On Friday, October 2, 2015, I received a recommendation from my physiotherapist to start training with Reformer Pilates. I was told that Pilates is much different from Yoga. In fact, Pilates is based upon a series of movements intended to improve core strength, flexibility, balance and sense of body awareness. Apparently, Pilates works to balance the body, meaning that the weak muscles (of which I have many) need to get stronger so that you don’t over exert the stronger more dominant ones (of which I have few). My instructor told me that this would help me stay centered on my horse, or in the very least, stay on.

I’m also back riding both of my horses. OT, my eight-year-old, 16.3 hh, OTTB gelding, was the one I chose to ride first. He has a lovely floating trot, rolling canter and I can see his “freak outs” from miles away. I live quite close to Campbell Valley Park in Langley, B.C., so I am able to ride the connector trails and then take a leisurely 15km ride around the park. All worked out well and I decided to take Jamison, my eight-year-old Arabian gelding, for his turn around the park the following sunny day. Both horses had only been out five or six times during the two months that I was recuperating, but since everything went so well with my hot headed Thoroughbred, what could go wrong with my sweet grey Arab?

I was feeling a little stiff from my ride the day before, but I managed to get warmed up as we trotted to the park. He was taking every opportunity to shy at all the new boulders and trees that apparently grew while he was away from the trails. Jamison does have a lovely extended trot and we were going at a good clip when some rowdy young women on their big Warmbloods came racing up behind me. Jamison is not fond of being overtaken and often has a meltdown as he did that day. But I managed to keep my wobbly legs tightly wrapped around his rather sizeable gut. As it turned out these young woman were either stopped to chat or were racing around the park and we met in this fashion several times. As they were stopped once again, Jamison proceeded to show off his extended trot and we passed them without much of stir. However, about 50 feet up the trail a squirrel made an unfortunate decision to cross our path and found himself staring up at Jamison’s hoof. I’m not sure if it was Jamison, the squirrel or myself that gasped rather loudly, but it was enough to cause Jamison not to put his hoof on the squirrel’s head, but rather to do a 180° and head back to the monster Warmbloods – without me.

I found myself laying on the hard packed gravel trail where the squirrel once was, probably making the same frightening sounds he made, but writhing in pain with lack of breath. Eventually my breath returned and I slowly rolled up and was delighted not to feel the familiar stabbing pain. One of the women led Jamison to me and asked me if I was okay, to which I slowly nodded just starting to believe my own answer. As I got back on Jamison, one of them mentioned I should probably slow down to make sure I would make it home safely. Yes, very good advice.

I rode the rest of the way at respectful walk. I decided not tell my family about this fall. I wouldn’t want them to think I was crazy for entering a 1,000km race on semi-wild horse around Mongolia.