|I washed my riding clothes on the weekend...just so I could land in the dirt today.|
Dakota has an injured eye and isn't riding until next week so Sienna was tapped for my practice ride this morning. Sienna is a beautiful red mare, larger than Dakota, but just as quiet.
I couldn't get a feel for her. In fact, I felt completely disconnected from my own body. I couldn't remember anything. It was an off day, and for a beginner like me, with no confidence in riding and no inherent "I'm the boss" energy, it was the wrong day to be on a different horse.
It's not Sienna's fault I fell off; it's mine. I don't know why she started tossing her head up and back and around, I don't know why she was backing up and doing tiny bucks. I had been trying to get her to trot and it wasn't happening so likely, the way I was holding my hands and elbows and my knees were sending mixed signals. What I do know is I didn't know how to arrest her reaction; I only know how to stop a bolt - and those actions were the opposite ones for whatever she was doing. I was tightening when I should have been loosening.
Bobbie was shouting, "Let go of the reins," but I know you NEVER let go of them. If I'd listened to her, I would have dropped them completely and that might have made things worse. What she meant was, "Ease off the reins." I was supposed to move my arms forward to ease the pressure on the bit. But I was using the information I had, and trying not to panic, and wondering whether she was going to buck me off or smash me in the face with her head.
The next thing I knew, I was falling. But Sienna didn't throw me; she laid me down.
She laid me down. Seriously, I think she realized she had to arrest MY behaviour so she just leaned to the left and off I tumbled from about five feet off the ground. Both of us ended up lying on our sides in the sand of the indoor arena. Despite the soft landing, I'm going to have a sizable bruise on my left back hip, where the pelvic bone met the ground.
But I now know why you need to get right back up on a horse you've just fallen off because I wasn't afraid to ride a horse while I was standing with my feet on the ground, but once I was up there in the saddle again, it was a different feeling. Every leg movement, every head twitch, every resistance to my forward command made me tense up. I could feel my "freaking out" meter rising the longer I was on her back. At the same time, I recognized that if I didn't stick it out, the apprehension would get the better of me, would be all I remembered, and I'd never get on a horse again.
"I need you to put the lead line on her and walk with us," I said to Bobbie. "I don't want my nervousness to cause a problem."
What I'm struggling with now is continuing on with riding. I know it's only one fall, but I'm doing this for fun; I'm not looking for a broken arm or a broken neck. The dilemma is that I won't get better if I don't ride, but not being very good puts me (and possibly the horse) at risk. Today showed me how much I'm still not putting together all the information I need to know in order to ride.
It looks so damn easy!
Bobbie, and others who were there, say, "Oh, just relax, don't overthink," but it's not that easy. I want to do everything I'm supposed to do because I'm on the back of an enormous animal who can act and react in ways that could see me flying through the air and landing on my head. I want to enjoy myself and I want to do a good job.
Recognizing that I am a beginner.
"Did you know how to write a book when you first started writing?" one of the woman asked, which I think she meant as a beginner's pep talk but it's a lousy comparison. No one's life is endangered if I write a really shitty story!
Writing is so much easier. That's my message to those who say writing is hard: Try learning to ride a horse.
Her message, however, was: Don't give up. Keep getting on the horse and learning.
"You only fall off a horse once a year," Bobbie said. No one gets how UNencouraging that statement is!
I don't need to fall off a horse to toughen me up, to learn to say "Fuck it" and keep going. That was a lesson for when I was 14 years old; I've learned that lesson from other things, and honestly, at 48, I'm just too old for learning lessons this way.
All I can do is see how my next ride goes. I'll be back on Dakota. There's nothing I can do about my energy -- I'm calm and happy but I'm not The Boss -- but I can keep trying. A fall shouldn't be a setback, even if it hurts like hell.