The first thing I needed to start up my normal routine at home was a good workout. I put on my breeches, boots and half chaps and got to the stables as fast as I could. Gwinny and I had a happy reunion as I scrubbed her with the curry comb. She’s shed all of her winter coat, but there’s still so much fuzz and dirt left on her! Oh my, mama has gone missing for a while. It’s the best upper body workout to scrub a horse. It reminds me of Mr. Miagi in the Karate Kid movie, wax on, wax off. It gets me out of breath just getting her ready to ride. The training she’s been getting while I’ve been traveling has done her good. I enjoyed being up in the saddle again with her. She’s so attentive to what I ask her to do…most of the time.
While I was away I thought about my approach to riding my mare. I decided I’m just going to go for it and canter her every ride and take what comes. I can’t be afraid of her going wild on me or doing stupid things because she is young. I want to ride her, and I’ll take what I get. So I cantered her a little and it went really well. I cantered her some more, and then it didn’t go so well, she started going really fast, and didn’t listen when I said whoa girl. She put her head down as we took a turn, and I decided to get the big obstacle over with, I let myself fall off. It was a double hit, boom, boom. Side of my head and the side of my butt, I rolled and stood up immediately. I went directly to the gate and watched her have herself a happy free run around the arena five or six times. No one else was in there. I was fine. A little shaky and my butt hurt, and I was dirty all over, but it wasn’t so bad after all. I was actually proud of myself for taking my first fall.
After she got it out of her system, she listened to my whoa, and stopped in front of me. I didn’t scold her, I took her by the reins, back to the mounting block, and back up on her back I went. I know the old saying, “you have to get back on after a fall”. So I did, and I didn’t worry about it. She was sorry. We took about ten minutes together riding the ring, then I dismounted and took her to the round pen with a whip. She can either be a good horse, or a tired horse, and she’ll know I’m the one in charge.
I chased her around the round pen standing in the middle and whipping the ground to keep her moving. (the crack sound on the ground moves her, I never touch her with it) She ran til she hit a foamy sweat. Five or six times, I took a passive stance, and invited her to come to me and follow me. She dipped her head, licked her lips and stuck to my shoulder as I walked. This indicated to me that I am her leader and she is submissive to me. I wore her out for sure, and when it was time for her shower, she stood there and didn’t give me one bit of a fuss. She stayed by my side when I put her in the turnout, stuck like a leach, and finally, I said, ok, you are forgiven! Then she went off to eat some hay.
I’m a little sore, nothing a few advil won’t fix. But mostly I feel so relieved to get the first fall over with. It’s not so bad to fall off a horse. I needed to know it was no big deal. I can take it. She and I have work to do, but here’s what I decided, I’m going to do the work, and so will she. We’ll sort out a good riding relationship where she obeys and does it right. The big mistake I made was to put her in the round pen after the ride! For a few weeks now I’m going to put her in the round pen first and wear her out before I get on her back. That will solve the big problem of her having pent up energy that needs to explode.
Psychologically I was giving my fear of falling way too much power over me, and it was a fear that dictated all of my riding. I was tired of that bully so I took it straight on. I knew it was a risk to let her canter when I was green from my holiday. But I decided at the beach while I took long walks with Lucy that if I could take all the hits I take in Uganda, I can fall off a horse and get back on without a flinch. That’s what I did today. I fell. I got back on. I took my advil, and tomorrow, I’m getting back on and we’re going to canter. It is only by practice that I’ll ever be good at this riding thing, and I want to be good.
I learned that knowing how to fall is a skill the same as how to mount. The ups and downs in living are guaranteed, and maybe it is ok to flow through the downs in a way that is unattached to fear. There’s good learning down there too. In truth, the closest I ever feel to God is when I am most alone, scared, and vulnerable…the downs…the falls…the bottom. The Christian life isn’t a butterfly flight, there are guarantees that we will suffer. And that’s when our faith grows because we learn we are not alone in our suffering, and it isn’t the worst thing that could happen.
I hope when I am fifty I’ll have shed all the fears hiding around inside me that hinder me from going forward. (terribly afraid of drowning in the wide open ocean!! So I suppose the next thing I will have to learn is to scuba dive but not yet, I have six years before that big birthday…truthfully…I’m not sure I can get past that one…) Today I know I laid one fear down. I can fall off and get back in the saddle. Yee haw.