Terrible, Thanks for Asking

Ride Through It - Transcript

This is a transcript of a “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” episode entitled “Ride Through It.” The text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future for accuracy.

Listen to the episode here.

I’m Nora McInerny and this is “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.”

I love people who love things. I love people with passions, interests, hobbies and activities. And I love even more when those passions and interests and hobbies align none percent with my own, because it’s so wonderful to know that this world is filled with people with all kinds of different brains and that different things propel us all out of bed in the morning and get us excited to be alive.

I love knowing that the world is filled with sub-sub-subcultures where people’s sun rises and sets with a topic I know absolutely nothing about. One of my favorite memories is going to a Slayer concert with my husband before he died and looking around. And it’s like… I’m familiar with Slayer’s work, but I’m not a superfan, and people were so excited to be there. It was clear that people had saved many, many dollars to go to this show and it was an event for them, and I felt so good partaking in that with them. 

So if you are ever allowed to gather in large groups again, I recommend that you do something like that. Go to a big event where you have no interest in the topic whatsoever. Like, go to the boat show at the convention center and watch people get hyped about pontoons. Go to a concert for a band that you don’t know anything about and just watch the people who are excited to be there. Go immerse yourself in the love that someone feels for something that you do not know anything about.

Because that’s what this story is about. It is about that crazy love.

Lyndsey and her family love the same thing. They more than love it, they live for it. And the thing that they love… is horses.

Any person who is passionate about a specific thing will have quirks, and then those quirks turn into generalizations. And if you’re heard of horse people — not people who ARE horses, but people who ENJOY horses — you’ve heard what horse people are like. Even I’ve heard about what horse people are like, and I know one horse person. Flora, if you’re listening to this, this episode is for you.

Lyndsey: So horse people are, like, the toughest, roughest, bat shit crazy. Like, there is nothing you can say to a horse person that they are not going to do. As far as horse people, we get up early, we go to bed late. There is nothing else that comes in the world before our horses. I mean, the world will stop and, you know, everything with the horse’s life still continues. I mean, you're asking a two thousand pound animal to have complete control, and this horse at any moment could say, “Fuck you, I'm out.” And yet we still do it every single day.

Lyndsey’s parents met through horses — which, when she said that, I imagined a horse being like, “Hey, I know just the guy for you.” But really, they just met because they both enjoy horses.

Lyndsey: My dad is kind of, like a natural... natural horseman. And just my dad's always had this way with horses. This... unspoken, amazing... I wouldn't say like a horse whisperer, but kind of a horse whisperer. 

Lyndsey’s mom rode and competed in a kind of horse competition called dressage, which I am so glad Lyndsey said first, because I would’ve said “dress-age.” Mom and Dad fell in love. They got married. And then they obviously made Lyndsey.

Lyndsey: So my mom rode all through her pregnancy. She only stopped riding, you know, very, very close to the end. So when I say I was practically born on a horse, I was... my parents put me on a horse before I could even walk, and my parents, you know, held me on my first pony, you know, days home from the hospital as my dad walked the pony around and I just sat there. 

So, that’s Lyndsey’s family. They’re horse people. It’s their passion, and it’s also their profession. Lyndsey grew up on Long Island, New York, and her parents owned a feed store and a stable where they kept their own horses and cared for other people’s horses. The work was their life, and it was Lyndsey’s life, too.

Lyndsey: At a young age, I was expected every morning to go outside and to help my parents feed the horses and turn the horses out and clean the barn. And my mom and I would always ride together — that was always our thing that we did when all the chores and all of our daily duties were always done. So when my friends… my best friend Caitlin would come over as a kid, she would help me muck the stalls, you know. Everyone knew if you were gonna be a part of my life and you were going to be my friend, this was gonna be part of what you did when you came over. 

Like her mother, Lyndsey competed in dressage. And she loved it. She loved competing. She loved shoveling shit. She loved it all.

