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It’s Just a Fall After All

Riding: The art of keeping the horse between you and the ground. Show #1=Achieved. Show #2=Not so much.

I thought it may be fun to share some of the not-so-glamorous experiences of my horse career from when I was a kid. I think it’s good for people, especially young people and/or people who are new to horses, to understand that it’s not “if” you fall, it’s “when” you fall.


If you ride horses, you are going to fall off. Every experienced rider has fallen off horses. Multiple horses. Multiple times. Every fall teaches you something. Sometimes it’s a painful lesson, but it’s a necessary pain. I have been blessed to have been taught to ride so well, and I attribute that teaching to why I never suffered a severe injury from a fall.


There are many skills you should be acquiring as you learn to ride which contribute to being able to fall with limited damage to yourself and the horse. It’s all about muscle memory and quick reflexes, all of which are honed over time. Discussing these skills could be a post of their own and perhaps I will do that at some point.


Cherie

Lila and Cherie (approximately 1996)

I remember my first fall very clearly. I was around 4 or 5 years old when it happened. I was on my horse, Cherie, and Mom was walking me around the farm in hand. (I was often walked around in hand on Cherie because, in my dear mother’s words, I was the guinea pig for getting her comfortable having a rider on her back). As we were walking the slightly downhill path alongside one of the pastures, Mom spied a bit of hay laying outside of the pasture and, in her infinite wisdom, decided that it was a good idea to kick it into the pasture. Well, Cherie was not prepared for that action at all. She spooked and off I went. I still give Mom a hard time that my first fall was her fault.


The second time I fell off of Cherie I also recall fairly well. I was probably 7 or 8 years old. I was in the round pen and my Mom was in the center. I think we were probably just trotting around, but something occurred and Cherie stopped very suddenly. I was not prepared for the stop, and I had been leaning too far forward, so I rolled right over her head and landed on mine. I did not get back on after that fall because my helmet actually cracked fully in half from the impact. This fall did result in me having to go to the chiropractor regularly for many years. In fact, I still go once in a while when the old injury in my back decides to act up.


Snickers

Snickers was a cute little pony with some really poor training. He belonged to a boarder, not my family, so I only rode him a couple times. The one ride I remember is when he decided to take off and leave me behind. I was likely thankful that he was so close to the ground. Needless to say, I was not a fan of the little guy.


Rainey

I fell off of Rainey twice. Once in a really stupid way, and once in a slightly less stupid way.


#1 I was casually sitting on Rainey bareback in the indoor ring during a lesson. We weren’t doing anything, just standing beside Mom in the middle of the ring as she taught. One of the parents made a noise in the observation room and it spooked Rainey. He went to one side and I went to the other. Literally just slid off. That one was pretty embarrassing.


#2 I was riding in a lesson Mom was giving. I don’t recall who I was on, but a student was riding Rainey. She couldn't get him over the cavaletti, so Mom told me to get on him and do it. Well, I got him over all of them, but I celebrated too soon because as soon as we got over the last one, he veered off to the side and I went the other way.


SJ

SJ was the reliable, old man of the farm. Smooth gaits, docile, sweet and great for beginners. He was the first horse I cantered bareback on. At my first attempt, I did not stay on. I was pretty young at the time, and clearly had not learned to keep my balance well enough. Lesson learned because it didn't happen again.


Challenger

My most dangerous fall was on Challenger. We were in the outdoor ring and the ground was damp. As we rounded a bend, his feet slipped out from under him and he landed flat on his side. My leg was trapped under him and my head was between his feet. He laid perfectly still while my mom manipulated his legs and my body to try to get me out from under him. He did not attempt to get up, didn’t flail, kick or anything. He did not get up until I was on my feet and clear of him. He very easily could have panicked and smashed my face in that day. I am very grateful to him for being so calm.


Shiloh

Shiloh was the horse who finally got it through my head that I needed to stop leaning forward so much. It was a highly embarrassing and very public lesson. I think I only showed twice in my life. It was at the local fairground and we would register for a walk/trot/canter class and a jumping class (just 2 low jumps, not a course). The first show was uneventful. At show number 2, we picked up a canter and approached the jumps. All was well over jump number one. Unfortunately, as we landed after jump number two, his head went down, and so did I. He pulled me right over his head and under his feet, clipping the inside of my thigh with a hoof as he landed. I laid on the ground, mostly wanting to melt into the dirt from embarrassment. They ended up calling an ambulance and I was taken to the hospital. Other than a bruise from where he stepped on me (and an extremely bruised ego) I was fine. Lesson learned because that was the last time I fell over a horse’s head. So…thanks Shiloh.

My second and last show. One jump before the fall.

These falls happened from approximately ages 4 to 12. I have fallen off since, and I'm sure I'll fall off again in the future. Although falling off a horse is extremely unpleasant, it’s an unavoidable part of riding. All of these experiences helped shape me into the rider I am today, and I’m grateful for them. After all, you learn more from “bad” experiences than you do from “good” ones.


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