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One of the things that I was told on my recent ranch holiday was that you’re not a proper rider until you’ve fallen off your horse 7 times.  Recently I managed to get one further step closer to being a proper rider.

Before we go any further, I should stress that both rider and horse (I’m not sure which people should be more concerned about) are fine!

It has been a long time since I have fallen from a horse, over 20 years, however most of that 20 years of not falling would also be matched with 20 years of not riding, so a bit of a cheat on the statistics.  Back then, as a child I was unlucky when I fell.  I was on a horse that didn’t like water (something I didn’t know) and came to a dry ditch (the ditch being dry something the horse didn’t know).  So with ignorance abounding for both rider and horse, a happy ending would not be on the horizon.  And very quickly I found what I thought was the horizon changing!

As the horse approached the ditch, I expected it to trot down and up it as the horses in front had done.  Instead, it decided it was going to jump it instead.  This was obviously a very steep and sudden learning curve for me, and a learning curve for me to fall off, both figuratively and literally!  Back then, as now, no harm was done.  I was back on the horse quickly (little option being quite a distance from the riding school).  I was, however, told off for not holding on tightly enough.  This I thought was a little unfair given I hadn’t done any jumping previously.

Fast forwarding through lots of non-riding years to the current day and I now have an extra notch on the belt.  It had been 50/50 on the weather in terms of having the lesson and I think that an hour later would have been a cancellation.  However, despite the wind and the rain, I chose to go ahead.  Yes it was unpleasant at time, but I did some of my best riding.  I’ve had a habit of riding with short stirrups, and the teacher wanted me to go to a proper length.  This did actually help.  I think in the early days I hadn’t been so proactive about pushing down and with them higher I had been able to ‘cheat’ on this issue.  However that can’t carry on forever so my stirrups were lengthened.  I was also moving onto the cantering without holding the saddle.  Now I’ve done this before, but hadn’t for a while, and not in such a confined space.  Therefore there were a couple of ‘new’ situations in the riding, bad weather and I was, I believe the right term is, unseated!

In reality it sounds worse that it was.  I knew I was going to come off before it actually happened.  The few seconds I had with this realisation was enough for me to come off the horse in a relatively controlled manner.  I did tumble, but when you’re cantering and going round a corner, landing on your feet and staying on your feet is not an easy feat.  I rolled a bit and have ended up with a bruise and a sprain, neither of which are particularly bothersome and the sprain is barely noticeable less than 24 hours later.  I was told that from a distance, it looked like I had come off the horse well, and that I knew how to fall.  Possibly the experience from skiing helps there.  I’ve even tumbled in tennis and again, I know how to fall in that situation and what to try to avoid landing on!  Maybe a missed opportunity to be a stunt actor!

I got back on the horse and finished the lesson.  I always feel that in those situations, like a car accident, getting back to it quickly is important for confidence purposes if nothing else.  There’s also been no hesitation in booking another lesson.  Despite this tumble, I was told that it was probably the best riding I’d done in a long time.  I can’t argue.  The trotting was good and given all the changes in the set up for the cantering, that wasn’t too bad and showed improvement.  I won’t say how many long it will be for me to be a proper rider according to the ranch hands, but hopefully there’s still a while to go.