Lyndsey: It's this feeling of just being so in sync with something and nothing else in the world matters. And, and just like... the level of difficulty that you're asking an animal to do something is just pure joy. You know, I mean, it's just you and this animal, and the world around you spins, and you're just in this moment with this beautiful creature. And it's a true partnership, especially when you have a special horse. It's like nothing else. We always say we prefer horses over people, because horses are just honest and pure and compassionate, and the love that they give is far better than any love that you'd ever get from a human. 

Competing takes a LOT of time. A LOT of time. It meant weekends on the road, just the three of them. Lyndsey, Mom and Dad. A little team. 

Lyndsey: So we have to travel, and they're hours away or states away. And the horse trailer has to be packed with, you know, everything that you're going to need for the week or the weekend or days or whatever the show... the duration of the show is, plus all of your own stuff, plus all of your equipment. And then you get to the horse show and you have to set the whole, you know, obviously the horses to be stabled there, and you set the stalls up and you have to school and train before your test. And then you go in the day of your test, and then you show. And then the take down part, and the coming home part, and then the unpacking part. And it's a lot of long, long, hard hours. 

It really was a team. When Lyndsey was competing, Mom and Dad would help her pack the trailer, get the horses groomed. When Mom was competing, Lyndsey and Dad were there to help out.

Lyndsey: My parents have always been my best friends. I mean, I've told my parents everything — things I shouldn't have told. And, you know, things that you normally... a child would not tell your parents. I always did, because that's just how close we were. 

They were a little team. And like every team, there was a breakout star. And that star was Lyndsey, who got her dad’s natural ability. She was born a horse person.

Mom was good, but she had to work harder for less results. And she was envious of Lyndsey. Of her talent. Of her big wins. 

Lyndsey: And I know she tried to hide it. And I know… I could still see it on her face when, you know, when I would have a really good show. And maybe it wasn't necessarily… maybe like a touch of jealousy and touch of sadness for her because... she wanted it so bad. And I was living her dream, and she wanted to be me on that horse. And, you know, it was hard. It was hard to to watch that. And it was hard to live that. And that she had to work so hard at it, and she, you know, constantly even said like she felt like she was failing and that she wasn't good enough.

But Lyndsey kept competing… and Mom kept supporting her. And sometimes that envy was subtle, and sometimes it was more intense. But Lyndsey wasn’t just the recipient of her mom’s envy. Her mom also gave Lyndsey her dedication and her work ethic.

Lyndsey: You're never half in or half out. You're either in or you're out. You're either gonna do this or you're not going to do this. And if you're going to do it, you're gonna do it 100 percent. And you're never, ever, ever going to give up. Giving up was never an option. And no matter how hard it got and no matter how... what obstacles stood in the road, no matter if the horse was having a bad day or if you were cranky or, you know, if you're having external life issues, when you got on the horse, nothing else mattered and you were going to ride through it.  

And we’ll be right back… after we ride through… some ads.

Lyndsey’s mom taught Lyndsey to ride through it — whatever “it” is. And Lyndsey rode through a lot. Through college years, where she changed majors like four times and didn’t know what to do with her life. Through a very short marriage in her early 20s. And into taking over the family business. 

And Mom modeled what it meant to ride through it. Because one of the things Lyndsey said that makes horse people crazy is the fact that they love these big, powerful animals who can, at any moment, not love you back.

Mom’s favorite horse was named Bugsy. He was bred and born on their property. They raised him, and mom rode him all the time.

On a regular day, Mom got on Bugsy…

Lyndsey: And she... he bucked her off. And she went to the hospital. And we kind of just chalked it up to like... just to like, you know, “You lost your seat and you got bucked off and, you know, he's a big boy and... OK, you'll heal and you'll get back on,” kind of thing. 

Mom had a concussion. And she did get back on. And ride through it, just like she taught Lyndsey to do. And Lyndsey kept riding and kept competing. And maybe it was her mom’s injury and maybe it’s just a difficult part of the circle of life to see your kids exceed where you got in life, but Mom’s envy made it harder for the two of them to share that passion for horses.

Mom stopped coming to Lyndsey’s competitions, and Dad became Lyndsey’s main teammate.

