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.