“Become dust - & they will throw thee in the air; Become stone - & they will throw thee on glass." Muhammad Iqbal *Beyond the bushes, boiling with dust, is 4Shoes West boundary road.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Analyzing the Fall....

*In this piece when I reference 'falling off', I am talking about falling off a horse at a low speed. I am not talking about being bucked off, slung off, knocked off or thrown over a horse's head; just. falling.
Today I received a letter from friends who now own one of my retired racehorses, Andy. Before we agreed that Andy could go home with them for an initial trial period, their 14 year old daughter attended riding lessons & then came to stay with us at the 4Shoes for a spell while attending an intensive, immersion-style lesson program at a professional training stable nearby.
The mother related to me how Meilla had recently fallen* off her mare - not thrown, fallen off when (at a walk) the mare zigged while the kid zagged. The young lady was not at all hurt, but she was angry with herself & a little confused. 
Talking to her dad afterwards, she had said, "Mrs Shoes said that 99% of the time that you fall* off, it is your own fault & not the horse; but I don't know what I did wrong." 
The father, who had witnessed the fall, gently told her, "I know what you did wrong Honey - you weren't paying attention." 
Meilla is a novice determined to become a good rider; I was so pleased to hear that her first instinct after taking a fall was to try to analyze what she might have done or not done - looking for the lesson she could take from the experience. I was already impressed with this young girl's attitude, but that story raised her (& her dad) even higher in my esteem.
Picturing in my mind this little girl cheesed off but not discouraged put me in mind of this 4Shoes story...
When our daughter, Slipper, was in high school she had a little grade mare that she called Venus. Slipper did not care to ride out on her own or want to take lessons, but she was a competent enough rider & we did quite a lot of riding together which made for treasured family memories.

One crisp fall evening we had saddled up & headed out, looking forward to a nice ride, but we hadn't gotten out of the driveway before Slipper was having some trouble. Venus was balking & fractious -- despite her nature being pretty co-operative & laid back - many of the horses I've known in my lifetime (both as former hired groom & as a horsewoman) have very occasionally had 'one of those days'. 
Venus grabbed onto the bit & ran right through it, pulling an impressive roll back & whistling briskly back to the barn, ignoring Slipper who was trying her best to be firm & pro-active. 
Venus ducked around the corner & into the barn so quickly that she dragged Slipper's whole leg against the door & I could see the saddle begin to slip. 
At that point I lit out after them, jumping from a stand-still straight into a gallop. My gelding slid to a stop outside the barn door like the very best of reiners, sitting firmly back on his haunches, planting his forelegs & leaving a 6 foot skid mark. I was about to throw myself off running when I saw her... 
There was my girl -- not hurt, not crying, not discouraged or putting her horse away as I had half expected to see.
What I did see was that she was MAD as a hornet & not about to let that mare get away with that crap. Slipper had Venus snugged up to a post & she was re-saddling as she gave her horse a firm talking to. She popped the knot on that lead rope & slung it over her saddle horn, picking up her reins & mounting from the ground with no hint of hesitation, more confident & with more purpose than I'd ever seen her be with her horse. My girl was so intent on what she was doing that she didn't even notice me & my gelding standing there watching until she turned her horse towards the door.
Slipper didn't waste any more time questioning what happened or offering any explanations or excuses; instead she was darn sure about to redefine that day's ride for Venus & for herself. 
Kicking her now contrite looking mare into a trot, Slipper passed me on the fly & called back over her shoulder, "Are we riding today or what?"
I almost swallowed a fly, my mouth was open that wide.
That day is a long time past now & our little girl is a young woman in her 5th year of university. Slipper has given us many, many proud moments as parents; but, as a horsewoman, that memory will remain one of my very favourites.


  1. I do believe those moments separate horse-people from non-horse people. We've all had them, but our decision to get back in the saddle is a defining time. In some ways, it's good because it teaches you the power of a horse and the vulnerability you have as a rider. You have to decide if you accept that vulnerability...or not. Only the LOVE of horses allows us to overcome it and move forward. Smarter and stronger. Love the story. I was on a mom and daughter ride once and afterward we were all standing around talking on our horses and one of the girl's horses spooked and dumped her. Same thing, not paying attention. She decided to quit horses after that. Made me sad because she was a good rider.

  2. Ever notice that some people will say that they were 'bucked off' or 'thrown off' (blame the horse), but these same people never consider that they might have just 'fallen off' (their own fault)?
    Coming soon, I have another story about a fall that further illustrates my point.


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