One time, on the way to a competition with Dad, Mom called. She was mad about something. And Lyndsey could hear the call — both sides of it. You can always hear both sides of it when you take a phone call in a car. More parents should know this. You can always hear both sides! And Lyndsey could hear her mom’s anger. And envy. And pain.

Lyndsey: And then the phone call had ended, and she had said something along the lines of, “I hope you enjoy living my dream.” And, you know, and that was... that was hard. 

She still competed. She rode through it. And then, a year after that first accident — that first concussion when mom got bucked off Bugsy...

Lyndsey: I was at work, and I had gotten the phone call from a guy that works at our farms, and he helps take care of the horses, that my mom had just fallen off... and he was screaming on the phone. And one of our employees at work at the time was a volunteer at the local ambulance. And she got a notification on her phone. And she just looked at me as I was on the phone and she said, “You have to leave right now.” And I grabbed my stuff, and I flew to the farm. And they had her sitting in the back of the ambulance and they were asking her questions. And she was awake at this point. And she... she looked at me and... and she like, cocked her head to the side, and she was like, “Lyn, is that you?” And I looked at her like, you know, “Mom, are you OK? Are you OK?” And she was like, “Wait, wait, who are you?” 

Mom had been wearing a helmet, but she’d also fallen hard enough that she was unconscious for 11 minutes before the ambulance arrived. A helicopter eventually landed in the field, and she was airlifted to a hospital for a CAT scan and an MRI. She has a concussion and some broken ribs. And she’s sent home after 16 hours.

And she decides not to stop riding but that she NEEDS A DIFFERENT HORSE.

Lyndsey: This is the level of bat shit crazy we are. Like, when I tell you, like, the level of… you know, insanity by definition is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, right? So clearly we are insane people. [laughing]

Nora: [laughing] Like, I'm so sorry because it's not funny, but it's like, “Wow, Mom broke her ribs. She's got a concussion. Let's get her a different horse.”

Lyndsey: [laughing] Yeah. 

Lyndsey told me that shopping for a horse is kind of like shopping for a car, only one is alive and has feelings and poops. Some horses are meant to be fast, and some are meant to be safe. Lyndsey and Mom and Dad are looking for the horse equivalent of a Volvo sedan, which was my dream car in high school.

Lyndsey: A confidence builder for her to find her passion of riding again. For her to bring back the love of the sport in her life.

The search is mainly online, but after this last fall, they’re not going to just trust the Carfax version of a horse description. They’re going to go see the horses. Look them in the eye. See the cut of their jib. Meet them. And see for themselves.

And they do. Mom and Dad go all the way to Holland just to see about a horse.


It’s October 2018, and Mom and Dad get to Holland. They meet some horses. The next day, Lyndsey’s phone rings early. It’s Dad, and he’s so excited. They found the perfect horse. 

Lyndsey: “He's everything that she wants. I'm sending you the X-rays.” So they... they send X-rays, it's basically called a pre-purchase. So it’s X-rays of the whole horse, just to make sure that everything, like, internally in their bone structure is… they’re basically not going to break down. He's like, “Lyndsey, this horse is perfect. This is exactly what we want. He's absolutely perfect.”

The broker tells Dad that while Lynsey is having the vet check out the X-rays, there’s ONE MORE HORSE they should go see. Just one more. So Lyndsey goes about her day running the business. And then the phone rings again. And it’s Dad, again. And he sounds weird. But he says he’s fine. That everything’s fine. Which is a weird reason to call. Because it’s not fine. 

Lyndsey: And he goes, he's like, “Oh, well, your mom came off. She took a little spill.” And at this point now, my heart is starting to race. And I'm like, “What do you mean?” And he said, “She took a little spill off of this last horse. I think she just might have dislocated her arm. We're taking her to the hospital just to get her checked out. I'll call you back in a little bit.”

Dad hangs up, and Lyndsey tries to go about the rest of her day. But she’s distracted and emotional, because she’s on Long Island and her parents are across the ocean, and her mom fell off another horse.

Her phone rings again.

Lyndsey: And I pick up the phone, and I couldn't even make out the words that he was saying. And I kept screaming into the phone, “What? What? I can't understand you? What? What's going on? What's going on?” And he was hysterical.

