Get on a horse. Rather difficult to fall off of one otherwise. Pretty much a no-brainer. My chiropractor (bless his heart) warned me that I would eventually fall – I hate it when he’s right. However, this particular ride was “free” in that I earned it by serving as a side-walker for a therapeutic riding program. I wasn’t about to miss out on this chance.
Get on a horse called Barney. What could happen on a horse named after Fred Flinstone’s neighbor and a purple dinosaur? And by “horse” I mean pony. When the trainer asked if I wanted to ride Barney, I asked if he could handle me. Maybe Barney heard me and had a point to make.
Get on a horse you think you know but have only seen being led by one person with two other people walking on either side of him in said therapeutic riding class. By assuming I knew Barney, he made an ass out of… well he dropped me on it.
Forget that the fifteen year old who makes posting at a trot on the horse in front of you look so easy has probably been taking lessons since she started walking. And she’s fifteen. Although I’d been on a handful of trail rides, at that point I’d had three (3) lessons. Three.
Forget to ask (or at least tell) the trainer that you want to try trotting Barney. If I’d told her, I have no doubt she would have asked someone to lead him for me. Turns out I’m not the first person Barney’s taken over a jump without so much as a kiss my foot or have an apple.
Forget to notice where you are in the ring in relationship to the jumps that were left set up for some reason. The jumps were taken down after my mishap but I still should have practiced more situational awareness. Who am I kidding—I wasn’t practicing awareness at all.
Forget to steer when the horse breaks into a canter and heads for a jump. Instead, I pulled back on the very reins that I had just moments before remarked were having little effect on getting Barney to walk at the rail. I thought of pulling his head to the left for a nano second, but got an image of both of us toppling over the jump sideways. In my defense, there really was no time to do anything but hang on.
Forget to grab hold of the ample mane of the Haflinger named Barney that you are riding. Since most of my trail rides and 100 percent of my three (3) lessons were on Western saddles, I suspect that I may have air-grabbed the non-existent saddle horn on the English saddle on Barney’s back.
Forget to keep your eyes open. After I looked down (practically guaranteeing that I’d fall off) to see his front hooves leave the ground, I have no visual memory of what happened next. After I accepted my fate as going over a jump that I had no idea how to handle, I fell off. Therefore, I must have closed my eyes.
Forget to stay on. I suspect I may have actually bailed. I’m told Barney had cleared the jump and taken two strides before I fell.
And there you have it. Since I’m in the “I don’t know what I don’t know” phase of horsemanship training, there are no doubt at least ten other mistakes I made that fateful day. I’ve taken the above “lessons learned” to heart and have decided to become a natural horseman (and no, that is not a politically incorrect term, it means a human who understands horses to the point that said human becomes a horse/human or horseman.)
Gratitude fills my heart as I can report no permanent injuries, although the bruising to my “sittin’ parts” was as vast as it was colorful. I eventually acquiesced to taking a prescription anti-inflammatory to help heal the connective tissue strain between several ribs that took close to two months to stop giving me painful reminders of that day.
A special shout-out to the trainer, her assistant, and other volunteers who helped me to my feet, fetched me water, and put me back on Barney that day. With someone holding his bridle, I even trotted him down the long side of the ring. Twice. My goal this year: gain confidence at the trot and canter and then take a jump. Or two. On purpose. On a horse. Maybe even with Barney. Stay tuned.