How an angry chicken changed the course of my life

For my (rather self-conscious) first blog post, I thought I should do the usual thing and introduce myself – but I have trouble defining who I am, and really, who doesn’t? Whatever labels we choose for ourselves, other people add more, and none of them are exactly right. So instead, I thought it might be easier to describe how I got to this point – and to do that, I need to tell you the story of an angry chicken.

This particular chicken was hatched in 2006, and for reasons unknown to the universe, it hatched angry. From the moment it could move, it pecked with a fury of a thousand provoked tigers, taking on every chicken it could. For the entirety of its (rather brief) life, it lived at a livery stables, munching all of the plentiful bugs, seeds and horse feed available to it. It got bigger. It got angrier. I had seen this chicken around, but I didn’t take much notice of it. Oh, the hubris!

On the day the angry chicken changed my life, a perfect storm was brewing. It had been raining all week; the ground was wet, and the arena sand had become a weird cement-like consistency. My horse was full of energy because he had been stuck in his stable for a few days away from the lightning. I was overdue for a lesson, an ambitious 16 year old who wouldn’t delay any longer. The chicken had been honing its skills.

I hopped on my horse, sans saddle, and began the lesson with balancing exercises. It was all going well. At this point, my life was on track: I was going to become an instructor, teach horse riding, train up horses and compete as far as I could go. My horse’s ambition in life was to eat hay and get lots of carrots. The chicken was already living its best life, and this is where the three of us met.

The angry chicken saw a rival chicken, and saw red. It went for this poor fowl in a flurry of squawks and feathers – right next to my horse. My horse, who was terrified of his own shadow, decided the avian death-match next to him was a sign of the apocalypse. He had not signed up for this, and took evasive action. I was left comically suspended in mid-air, still in a sitting position, with the odd sensation that my horse had just vanished out from underneath me. Which, in reality, he had. My Wily Coyote moment ended, and I landed on my ass, onto the solid arena sand. My friends… if you have ever been winded, you will understand how confusing and almost outraged one feels at not being able to breathe. I sat there for 5 long minutes, making weird moaning noises that were not at all voluntary, wondering if my spleen was now located somewhere close to my sternum. I remember seeing the chicken strut off, and I hope that, as it witnessed the carnage it had created, it was finally satisfied. I doubt it. What I do know is that it became a dinner that Christmas, and I’m sure it was furiously delicious.

It turns out that the simple act of landing on your butt can shatter your spine – so take your calcium supplements kids! It took a few months to heal the bones, and more to recover, and eventually I had to stop riding altogether thanks to the damage. I went from planning my days out in South Africa, being a crazy horse lady (and probably looking like baked leather by the time I hit 30), to suddenly reevaluating my life in my teens. I studied Archaeology, but realised I was trying to fill one obsession with another, and it just wasn’t working. I took a course and learned how to teach English, and set off to Spain to work and travel. A few months later I moved to the U.K. and looked after primary school kids – a more adorable bunch scoundrels you’ll be hard-pressed to find! I decided to dive into travel after that, and worked as a travel agent. This gave me a ton of crazy stories, and I had some amazing adventures around the world to boot. It took me a few years and a few places to find a solid path, but now I’m studying an MA in Comparative Literature… and I’m feeling positive about what’s next.

I have to say, I wouldn’t have been able to make it through the past 10 years without my family and friends – they gave me incredible support in dark times, and I owe so much to them. They helped me change my life from the safe, the known, into the adventure it’s become. It’s not always a picnic, but hey, that’s life! I can’t imagine the me I am now feeling fulfilled in my old life, and that, I think, is progress.

And, while I’ll be forever grateful to my loved ones, we all know who the real hero in this story is: the angry chicken.

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