Someone else takes the phone and tells Lyndsey that her mother is in bad shape. And then, suddenly, the phone goes dead.

Lyndsey: And at this point now I am totally freaking out, and I just immediately called him back and I was like, “Dad, you have to tell me what's going on. Is mom okay? What's going on?” And he finally composed himself to say that she was really in bad shape. She broke her neck. She broke every single rib on her right side of her body. Both of her lungs collapsed. She shattered her arm, where your shoulder connects to your elbow — was split all the way through. And he was so, so upset and all he kept saying is, “She's in ICU and they don't know if they're gonna do surgery and I don't know what's going on.”

Lyndsey is panicked. She needs to get to Holland. She needs to get to her mom. To her dad. To her team. To her people. But her dad says...

Lyndsey: You have to promise me you're going to stay there. You have to take care of the animals. You have to take care of the farm. You have to keep the business going. Promise me you'll stay. And I told him I would. 

But Lyndsey can’t stay. She packs a bag, gets on a plane, and heads to her mother’s bedside. By the time she gets here, it’s been about 76-ish hours — 3 days-ish? — since her mom’s accident. 

Lyndsey: And she had tubes coming in and out of her, and her whole arm was in this huge cast, and she had these machines with her lungs, and she looked at me and she was like, “Lyndsey, what are you doing here?” [laughing] That was her first words to me. I was like, “Oh, my God, mom…” And my dad hadn't gotten there yet. And my dad walked in, and the look on his face, I mean, it was like he saw a ghost. And just seeing… seeing his look, I knew that being there was 100 percent the right decision. That he needed me as much as I needed to be there. 

Lyndsey stays with her parents for four days. It’s tense, and it’s frightening. And there’s a question in both her and her Dad’s mind.

Lyndsey: I said to my dad, I said, “Do you think this is it? Do you think she's never gonna ride again?” And, you know, my dad was like, “I don't I don't really know. I don’t really know what she wants to do.” 

Mom doesn’t know, either. She’s in intense pain. She’s had numerous surgeries. And this is her third major fall in a two-year period.

Lyndsey: And all she kept saying is, “I should have just stopped with the last horse,” meaning the horse that they had called me about that morning. Like, “I should have just stopped with that horse. That horse was perfect. Why did I get on this other one? I should have just stopped.”  And she kept talking about this other horse, and I said to my dad in private, you know, “While I'm here, do you want me to go and try this horse? This horse that she fell in love with? And maybe this will be something good. You know, maybe something good can come out of this. And maybe we can surprise her, and we can get this horse home. And it will give her something to look forward to.”

Again… what?!? What? But Lyndsey is a horse person. Her mom is a horse person. So Lyndsey goes to see that perfect horse. She puts him through all the paces. She tries to get him mad, to get him to take a wrong step. She tries to make sure this horse really is a Buick, or a Volvo, or a Honda Accord. And he is.

Lyndsey: And he was, he was just so good. So we did it, and we bought him. And we surprised my mom —

Nora: Can we just say how fucking crazy that is? [both laughing] Like, can we take… can we take a moment.

Lyndsey: Yeah… [laughing]

Nora: Horse people are crazy, Lyndsey! [laughing] That's crazy! I would be like wrapping myself in bubble wrap, being like, “Don't you dare. I'm never leaving my bed again.”

Lyndsey: I know.

And Mom didn’t leave her bed. Not for a long, long time. She was in that hospital for two months, healing and waiting for her collapsed lungs to be okay to fly again. But when she got home, the farm was still there. Her horses were still there. Her brand new horse was there.

But riding was not on the agenda. Instead, Mom and Lyndsey just hang out. No horses.

Lyndsey: And I mean, I would just sit on the couch and hold her hand and just talk and laugh and joke. And it was incredible. It was just incredible to have my mom back. And she had overcome this, I mean, intense, crazy, horrible accident.

It’s three months of this, of just being together. Of healing mom’s body and the way that riding had come between the two of them. And then... 

