Red Card Roberts
February 21, 2012
It’s been several decades since Eleanor Roosevelt penned these famous words: "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do."
But for Kamas resident Jeff Hebert, Mrs. Roosevelt might as well have said this just last week. That’s because Jeff lived through his own horror and did the one thing he didn’t think he could. Quite simply (and literally), he got back in the saddle.
You see, last September Jeff got bucked off his horse. But this wasn’t a typical fall from a pony. Jeff could have died.
"I had one foot in the stirrup and had just swung my leg over the saddle when the horse started to buck. I was in the most vulnerable position you can be in to get bucked," he recalls.
Jeff was tossed about 15 feet. But it wasn’t the fall that nearly claimed his life. It was the landing.
"Because it was such a surprise, I automatically put my arm down to break my fall. At first, I didn’t think it was too bad. But then I looked at my arm and it was completely dislocated at the elbow. The bones were sticking out and the whole thing was just hanging on by skin."
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And then things got really, really bad.
"All of a sudden, blood was going everywhere. It was spraying five or six feet away. I knew I’d severed an artery and could bleed to death in minutes."
In fact, Jeff had torn his brachial artery the main artery in the arm when he landed. Thankfully, his family was nearby and his dad sprang into action, applying pressure and calling 911.
Jeff spent about a week in the hospital. He underwent two incredibly painful surgeries, including a graft to reconnect his artery. And he suffered through months of rehab, learning to use his arm again.
But none of that compares to what Jeff endured last week. That’s when Jeff looked his horse Albert in the eyes and said, "I’m riding you again, buddy. This time, don’t throw me."
And this time, Albert listened.
"I have many other horses I could ride, but I knew I needed to face him again. I was bound and determined to overcome the fear of riding him. I was scared out of my life, but I had a good friend who helped me get back on. Were it not for him and his determination, I probably wouldn’t have done it. Luckily, he saw in me what I hadn’t seen in myself, and that was that I could do it, and I had to prove to myself I could do it."
Jeff has been riding horses off and on for more than 15 years and was even a high-school rodeo competitor. But during that recent ride on Albert, he felt like a novice.
"I was so scared and I knew he could sense my trepidation. They’re intuitive animals. I knew my arm was still fragile and I couldn’t sustain another injury. I said lots of prayers before hopping on. I bonded with Albert that ride and slowly got my confidence back."
At one point during his rehab, Jeff says he was convinced he’d sell Albert and never ride him maybe any horse again. But now, he’s keeping the horse that could have killed him. Mostly because that horse is now teaching Jeff quite a lot about life.
"He’s taught me some valuable lessons about overcoming my fears. I don’t think I’d be where I am mentally right now if I hadn’t ridden Albert again."
As for why Albert chose to throw Jeff back in September, it’s anybody’s guess. Albert has been ridden for years and wasn’t spooked by anything. So, the only logical conclusion Jeff can come to is this: "Apparently, I had some lessons I needed to learn about fear and courage, and Albert was my teacher."
If you have a story idea for Red Card Roberts, please e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, public-relations guru and globe-trotting thrill seeker. In a former life she worked in TV news, both as a reporter and sports anchor. She has bagged peaks on six continents, kayaked the Zambezi and Nile rivers, swam with great white sharks in South Africa and tracked mountain gorillas in Rwanda. She was once very nearly sold for 2,000 camels while traveling through Morocco.