When we were little girls and fell off of our our ponies, or school horses, we were told: “Get
back on that horse!”
And so we did. Brushed ourselves off, sniffed, wiped our noses on our sleeves, and climbed back on the horse to try again, shoving our fear deep down inside and persevering. And so we learned to ride. Perhaps it was important to do that back then. To master the fear and get back on the horse and keep going. Falling off was not a big deal, after all. No one learns to ride without ever falling off. Back then, when we fell off we mostly bounced, or if we didn’t quite bounce, we healed pretty quickly, and a fall was not such a big deal.
For those of us who are a bit more “mature,” it’s different now. A fall often means a long recovery, maybe even an injury that never does quite heal. These are realities that we have to recognize. Added to that, we don’t have quite the reflexes we had when we were kids. Our energy now goes into preventing falls if possible. How do we ride SAFELY and ENJOY our sport as long as possible?
1) Stay fit and limber: a strong and stretched body has a better chance of keeping up with the quick movements of a horse, even if they are unexpected. Work especially on keeping your core strong as it helps stabilize your body. However, even though we stay fit, slower reflexes mean that when a horse bolts, bucks, does a 180, or other sudden manoever, we may not be able to stay with it the way we did 10 or 20 years ago. Does that make us bad riders? No, it just means that things are different. We’re going to need wisdom, not just sheer athleticism. 2) Listen to your gut: I believe that God gives us Wisdom with age. The wise rider pays attention when she gets that feeling that her horse is about to explode. If she has the skills, she defuses the skills by putting the horse to work; if not, she gets off. Some days, perhaps she chooses to lunge first because her gut tells her that her horse has some bucks in him. She uses wisdom to choose where she rides and when. 3) Choose appropriate challenges: push yourself and your horse just enough so that you are growing, but not stressed or frightened. Learning does not occur when you are frightened, and if you are scared, you are more at risk for an accident. 4) Choose an appropriate horse: being matched well to your horse is the greatest wisdom of all. A horse that you can trust is a treasure. Of course, horses will be horses and any horse can panic or have a just plain silly moment. If you have a horse that scares you frequently, though…it’s time to find a new home for him or her. Your gut is telling you that this is not safe or this horse cannot be trusted. LISTEN.