Lyndsey: One day, she just said, “I'm getting on.” And that was... she put her boots on and walked out to the barn. And I mean, it was like, “I'm getting on. I'm getting on today.” So we got the horse ready, and she got on, and she walked around. And I mean, it was maybe... maybe like five or ten minutes. And then she got off, and she said, “OK, I did it.” 

And then each day, you know, she would ride a little bit longer, a little bit longer, a little bit longer. And then this whole time, I had been schooling and training the other horse that we had bought in Holland. And, you know, then that graduated from the older horse, too. I would ride the horse that we had gotten from Holland, and then she would get on, and I would, like, walk her — we call it ponying, like I would literally walk next to her, holding him and walk around and walk around, and she would cool him off. 

And as days progressed and as time went on, that graduated to I would be teaching her how to ride him and give her lessons on him. And each time, I would ride him and then she would get on, or I would ride him and then she would cool him out. 

This is exactly how Lyndsey learned from her parents — from the first ride, when she was just a baby, to her competition days. It’s Lyndsey helping her mother re-learn the same skills she taught her daughter decades before. And it’s an expression of their love — for each other, and for the passion they share. There’s no envy. There’s no competition. There’s just Lyndsey and Mom. Their horses. And Dad, watching with pride.

Mom spends two months re-learning to ride from Lyndsey. And then it’s May.

Lyndsey: And, you know, she's like, “I really need to start doing this and doing the things that I love. I need to start living my life.”

It’s time for Mom and Dad to fully step back from the business that Lyndsey has been running for years. To actually retire. To enjoy their time together. It’s time to finally live

We’ll be right back.

And we’re back.

Lyndsey’s mom has just made a truly miraculous recovery from a horrible horse accident in Holland. That’s a lot of Hs in one sentence. But she’s healed — another h — and she’s riding again. She’s riding again! She’s been riding that perfect horse they found in Holland — the one Lyndsey bought to entice her mom back into riding, to give her something to get better for. Lyndsey’s been giving her mom lessons for two months on this Honda Accord of a horse.

Lyndsey: It was a Wednesday. I had come over in the morning, like I did every morning, to give my mom a riding lesson. And it was an absolutely beautiful day. It was like seventy five degrees and there was no wind. And she put her boots on, and we went out to the barn, and we were brushing the horse and getting the horse ready together. And my dad came out just like he did every time and would sit in his chair and drink his coffee and watch while I taught my mom her lesson.

And we were up at the far part of the ring. And it was about 10 minutes in, and I told my mom to pick up to canter, which is, you know, a gait — one of the, you know… like, there’s walking, trotting, canter. I ask my mom to pick up to canter with the horse. And... something happened. And I don't know what that something is. And unfortunately, I don't think I'll ever know.

And he took off like I've never seen an animal take off before. He grabbed the bit right out of his mouth and she couldn't stop him. And he was going at a full gallop. And she made the first corner, and I remember just watching this happen and I was screaming, screaming to her. “Pull back, pull back, pull back!” And my dad was… I could hear my dad screaming. “Sue. Sit back. Sit back. Pull back. Pull back!”

And she was trying so hard to stop him, and she was trying as hard as she could to pull him back, and the horse would not stop. He just kept going, and he would not stop. And she turned the second corner, and she went flying off the side of him.

Lyndsey has seen her mom after an accident before, but she’s never seen her mom fall. And it’s bad. It’s horrifying. It’s shocking. She and her dad run over to her mom. They call 9-1-1. There’s a neighbor driving by, who just happens to drive by, who stops and performs CPR until the ambulance gets there… which seems to take forever because they’re on a farm.

Lyndsey: I remember looking over and my mom's face just kept getting progressively more blue. And everyone kept trying to turn my head because they didn't want me to see, and everyone kept just saying, like, “You really shouldn't watch this. You really shouldn't watch this.” And I just wanted to know what was going on, and I wanted to know why my mom wasn't responding and why couldn't they get her to wake up. 

There are paddles. Chest compressions. A race to the hospital. Lyndsey and Dad following the ambulance in Lyndsey’s truck.

