One of the girls at my barn fell off for the first time.
Friday was an overcast, dreary, windy day in upstate New York. Mid-afternoon the wind began to pick up and that’s precisely the time that everybody likes to ride. Our indoor arena is of average size, but can be crowded at times. Friday afternoon we had four or five horses present. A few of us had already finished riding and were letting the horses stand in the center, observing the lesson and socializing as we like to do.
Blade had been quite hot for our bareback session and I mainly had to work on walk/halt, leg yielding, side pass, and collection at the walk. I kept having to tell him “whoa, walk” as he just wanted to go. My friend’s mount had been up during their ride as well, not wanting to extend but rather bump into canter. The wind outside whipped and the horses outside were all anxious to get inside for the evening supper. Something was in the air and the horses were restless. It happens.
One of the girls in the arena was a young rider on a great little appaloosa pony. She’s a great little rider, but today was a challenge in learning to maneuver and guide her horse through the crowd. If I remember correctly this may be her first show season coming out of the lead line classes; learning to make decisions in a crowded arena is a skill she’ll definitely need before the start of the season. Between the stress and the atmosphere she took her first tumble.
The pony was very good, not bothered by any horses or the weather. I’m not sure exactly what happened but he jittered off the wall a couple feet and stopped when he felt her lose her balance. Although he stopped her body had already begun pulling her out of the saddle. In slow motion we watched her roll off and onto the ground…and the pony stood motionless. We were all in awe of the slo-mo grace of the fall.
Our little young rider was surprised and scared but ultimately got back on…because when you fall off the horse….
…you get right back on.
This being her first fall made me reflect back on my own first fall.
I was riding a large percheron/morgan mare named Idgy. The big bay girl was more draft than morgan and one day after a long day of chores (I think there were 25-30 stalls at that barn?) a friend and I got on her bareback together. I was in jeans and riding in the back. My seat hadn’t been well enough developed and the jeans had no grip. As we trotted I slowly just toppled off the side.
Someone had once told me that I could never be a good equestrian if I hadn’t fallen at least once. When I landed in the dirt I had a big smile on my face and started laughing. I knew what I did wrong, laughing at myself. In a way too, however, I had that little flicker like “yes, I made it.”
No, falling didn’t make me a great rider but I now understand the true meaning behind that phrase.
Lately I’ve been watching a show on Netflix called Comedians Riding in Cars and Getting Coffee. In each episode Jerry Seinfeld gets a coffee and food with a different comedian in a different vintage car.
In the episode called “That’s the Whole Point of Apartheid” Jerry drives a 1985 Ferrari 308 GTBV around town with Trevor Noah, the newest face of the Daily Show. During their conversation Jerry said something that we as equestrians (and people in general) could take a moment to think about.
“Pain is knowledge rushing in to fill a gap“
What kind of pain? Physical? Emotional? Doesn’t matter.
I fell off Idgy because my seat and hips weren’t relaxed. I didn’t feel pain that day but if I had it would have told me that I needed to work on my seat before doing something dumb like that.
I fell off during my hunter pace because I got in an argument with a strong willed horse that wanted to follow the pack. The pain from hitting the tree taught me a lesson and now I know….the hard way.
I have fallen at least a dozen times in the last year. In my life I have been bucked into a wall, I’ve been kicked a few times, I was trampled once. Each experience I learned something different. What I did with my newfound knowledge might be another story.
Our young rider fell and hopefully has learned to guide her pony with confidence, balance, and not let stress cloud her riding. Maybe it takes the one fall, maybe a couple. Nobody said using the knowledge would fill in the gaps immediately.
We are all working on ourselves as riders. If we are to be great we must always seek improvement. We don’t want to fall. We don’t want to feel pain. But when we do in many cases there is a lesson to be taken from that. I’ve fallen several times from the same mistakes but I get back on to continue working toward progress.
Share a story about the first time you fell.
Do you remember what you did wrong?