Thursday, August 11, 2016

Notes From the Dark Side: The Fall

Today, I went to the Dark Side, and by that I mean I came off my horse.

Remember when my trainer told me if Leah blows out to the left, go with her to the left, or turn her toward her tail to the left?  Well, I did that for a while, but I got this other thought in my head, as we were working on opening and closing gates (without the helper my trainer had advised me to have), and the thought was this: What if I'm rewarding her by going to the left?  What if, instead, I make her go tight to the right?

I'm here to testify that my trainer was correct--go with them to the left!  Why?  Because if you take them to the right, you risk throwing them off balance and tripping them up--especially a green horse who isn't fully used to carrying a rider.

And, that is just what happened.  As I was working on bringing her back into the arena through the open gate and having her take one or two steps and then relax, she decided she just could not stand still anymore and blew to the left.  I pulled to the right. She started to fall to the left.  I tried to get myself out of the saddle and out in front of her.  How I did it, I'm not sure, but I did manage to get free and jump off, landing on my left arm.  I couldn't see what happened to Leah, but it appears she went half way down and somehow managed to right herself while avoiding hitting me with her hooves or falling on me. 

It happened so fast, even though it felt extremely slow.  When I turned around from the ground, where I was trying to get out of her way while bracing for her to fall on me, she was standing in the middle of the gate watching me. She was standing WAITING for what was next.  The barn and her buddies were only 100' away, and she could have easily run back--something she'd been wanting to do our whole lesson.  But she didn't.  She stood.

As soon as I could right myself and dust off  my arm (I'd landed in the sand), I went straight to Leah and got back on.  She was a little tremulous.  I hadn't notice it from the ground, but I could see it rippling through her skin from my point in the saddle.

We went back to work.  Walking. T-Boning. Paralleling.  And, I even spent some time jumping off her from both sides in case that happens again.

My thoughts on today are:

1. In my opinion, it's harder to work with your horse at home than somewhere else. The herd and the barn are a constant distraction and draw.

2. If you don't want to learn the hard way or go to the "dark side," listen to your trainer.  However, if you, like me, have some inner need to learn the hard way--falling off your horse is not the worst thing that could happen to you.  There are lessons to be learned from it, as well.  (And, they are probably much more deeply ingrained!)

3. You're better off being patient with the "plan" than trying to find short cuts.

4. I should have stuck to the T-Bone exercise and coming along the fence today rather than rushing her to the gate work.  We had worked for an hour on those exercises and, even though she wasn't giving me a good stop and wait, I looked at the clock and thought I needed to get to the gate...just because.  A case of working with the horse I thought I should have rather than the one I did have.

Last night, I worked on getting her to move one foot or another from the ground, and she did so excellent, and was so cooperative, I was on Cloud 9.  Even over poles, I'd ask for a left foot over, and she'd give that left foot and wait for the right until I asked.

Today, she was less willing and more tuned into the herd, but I was working with the horse from last night and not the one I had today.  Mistake.

The picture I took above was before we started our ride.  I switched from a mecate to split reins with my halter and lead.  I like it better because in those times when you need to work with your horse, you have better control with the halter and lead rather than the bit.  I've worked with a mecate for a long time, but this is my preference now.  

I can't wait to get back on Leah again.  It awoke some kind of warrior in me, which is probably just adrenaline.  As soon as I got my wits back after the fall, I could not wait until I got back in the saddle.  I still feel that desire.  I can't stand set backs like that, and I'm eager to put it far, far behind us.  I might even ride her again when I get home from work tonight.

Oh, and I was wearing my helmet.  Last week, I hit my head on the gate frame, but my helmet absorbed all the shock.  I don't know if it would have helped me today, but had her hooves somehow come down on my head--I'd have been happy I had it on.


  1. I'm glad you were able to bail off and that she stayed with you. The last time I bailed off a horse, I freaked him out so much that he went rodeo on me. You'll make Leah like one of those drill team horses in no time. You know... the kind that have riders who hang upside down and do other acrobatics in the saddle.

    1. Funny! She might be ready for that, but I'm not. My arm is scraped up and I have a headache. Honestly, I don't know how I fell/jumped because I was so concentrated on getting out of her way so I wouldn't get crushed. I do remember a split second thinking my foot was stuck in the stirrup, but I also remember it coming free. I much prefer being in the saddle to out!

  2. I understand why you thought what you did and I'm glad that it's okay. If I've learned one thing in all of my work with Carmen is that the plan can take a while.

    1. Yeah, the plan takes great patience. I like to see fast results, but working with horses doesn't allow for short cuts.

  3. So glad you didn't get hurt! Happy to hear that Leah chose to stay with you...always a good thing. We all live and learn, right? :) One thing I've been told over and over and over again is NOT to drill anything into a horse or it will sour them to whatever it is you're trying to teach them. Variety keeps them attentive and in a learning frame of mind. Patience grasshoppah...

    1. Good point. Leah hates the arena work and loves the variety of the trail, but I haven't had riding partners the last few days. On the other hand, she does need to learn to behave wherever she's at. One day at a time.

    2. Same here, Eagle and me are bored stiff with riding at home, but then again, he gets to do whatever he wants all day every day and it's not horrible to have to work for an hour.

    3. That's my problem too- I hate having to work at home in my 50 ft round pen. It isn't safe to ride much in the yard here, so my only option while my trailer is being worked on is in the round pen or down the gravel road. I'm glad you weren't hurt too badly and that you had the guts to get back on and work through the issue.

  4. So glad you weren't hurt badly and that you were wearing a helmet. Helmets are ugly and uncomfortable but I've never ridden without one. They've saved what little brain matter I have a bunch of times. I think when you have to ride alone it's a good idea to stick to what they know and are comfortable with. I'd save the hard lessons for when I'm with a trainer. Take things easy and have fun when there's no one around to help out you'll get where you want to be in time. Hope you feel better soon.

  5. Glad you're okay Linda!!! I so relate, especially to your comment about the inner need to learn the hard way (which I think is maybe part of my basic make-up sometimes) & ESPECIALLY about a bad ride or a dump awakening that inncer-Cowgirl that just wants to GET BACK ON & make it right! Good for you Cowgirl!!


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.