Well, it finally happened. I hit the dirt today. Hard. My fifteen year streak of not experiencing any unplanned dismounts has finally come to an end…and in one of those ways that you never really see coming.
Let me rewind a bit and give you a little background. I had the amazing opportunity to ride a lovely blinged out chestnut mare named Pebbles. Her owner, Emily, very nicely offered her up for me to ride for a week while she was out of town. Pebbles is what is typically called a packer. She’s happy to hack out in the fields with just about anyone on her, so I jumped at the chance to climb into the saddle.
Unlike the last time I rode a horse who wasn’t Luc, I wasn’t feeling nervous or hesitant at all. I was completed relaxed and happy, and so was Pebbles. We started off at a walk and Pebbles proved she really was of the saintly variety. She calmly walked around, just seeming to enjoy life. She wasn’t fazed by the dogs, the turkeys or anything else we encountered. It was going great!
After walking for a while, I decided I was comfortable enough to trot. We trotted partway around the field in one direction, and then turned around to trot some the other way. Not two steps in and Pebbles tripped and fell. And I mean fell – all the way down onto her knees, belly basically touching the ground. I’m told by my sister who was riding along with me on Luc that it even looked like for a moment that she was going to flip over.
I ended up somersaulting several times down her neck before rolling onto the ground. It’s been so long since I’ve fallen off that I have to admit I’d forgotten how things seem to slow down. As I was spiralling toward the ground I remember it taking longer than I thought it would, and thinking a few choice words as the grassy field came up to meet me, knowing there was nothing I could do to prevent the impact that was inevitably coming. Hello ground. No, I did not miss you.
At least my instincts seem to be intact after all these years. Tuck and roll baby. Tuck and roll. I rolled clear of Pebbles, who was struggling back up to her feet and spryly finished my final somersault and bounded back up into a standing position. I’m told it was incredibly graceful. Apparently I am the prima ballerina of falling off. Admittedly, that doesn’t come as much of a surprise to me. I always liked to have an audience when I fell off in my younger years, and I always liked to make it as spectacular and showy as possible.
After doing a mental wellness check and determining I was a bit bruised and battered, but for the most part fine, a few more four letter words went through my mind when I realised that Pebbles no longer had a bridle on. No reins still over her neck. Nothing. Thank goodness she really is a level-headed lady and was content to have a little snack instead of galloping back to the barn. I picked up her bridle, which was thankfully intact and after a brief discussion about how it actually had to go back on and she had to stop eating, I got Pebbles bridled.
I checked her over and see seemed no worse for the wear, so then came the third round of expletives. How the heck was I going to get back on? I had three options. Do the walk of shame back to the barn and explain to everyone there that I bailed off Pebbles less than 15 minutes into our very first ride together. Walk all the way across the huge hayfield and use the log that’s in the very back corner as a substitute mounting block. Or, attempt to get on from the ground.
Yup, there was really only one choice. Find a way to get on from the ground. I lowered the stirrup as far as it would go, took a deep breath, stretched my foot up and put it into the stirrup, said a little prayer and attempted what I thought was the impossible. Success! I managed to get on the first time. It seems this was going to be a ride of firsts – but not really the good kind.
I walked Pebbles around some more in the field, and she ended up tripping a few more times. She had actually stumbled more than a couple of times before the fall but I had brushed it off as her just being a bit klutzy. After all, I am used to riding Luc who on occasion has been known to completely forget what he is supposed to be doing with his feet. I did trot Pebbles a few more steps out in the field just to make sure I didn’t develop any kind of fear about it, and then we went back to the grass ring and did a little ring work. We walked, trotted and cantered, with a few more mild stumbles there as well.
After untacking Pebbles I checked her over again and she still seemed fine so I gave her some treats (and apparently made a friend for life in the process!) and turned her back out. The next day it was time to try again – after all, I had a whole week of Pebbles riding time left.
We took things slowly, starting out in the grass ring to see if she was going to trip repeatedly again. Because while I came out of the previous day’s incident relatively unscathed, I was in no rush to repeat it. She had a few mild stumbles, but nothing like the day before, so we headed out into the field. I walked, trotted and even cantered a little and guess what? We didn’t fall flat on our faces. Go team!
I’m hoping the rest of the week goes as well as my second ride, but I have to admit that I’ll likely still be a little cautious and concerned about Pebbles and where she puts her feet. At least I know I’ll have great riding position by the time the weeks up, because let me tell you, my heels were down, my shoulders were back and I was sitting up incredibly straight for our entire second ride!