An Unexpected Fall:
My little gelding, Spirit, teaches me so much about play, happiness, resilience and just plain old fun. The video above shows him obliviously playing so hard with his ball that he tips himself over, gets up, shakes off the dust and goes on as though nothing had happened 🙂
One of my biggest fears, as trainer Marianne and I progressed through my training, was to fall. It was the unknown. I had never fallen off a horse before. As a result, even though I’d been experiencing all the strength, feelings of connection and wordless joy when I rode, something in me was still holding back….lest I fall.
As my posting trot and balance grew better and as I was able to do 4 gait transitions (walk, working walk, sitting trot, posting trot) trainer Marianne and I both felt I was ready to begin learning the seated canter.
I hadn’t known this, but the seated canter is actually quite advanced and can take students quite a bit of time to accomplish. She wisely started me with this so that I could learn it from the bottom up…literally 🙂
We saddled up sweet Buzz, the gelding, in my Western treeless saddle. I love using it because it has a suede seat so that one doesn’t slide around (especially as a beginner) and the seat is shaped almost iike an English Hunter saddle.
After many instructions and descriptions, trainer Marianne hooked Buzz up to the longe line so that she could control that which I might not be able to. We began the trot, then she had me say “Canter up” and AWAY WE WENT! I hadn’t suspected that Buzz would give so much speed and feel so very powerful under me!
As I worked hard to do what trainer Marianne had instructed, it was just too much for me. I called out for her to slow him and relaxed knowing I’d soon be in a nice, comfy trot.
Only, Marianne didn’t hear me!!!
As I relaxed, suddenly the ride became smooth, flowing, graceful and an amazing sensation!
When we finally did get back to a trot, trainer Marianne cried out, “You did it! You sat the canter! On the first try!”
What? So that’s what my body had needed to do to sit it? Not much…sit back, stay centered in your body and balance, don’t lean forward, heels down, strong thighs and go with the horse’s motion. Wow.
The next day, since it had gone so well, Marianne brought out the English Hunter saddle to work the canter. She again gave instruction, demonstrated, had me do a few laps of posting trot to activate my strength and balance and then hooked Buzz up to the longe line again.
This time, once the trot transitioned to canter, because I’m still building strength and balance, the saddle felt crazy slippery! I couldn’t even begin to get my seat, I had no idea what my thighs were doing and then I did the absolutely most incorrect thing one can do in a canter. I leaned forward!
Buzz, being a responsive horse, took that to mean he should stop. Then it happened! I slid slowly off the saddle, down the side of his body and into the dust. It all happened in such slow motion that I was actually able to calculate how best to land so as to inflict the least amount of damage 🙂
I am not being glib, because falling off a horse can have tragic consequences. I was truly blessed my first time. I also learned that the cliché, “it’s as easy as falling off a horse”, is very true 🙂
Marianne checked on me, but I was on my feet in a second. She gave me the rundown of what I had done incorrectly but I couldn’t even really hear her. All I could do was take in the fact that, yep, I’d fallen off a horse and that time, at least, it really wasn’t as scary and awful as I had built it up to be!
She wanted to call it a day but I couldn’t. Not until I pulled out my trusty treeless saddle and tried just one more time! Marianne says, at that moment, she learned things about me that she hadn’t even suspected.
So we saddled up, longe lined up, up I hopped and off we went!. It wasn’t for a long stretch of time. Just enough to get to that point of complete synchronization with all body parts, balance, relaxation and connection with horse that caused me to feel like I could ride like that, at that speed, for hours; and never get enough.
As Spirit’s adorable example of falling while immersed in pure, playful joy taught me so much about staying in a mind frame of happiness rather than in dread; this fall taught me that indeed my fear was much worse than the thing I feared.
This fall taught me how good it can be to let oneself risk, play, laugh and love enough… to actually FALL!……………………….from the sheer, wondrous magnitude of it 😉
Oh dear Spirit, I got tears in my eyes seeiing him making his crazy moves ❤️. Dear Christine, the joy of a good canter 💖. Horses are fabulous aren’t they?! So happy for you having them in your life 😘. Love Merel
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Yes! Horses are a gift from God!! And, yes, when I watch Spirit , I both laugh & cry at once. He is so very precious! ( Baby Doe, too)😊
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You are one lucky woman. I still haven’t quite got the hang of not fearing fear itself after my last fall (which, in truth, didn’t really hurt at all, despite cracking ribs) but my boy is such an absolute star, I’ll never stop trying. He makes my heart swell with such love and pride every time I see him 🙂
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I so “get” everything you say in your true and well stated comment :). I should clarify that for myself the kind of fear I had was preventing me from “giving in” mentally & physically in order to experience the, to me, unfamiliar canter. But I am still very very “aware” of what can happen when one falls off! I was blessed that my first fall didn’t crack ribs…but like you, the love and joy of my horses keeps me from the kind of fear which prevents expression through riding. I will look forward to reading more of your experiences in your blog!!:)
Oh yes – I get it 😉 After owning my own horse for 8 years, I would still have to class canter as “unfamiliar” and usually only manage a few strides before we’re back to trot. I used to put my leg back for the aid and then turn myself into a human ball into the saddle and just hope Obi would do it and disregard my lousy posture. He never did and I’m still working on it! I’m thoroughly enjoying your experiences vicariously 🙂
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You speak a truth that so many riders won’t admit to. I appreciate it!! That’s why I started writing about all my horses experiences-the good, bad and the silly-so that others wouldn’t feel so alone in their own “good, bad & silly”-ness 🙂 Your comments are doing that for me!:) Thank you!!!!:)