Dust Yourself Off
Here I sit, 20 years old with a sore back, my knees protesting every crouch and my shoulders popping on a regular basis. I wake up stiff and sore, muscles complaining about the stretching I do after working out. No, there isn’t much really wrong with me, other than what seems like a completely insane desire to tempt fate, flying through the air, and meeting the dirt every time I get on a horse.
Everyone remembers his or her first fall from a horse. Unless you are like my trainer’s daughter, who fell off when she was two-years-old… but that is a whole other story. Falling off is a part of the horse world. I’ve heard people say “You aren’t a rider until you fall off eight times.” I’ve also heard nine, 15 and 100. I passed the eight, nine and fifteen mark a while ago. I’ve actually lost track of the times I’ve fallen off.
It is bound to happen sometime, and until it does, it is something lurking in the dirt, waiting to come up and grab you and pull you into its clutches. My first fall happened at the age of nine. I had been riding for a few months on a regular basis, taking lessons at a nearby farm. The only thing I remember about the horse was it was a chestnut and we were just cantering around the arena. My instructor was talking to someone else about something or other, just letting me have a grand time weaving in and out of the other riders…and then, the unthinkable. My laced riding shoe falls off. Just falls right off my foot.
Being only nine and unsure of what to do, I panicked. My balance was thrown off with the surprise, and I ended up crouching lower and lower over the horse’s neck, unsure of what to do. My balance now completely gone with my shoe, I tumbled off the side. Having landed square on my tailbone in the dirt, I looked up in surprise at the horse running away and everyone else staring at me like I had grown three heads.
Tears began to well as my tailbone protests the abrupt meeting with the dirt, and my instructor wonderingly hands me my shoe. “No idea…” I told him, trying not to cry in front of the arena of other obviously better riders. I got back on, a few tears making their way down my cheeks .
Since that fateful day, there have been many other falls. Some funny, some surprising, even a few that wound up with me in ambulances. I had been riding for years before my mom ever saw me hit the dirt, which is probably a good thing. One thing it has taught me, though, was to always get back on.
If you don’t, you let the fear of falling conquer you. The dirt is always going to be calling your name, but you just have to ride like you can’t hear. Some of the falls, especially the ones that ended with me in the hospital, shook up my confidence a bit. I learned a few good lessons from those horses. Sure, fear is a good thing to have. It keeps you from doing stupid things. But it also can hold you back.
I’ve re-learned how to get after a misbehaving horse without wondering if we’re going to go flying across the arena. However, I know when too much is too much. I’m always careful to wear a helmet if I feel like there is the possibility of flight that day, and I’ve learned a few more tricks to keep a horse from bolting. If I’m absolutely unsure, I’ll make someone else get on it. That’s why we have cowboys, right? I’m too young to screw up the rest of my life, or spend it in a wheelchair. There is bravery, and then there is stupidity.
I’m only 20 and have back problems. I’d like to hold off on the horse related injuries for at least a few more years. But I know that in my typical day of riding less-than-broke horses, it’s always a risk. It’s the fear of falling that makes the good rides that much better, and the flying over a fence instead of into the dirt that much more exhilarating.
Even if you are flying over the fence, into the dirt.