A Lesson From Mr. Bojangles

2013 horse and liam

A little taste from Chapter 7, ‘Atlantic Ocean’:

As I turned with Cinnebar to walk her out of the paddock, Mr. Bojangles closed the distance between us in a few powerful strides. Shocked, I turned towards him. He reared up and kicked me in the stomach with the full force of both his hind legs. Suddenly I was on the ground, struggling to catch a breath. Excruciating pain shot through my entire abdominal region.
I had fallen very close to the fence. Instinct took over and I rolled under the wire to safety. As I slowly caught my breath, I could see my host mom, Katie, through the kitchen window, shaking her head.
Feeling sorry for myself, I walked indoors hoping for some reassuring pats on the back. “Should have stood your ground,” Katie told me, in a voice hard as steel. “You should have gotten back on no matter how much it hurt or how scared you were. You’ll never be able to go into that paddock again.” She was right. Mr. Bojangles never respected me again. From then on, the moment I approached the fence, he would run at me, his head held high, his nostrils flaring.
The metaphorical significance of my experience didn’t escape me. I had rolled under the fence too often as a child. For most of my early school life, I had stood quietly in a corner, trying to avoid bruises and flying spittle. Mr. Bojangles taught me the need to believe in myself and face my opponents, no matter how unpleasant the experience might turn out to be. I needed to respect myself enough to stand up in the face of adversity. How else would I ever manage to belong in the world?