than it is now. I’m convinced that this incident is what caused the panic attack I experienced on a horseback wine-tasting trail in Franschhoek a couple of years ago. (My ability to ride at a canter was substantially improved post wine tasting, it must be said.) Subsequently I’ve had panic attacks every time the horse moves faster than a trot, which is why I need lessons to deal with it, and why I can barely sit and type this blog without wincing.
Two years ago, my mother told me to give up on men and get on the back of a horse. That, she maintained, would be my path to happiness, something I wrote about here. As it happened, I then got involved with the Land Rover campaign and the link to happiness involved 141 horses as opposed to just one. But my desire to ride has persisted, and in my next road trip, scheduled for next month, I plan to combine both horses and cars as I track down the greatest horse I ever saw in the flesh, Horse Chestnut, who’s now at stud just outside Franschhoek (maybe I’ll try that horseback wine-tasting tour again).
My ultimate ambition is to ride well enough to gallop along a beach. Already I can picture it: the roar of the wind in my ears, the slapping of the hooves on the wet sand, the sense of exhilaration. If I can get that far, the bruised coccyx will have been more than worth it. No pain, as they say; no gain.