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The Upside of Pain

Lessons learned in times of trial.


Sometimes I get a little bitter. I indulge in some self-pity. I lose my gratitude. I begin to focus on what I perceive I don’t have. Before you know it, I’m reaching for problems instead of answers. I become what I’m focusing on. Lately, it’s been pain.

I’ve suffered from chronic pain for years. It comes and goes as it pleases, but over the past few years, it’s ramped up. I’ve had a few falls, twice landing in the hospital. My last visit was November 18, 7. It’s also the same date I last rode my paint pony, Smooch.


Horses can tell you so much about yourself. It’s uncanny. When I look at Smooch, I see myself and my character defects, from people-pleasing to fear. They mirror us, taking on our emotions, not to oversimply it. Horses show us who we are.

When I’m nervous, so is Smooch. When I’m angry, it scares him. I’ve watched him for over three years, and most of the time have a good idea what he’s thinking and feeling.

What happened was completely my fault. He repeatedly told me he wasn’t fit to ride. When I put his saddle on, he braced his entire body. I noticed but thought I could work him through it on the ground before riding.

I had him walk, trot and canter. It was a shorter ground working session than I normally have, but Smooch did it amazingly well. I decided to go ahead and ride him. I didn’t work him from the ground long enough to see the disrespect he shows me as he tosses his head around when he’s feeling froggy. Had I seen it, I might not have ridden.

Three laps around the round pen, walking. Smooch was doing well. He was walking briskly, my saddle seat was good, things seemed fine. When I thought about taking him up to a trot, I must have somehow transmitted it to him through my position in the seat.

The western saddle seat has three positions. Sitting straight up in the saddle, core engaged, tells Smooch to keep doing as he is. Leaning back, dropping my weight, tells him to slow down/stop. Leaning forward a bit tells him to speed up. I must have leaned before I was ready to trot. I was immediately off balance.

Smooch is considered a “fast” or “forward” horse. His ground manners are beautiful, but when I ride him, he inevitably bolts at a flat-out gallop, with no care for who is riding him. He doesn’t much like to be ridden.

My husband had really started making progress with Smooch last summer, but the Army sent him to Afghanistan, so I had three horses and no time to train. Smooch backslid. So did I.

I ride Smooch in the round pen only, because I thought it was too small for him to work up much speed. Past experience certainly confirmed it.

On November 18, 2017, when I leaned forward while thinking about trotting Smooch, he flat-out took off. So did I.

After the first round, I knew I was in trouble. I tried to turn his head, but Smooch had his neck braced to tight, I couldn’t move it. He wasn’t responding to his hackamore (bridle) or verbal commands. He was gone. Three more rounds and so was I.

Smooch was gaining incredible acceleration. I still don’t know how he did it. When he curved around the back side of the round pen, made of solid wood, with a hard-packed sand floor, Smooch smashed me into the back wall. I lost my seat just before making contact with the wall.

I quickly fell to earth, hard. The impact was excruciating. I felt my hip break. I heard it.

The rest was a blur. Two hospitals, surgery and days of pain. My good friend, who was watching me ride when I fell, came every day for two weeks, staying with me in the hospital, then at home as I recovered.


I started running in my 40’s, even with the chronic pain. I loved it. Running was my refuge. Hit the end of a long day and lighten the load with a run, six days a week. My weekly mileage was in the double digits. I ran two half-marathons and several 5Ks.

Today, I’m 50. I haven’t run consistently in nearly three years, not since the first and only other time I was thrown off Smooch. In 2014, not long after we got him, Smooch threw me at a gallop. I landed on the same hip I broke this time.

During my 2014 fall, I tore a tendon. After three years of waiting, I’d finally made an appointment with a surgeon to discuss my options to repair the tendon. I was scheduled to see him two days after I had my accident. After my fall from Smooch, surgery repaired my fractured femur, but the tendon still needs surgery.

As I said, sometimes I get bitter. I miss running every day. I miss it in ways I can’t put into words. It was a major part of my life. Losing the ability to run left me devoid of hope for a long time.

After years of suffering, my chronic pain suddenly eased about two months before the accident. It was the best I’d felt in years. I was training up to start running again. It made the emotional fallout from the accident so much worse.

Ten weeks after the femur fracture, and unbelievable soft tissue damage, I cannot walk without a limp. There are mornings I still have to use my walker. I wake up in pain every single day. Some days it’s hard to put on a happy face.

Just as He always does, God is using this for His good, and mine. I live life slowly today. Doing so allows me to take advantage of opportunities I wasn’t able to before, like homeschooling my teenage daughter. I was always too busy to seriously consider trying it.

I spend more time now in prayer, meditation and reading God’s word. In Genesis, there is a story about a man named Jacob. God wanted to show Jacob that living on self-will could not fix what he feared. God came as a Man and wrestled with Jacob. All night they struggled, Jacob never conceding.

The Man at some point realized Jacob wasn’t going to surrender, so He touched Jacob’s hip, putting it out of joint. Self-reliance fails where infirmity exists. Jacob limped away. It’s our pain that either causes us to call out to God, or to utterly reject Him.

Today I know it doesn’t matter how severe the pain, God is always in charge of everything. I’m certainly not saying God caused my suffering. He is simply using it to show me how, in my own selfish busyness, I am running my own life, rather than surrendering it to Him. God uses my pain to guide me through my bitterness, back to His unconditional love.


Robin Aldrich is the author of Bootstrapped! Creating a Small Business on a Budget. Robin founded the Boomerang Business Project in 2015 to help entrepreneurs thrive through personal and professional development.

For more info, please visit Robin’s website!

If you like my articles and stories, please clap and share! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my work. I wish you a blessed and prosperous day! ~ R.

Originally published at medium.com

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