In this sport, it’s just something that’s going to happen. You are going to fall off! I’ll let you in on a little secret though, every single rider has fallen off and they’ve done it multiple times. The most important thing is that you get back on, as long as you’re physically capable, otherwise, get on once you’re healed. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve fallen off let alone remember how each tumble happened. I do have a few departures that make me chuckle when I look back so, here they are:
1- first time
There will always be a first time and well mine wasn’t exciting or anything but, I won’t ever forget it because well, it was the first one. It must have been in my first or second year of riding, trotting along on a circle when my mount ‘Miss Kitty’ spooked to the right and I went to the left. She was wider than she was tall so it didn’t happen very fast more like slow motion. It was more shocked than anything, one minute we were casually trotting along and the next I was on the ground! I brushed myself off, got back on to finish the lesson.
2- too many to count
There was this tiny grey pony named Bell, I want to say she was possibly around 12hh. I was probably too big to be riding her but she was green and not suitable for the riding school yet so I was allowed to ‘school’ her. I am using the word school lightly, as she wouldn’t have learned much from me. My memories of this pony are pretty fuzzy but I have a distinct memory of falling or sliding off multiple times per ride. I’d ride without a saddle 90% of the time so that's where the sliding off comes in. She'd always get me in the canter when she'd start bucking. I remember having a blast with this pony, didn’t matter how many times I came off, I’d have a smile from ear to ear while I went to retrieve her from the nearest patch of grass and hop back on!
Sometimes my ideas get me into trouble, this was one of those times. My first horse’s name was Chuck, a 15.2 hh Quarter Horse that put up with a lot from me. When I look back now, I did ride quite a few horses bareback because well, I simply couldn’t be bothered to get a
saddle. I had a lot of trust in Chuck and would ride with just a neck strap but this particular day I had a headcollar on but no saddle. I decided I would try riding backwards, he walked around fine, didn’t care, so into trot we go.... I think after 4-5 strides he bucked me off. I landed on my back and was winded; I remember my mum and sister laughing as they stood over top of me. Once I caught my breath, I picked myself up off the floor and decided that this was probably not the best idea. Needless to say, I haven’t tried ridding backwards again!
4- the shoulder
This is a good story, actually one of my favourites because it shows how my parents jump for my sister and well just leave me. I lead a very neglected childhood, once in a while I try to make them feel guilty for this. I was on a Thoroughbred named Contessa, who I absolutely adore to this day. We were warming up to xc school, I was cantering in a straight line, not even turning so heaven only knows what I was doing wrong on top. Poor Contessa fell down, and I went with her. I suppose that’s not considered falling off but I hit the ground. It amazes me how literally no one cared! Let me set the scene, there were 4 adults around, two of them being my parents. They were working on a few xc fences as 3 riders including myself warmed up. I hit the dirt, laid there for a bit before Alex (my sister) jumped off grabbing Contessa. Shouted for my parents and they literally took ages to come over. Laughed at me and took some pictures.
When I started to feel sick that should have been their first clue something was wrong. I had a little nap in the house but looking back I don't thing that's something you should let
someone do if they have fallen and are feeling nauseous. The next day my shoulder was still pretty sore. I couldn’t lift my arm more than a foot away from my body, I could move it with the other arm but that was it. Mum decides to get me a sling and book me a physio appointment, off I went the next day. The appointment was more painful than anything. After about the third day with no improvement in mobility, Mum decided to take me to the Emergency room to get an x-ray. Turned out my scapula was broken, so I stayed in a sling for most of the summer. I wasn’t supposed to ride but I managed to climb on a few.
I try to guilt my parents with this because they take Alex to the doctors instantly and for the smallest things I might add. Yet they leave me days and want me to try moving my broken bones. I think we know who the favourite is.
If you have ever been to Bruce Davidson’s farm in Pennsylvania you’ll know he has a lot of
birds, Peacocks being just one of the breeds. These things love to walk around playing peek-a-boo in the indoor. They will sit in the rafters, then drop to the floor. Or my favourite, pop up into the window from outside. I’ll also mention they can be quite loud if they want to. If I’m remembering correctly, I was jumping a mare named Tinkerbell with Bruce. She was being perfect, we were close to done. I was looking to the right, towards my fence when a Peacock jumps into the window on our left. I don’t blame the 4 year old for spooking, it made me jump. I think the birds thought it was a fun game, let’s spook the horses and see how many riders we can get off today!
6- two years
Somehow, I managed to not fall off for two whole years but, everything has to come to an end and this particular horse has gotten me off three times since I’ve been in England. The first fall, the one that ended my two year streak, occurred when I was in the saddle and doing up his girth. First billet done, the second one... que the bronking! The second time happened on his first ride back from a holiday. We were just walking around and que the bronking, at least it was a soft landing. The third time I fell off him hurt a bit more. I was walking along a road, it wasn’t concrete but, I’d say it felt like it when I made contact with it. Anyways, we were walking along when I heard my name called. I start to turn him around and que the bronking! This particular horse is pretty quick and each time I thought I was fine until he dropped his shoulder and spun.
Good riders are made from falls. The more you fall off the more you want to stay on! With the upcoming season just around the corner please remember not to let any parting of ways discourage you. Never be embarrassed if you need to drop down a level or take things a bit slow to get you and your horse’s confidence back.