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April 2007
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Welcome to the Illustrious Falling-Off Club!

One of the worst things about horses (aside from snot on every clean shirt you ever owned, innumerable bruises you don’t remember having gotten, and scabs you’re obligated to pick whether you want to or not because if you don’t they’ll turn into proud flesh [my husband does not believe this. He thinks I just like to pick scabs. Which is also true.]) is falling off. If you ride for any length of time, falling off is inevitable. Because of its inevitability, we equestrians have all kinds of stories we tell ourselves to make falling off OK. Sometimes, at gatherings of horse people, we tell our favorite (aka worst) falling off stories. It’s kind of like the “man, this one time I was so drunk…” stories except far more entertaining because the storyteller actually remembers the details of what happened. Because we all fall off, there are also cute little phrases we repeat to convince ourselves that falling off is actually good. The Falling-Off Maxims go something like this:
1. If you’re not falling off regularly, you aren’t really challenging yourself.
2. If you can still actually count how many times you’ve fallen off, you aren’t a real horse(wo)man.
3. Everyone falls off. Even Olympic riders. Especially Olympic riders (hence, the membership to the Illustrious club).
4. Falling off itself isn’t bad. It’s just the thinking about falling off that’s bad.
5. Falling off is inevitable.

And then there’s that membership to the club thing. Membership to a club always makes one feel better, right? Of course, there are some problems with the membership requirements. For instance, does it count if you unintentionally dismount your horse but land on your feet? Does it count if your horse was at a standstill when you parted ways? What about if your horse falls and you just happen to stay on until he hits the ground? Are there special perks for falls that result in injuries? Or perhaps for falls that should have resulted in injuries, but didn’t?

And then there’s my own list of falls. I (sadly? I do so want to be a real horsewoman…) can still count my falls. Except that I remembered another one several days after I started thinking about this topic, so maybe I can’t actually remember them all and only think I can. So let’s see…
1. My horse Doc (see post below) spooked when a cat jumped out of a bush. We just happened to be walking on the road. He just happened to slip and fall. I stayed on until he hit the ground. In fact, I guess technically he landed on my right leg, although I was able to get “off” him while he was still on the ground, Damage? a hole in the knee of my pants.
2. Jumping bounces, I was “bounced” off Sahara. I landed on my hands and knees in the arena sand, which probably tells you something about my position in the saddle right before I fell off. Damage? Zero.
3. Teenagers like to do dumb things. I decided “once” to sit on my horse Spot with my butt in the saddle but my knees over the front of the saddle (ask any teenager, it’s really comfortable). That wasn’t the dumb part. The dumb part was forgetting that Spot has a wicked sense of humor (really. She does.). I decided to give Spot a hug while in the aforementioned position. Spot (wicked wicked horse) decided at exactly that moment to put her head down. Who knew a horse’s neck could turn into a slide? Who. Knew. Damage? Just my pride (it’s no fun when 10 other teenagers laugh at you).
4. Once, on a trail ride, Spot spooked when a deer jumped out of a bush (do you see a pattern here?), spun around, sent my dad, who had been walking next to her, and me, who had not been planning on anything other than heading straight, flying. I landed on one leg with the other one in the stirrup. It was only when I kicked my foot out of the stirrup that I fell on my butt. Damage? My dad got a really nice, photo-worthy bruise somewhere near his butt. (photo-worthy bruises are a whole other story)
5. Once, on a trail ride, Kharma (thankfully not my horse) spooked at rustling in the leaves. She really wanted to bolt. Bolting just happens to be my least favorite horse activity of ALL TIME. I took evasive action in the form of forcing Kharma to make a very small circle, but I neglected to remember that she was trained as a reiner (I still don’t understand the purpose of this training. At. All.). Thus I was very surprised when she went into a reiner spin and showed no signs of stopping. I made an untimely retreat when Kharma spun off the edge of the trail. Damage? My approval rating of reining training dropped to negative numbers.
6. My worst fall ever occurred when my horse Clue decided to bolt (ugh) at a horse show. Have I mentioned he used to be a race horse? He can run reeeaaaallll fast. In a complicated maneuver to avoid running over the open platform upon which the judge was sitting, Clue ended up slipping on pavement and spinning (hmmm… more patterns…). His spin sent me flying, which was a darn good thing because then he got stuck between the platform and a wall and proceeded to flail about. Damage? cuts, scrapes, a concussion, and a semi-permanent suspensory ligament injury for Clue. Blood-stained show clothes for me. (who decided white breeches were a good idea? Who??)
7. Jumping over the biggest jump I’ve ever “jumped”, I misjudged the speed, distance, and just about everything else one could possibly misjudge. Lady, the horse I was riding, did her best but clipped the jump (a nice, immovable, solid cross-country jump) and stumbled on landing. I went flying, did a nice somersault. Damage? Does getting the wind knocked out of me (my worst “injury” to date) count?. Lady cut the inside of her lip.
8. Jumping my horse Sadie, she dodged a jump (pattern anyone?) and I flew off in what is called a Zig Zag fall, as in my horse zigged and I zagged. Damage? None, unless all that sand in my mouth was bad for my teeth.
9. Jumping Sadie again, she got going too fast and got too excited and we jumped a tiny log. I was expecting a tiny jump to match, but Sadie sometimes likes to jump reeaaaallll big. She did and I went flying. Damage? My pride again, damnit!

So there’s my catalog of falls. Only 9. I’d better get working a little harder. Well, I did almost fall off today, jumping with no stirrups. I don’t know why my husband thinks I have a death wish….


Comment from Libby’s Blog
Time April 15, 2007 at 8:16 PM

Hello horse girl! I’m so glad my favorite horse girl has decided to get some stories out in a blog…it’s kind of fun, right? I loved your stories and I remembered the context for a lot of them, so that was fun. I also loved Doug’s blog ideas…but glad you didn’t use them. Just wanted to say hi from China and let you know I could finally read your blog! No censorship today, what a good day! Much love…and I’m glad you won’t ever leave me…I have a certificate of friendship, don’t you forget it! (=

Comment from Lark
Time November 10, 2008 at 5:16 AM

Well said.

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