Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Falling Off

The first time I fell off my horse I remember having a feeling of accomplishment. That was because an older gentleman in our saddle club had made the remark at one of our gatherings that you were not a “real rider” until you’d fallen off your horse. Now, I told myself, I had finally achieved real rider status. 

I was also glad I was riding alone and no one saw my “fall”. My horse didn’t buck or rear. In fact, he was standing still.  I was following a path in the woods when I came to ditch that had a very rickety foot bridge across it. I was sure it would not support the weight of my horse and me. I decided to dismount and lead Pal across the ditch. That went without a problem. It was the remounting, which I did with a bit too much energy – I kept going right over his back and landed with a plop on the ground on the other side.
 I did have my share of real falls after that. Once I was bucked off in a field from what had seemed until that moment a perfectly quiet horse.  I still have no idea what provoked her to buck.
Pale as the Moon
Maybe she just felt exuberant or maybe she saw something I didn’t see. Sometimes I wonder if horses don’t seem things in some other realm kept from human-being awareness.
Another fall was from my sweet Arabian gelding, Kosack. I was riding with a friend. We entered a field from a woodsy path when my horse suddenly caught his shoe in a wire fence that had fallen over and was hidden by vines. Kosack panicked and reared; I fell off. That one hurt. I couldn’t get out of bed the next day.
This last one I’ll tell you about was all my fault. I was showing off and took off galloping ― racing. We were on a dirt road that intersected a paved one. When my mare’s hooves hit the pavement, she slipped and down we both went. I hit my head. That night I woke up with a really severe headache. I got out of bed to go get aspirin. I passed out in the bathroom and hit my head again on the toilet. I survived all my accidents.
When I began to teach riding, once in a while a student would fall off their horse. Fortunately, no serious injuries resulted. But, it always scared me whenever one of my charges hit the ground.
I’d been teaching many years when I went to a Horse Expo in Virginia. A line up of well-known trainers were doing mini clinics. One of them did a demonstration on how to fall off your horse. He then had a volunteer from the audience come down to the arena. He taught him, step by step, how to fall off a horse. I brought that knowledge home with me and taught my students how to fall off their horses. I would shout out randomly during a lesson, “Fall off your horse!” and the class would hit the ground – on their feet!
The steps are: first, lean forward and wrap your arms around your horse’s neck, while at the same time kicking both feet out of the stirrups, swing your off-side leg over the horse’s rump landing on your left foot with the knee relaxed and slightly bent, then both feet on the ground and letting go of the horse’s neck, hopefully with reins in hand. It gave the students confidence to know they could bail in an emergency. We practiced it over and over and yes, there were a few times when a student saved themselves from hitting the ground with a thud with the technique.

I found a video that shows how it is done. 

The characters in both Pale as the Moon and An Independent Spirit fall off at least once. I think it is true - you do have to fall off before you can join the real rider club!

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