Lyndsey: And I remember getting into the truck, and my dad was driving because he wouldn't let me drive. And his entire expression had completely changed. And I looked over to my dad and I said to my dad, “Is Mom going to be OK?” And he said, “I don't know. I just... I don't know.” 

And all I kept thinking was that I did this. That this was my fault and that I… what did I just do? Did I just kill my mom? Did I just take my mom's life?

The whole ride to the hospital, the only thing I could get out to my dad is I just repetitively, like, kept panicky saying, “I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.” And it was… that's the only thing I could get out of my mouth was just saying how sorry I was for what I had just done. And I didn't even even know what that was yet, but I knew that it was gonna be really bad. 

At the hospital, Dad begs the doctors to save his wife, and they promise to do their best. And Lyndsey fights the voice in her head that says, “This is all your fault.”

Lyndsey: The doctor came back in. And he said that they... they couldn't get her heart to start. That they had tried everything, and that they could not get her heart to start again. And I... I had to walk out of the room, and I... I screamed at the top of my lungs, and I collapsed onto the floor. And I... I remember thinking to myself, like:

I can't even believe this is happening. An hour ago we were laughing and smiling and now you're dead. Like, how does this even happen? Like, how is this how... how is this even possible? She just came back from Europe and had this horrible accident where I thought she was gonna die and she didn't die. And now you come home and you heal and everyone says it's safe for you to get on a horse and you do. And… and now you die? Like it's not... this is not how your story is supposed to end. This is not supposed to be the end.

And I remember my dad coming out and just the way that my dad looked, and I was so afraid that my dad was also going to blame me, and that my dad was going to hate me for what I had done. And that my dad would never be able to forgive me for what I had done.

And the whole time on the way home, the only thing I could say to my dad is that I was so sorry and that, “I did this and that I'm... I'm so sorry. Please don't hate me. I'm so sorry. Please don't hate me.”

Of course he won’t hate her. And of course, it’s not her fault. It’s not even the horse’s fault. It’s not her mom’s fault, either. Her mom got back on because this was what she loved. What she needed. Just like Lyndsey.

Lyndsey: And then I decided. Two days later I said to my dad, I said, “I need to get on. Because if I don't get on today, I don't think I'm ever going to get on again.”

Lyndsey went back to their arena, where her mother had died. She got back on — back on the same horse that had just bucked her mother.

Lyndsey: And... it was the hardest thing I've ever done in my entire life. To be able to put my foot in the stirrup and and get on and, you know, and power through this... this feeling of “I just killed my mother.” But I knew that… I knew that if I was going to continue to ride, I had to do it, and I had to get... I had to get over it. And I had to... I had to keep going, and what I just kept telling myself was that if my mom could overcome this accident in Europe and be scared shitless to get on again, and if my mom could do it, then I could do it. And that she would be with me. And that she would make sure that nothing happened. And I did.

Riding was what made their family a team. It’s what came between Lyndsey and her mom and what brought them back together. There was a moment when Lyndsey’s mother said angrily, “Have fun living my life.” And that hurt, hearing that.

But on that horse, on that day... it felt different. It still feels different. Living the life her mother wanted doesn’t feel like a curse, it doesn’t feel like a competition. It feels like a gift.

Lyndsey: It feels like now, my purpose in life is to not only do it for myself, but to also do it for my mom. That I... every time I sit in the saddle, you know, I'm not just riding for myself. I'm riding for her. And I'm riding for everything that she stood for. And that her, you know, courageousness and bravery and persevering of never, ever, ever giving up, you know, even when all the odds are against you, and even when it's something that comes really difficult to you, you know, you just... you don't give up. Giving up is just not an option. And, you know, she knew that... that I had... really big dreams of riding. And... and I think... I think that... now it's even more of a reason to fulfill them.

Nora: And you're still a horse person. 

Lyndsey: I am. I ride every single day.


CREDITS:

Nora McInerny

Marcel Malekebu 

Hannah Meacock Ross

Jordan Turgeon

Phyllis Fletcher

Tracey Mumford

Jeyca Maldonado-Medina

American Public Media