Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

You know that saying about when you come off the horse...?



So I was talking to a friend about how falling is a really big deal when you're a new rider.  How even the easiest fall is a dramatic event and the ones that hurt, possibly life changing.

When we have tween-age girls riding who seem really passionate, we lose them to one of three things:
- the first time they fall
- the first time they get hurt
- boys

So it stands to reason that the uni and adult riders have passed those phases and are therefore past the stage of OMG I FELL OFF!  Or variations thereof :)   So I never really think of it as a traumatic, life-changing experience.

Except...  What happens when the adult rider *started* as an adult.   Starting as an adult, riders are generally more cautious AND more coordinated.  As a result, they don't hit the ground as often.  Which means they can sometimes have ridden for *years* and still count on one hand the number of falls.   And of course when they do fall, they don't bounce as well as kids, making it all the more scarier.

There's a saying about you have to fall off 7 times to be considered a rider.  I remember arguing vehemently with my coach when I was still in or just past single digits (which, btw, is saying something since I was *terrified* of that coach and, believe it or not, a really wimpy kid!) because she said one of my falls didn't count *g*   I figured if I wasn't planning to get off, and I had to remount, it counted.   Since I left that barn at the w/t/c/x-rail level that argues for a pretty low definition of "rider".  hahaha many of my coaches count 100.  I figure if you're still keeping count then you need a new hobby!   I usually use 10 -- my thought is, if you can count on your fingers, you've got a few left to go :)

So then I started thinking about how long it'd take to rack up the ten.  Twice I've come off three separate horses in one day -- so that'd be six right there.  hahaha   A friend very politely referred to that as "determination" -- I suspect there are a few other equally, or more apt, words to use.  What can I say? :)   And then I was thinking through do I have ten *memorable* falls?   Cause let's be honest, the vast majority of falls are of the "stupid should hurt" variety that are forgotten seconds after they happen.

Memorable...

Well any time the horse falls, it's scary.  Part of our sport includes trust that the horse will keep his/her feet underneath us.  This has happened to me a number of times over the years (hey, we all trip and we only have two feet!), and there's always a little hesitation getting back on afterwards.  Si once left huge skid marks after loosing her footing on wet grass at a gallop (for the record - we were only supposed to be walking, but she was newly off the track, spooked at something and was gone...), and Zel ran back to the barn one day with grass stains on her saddle pad...  Most recently Athena fell a couple months ago when she was in her grab the bit and bolt phase and then couldn't make the turn.  Several other of that variety.  But in general, we'll clump all those together as one.

Another clump is the multiple falls in one day.  The 6 above qualify *g*  Only memorable because there comes a point when you wonder if maybe you should take up a safer sport.  Like rugby.  

In a similar category is the multiple falls in one day off the *same* horse.  In some ways this is better than the one above because you can usually say "well I could do it on another horse".   But in some ways it's way worse because clearly something is going horribly wrong.

Then there are the firsts....   First dramatic fall -- barrel racing and falling into the barrel.  In the days when I still rode western and juniors didn't wear helmets.  I was out.  Remember the race.  Don't technically remember the fall.  Do remember the headache and throwing up afterwards.   Another first - the first really stupid fall -- saddle slipping sideways while cantering (*very* novice -- this was prob in the first 7 :) because the girth wasn't tight enough.   The first "laughing so hard I fell off" -- yup it happens.  Admittedly usually bareback and usually doing something that might be deemed.... ummmm well stupid pretty much sums it up.  But having fun in the process.  Etc etc etc

And along with the drama - the clump of "ow" falls.  The ones where you don't get up so quickly and/or land yourself in some random emerg room *sigh*   These are the ones we wish we could forget.

Most random thought -- so as some of you know, time stalls when you fall.  It sort of pauses and lets you contemplate life.  Usually my thoughts are of the four-letter variety.  Or the "this is going to hurt".  Or "just hang on till you're past the wall".  Or "well that was dumb".   But every once in a while you get a fun one -- my favourite was being bucked off a very big, 4yo horse with a *lot* of power.  I stuck the first four or five but he was having nothing to do with me and eventually I flew.   The thought?  "Well, if he threw me this far, he's probably not going to step on me."  hahaha oh dear.

Oh - another clump - the falls that look impressive enough that your coach/clinician/friend/whomever comes running to make sure you're still alive.   We'll group all those together as one.   And the similarly related "knocked the wind out of you" falls.  Those are scary but usually ok once you can breathe again.

There are the brilliant landing falls -- my favourite was off of Zel.  She quit at a nothing fence and I, in a stupid-should-hurt moment went over her head alone.  But I didn't quite register that I had come off.  You see, if a horse quits, they get a tap with the stick.   So she did.  She stopped, I came off, landed on my feet, holding the reins, and had smacked her with the crop -- still within the three second rule -- and then remounted.  All the while my friend was killing herself laughing.  And I didn't even clue into why until she pointed out that that's not exactly the usual order of operations :)   I've had a few students who consistently land on their feet -- sometimes with enough showmanship to bow or add some flare to it :)

There are the always fun unintentionally dismounting in public falls.   The warmup ring used to be a favourite place for me to do that.  Causes excessive amounts of chaos as your horse tears around riderless.  The show ring a few times.  Out on XC a few times.  Doing so in the water jump can earn it's own year-end reward now!  So those all become one group :)

Then there are the "broken tack" falls.  Two that I really remember -- one stirrup leather breaking on a drop into water.  I definitely got wet that day.   And I had a girth break as I was going over a fence.  Saddle and I landed apart from the horse.  Less graceful.  In a show.  A two-for-one that fall.  Sheesh.  I'm sure there've been others...  but those are the two I remember.

Am I at 10 yet?  Hey I am.  I didn't actually think I was, but sobeit.  So...  When you can come up with not just 10 falls, but most of those contain *groups* of falls -- does that mean your a pro or definitely in need of psychiatric advice?   Also, what does it say about our sport that you can't be any good at it until you've proven yourself  to be really bad?   Oh dear...

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