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Hitting The Dirt Is Hard On The Ego

I got bucked off today.

It happens. It happens to all of us, even the Olympians. Everyone handles a rough situation like a fall differently and some respond with fear or a reluctance to ride again. For me, it’s all about getting right back on and addressing the issue that caused the behavior in the first place. I know I’m a little hardcore but that is how I was taught. Do not be afraid to fall. A rider must accept this as it is a part of riding horses. Just as car crashes are a part of NASCAR or torn ligaments are part of gymnastics.

It’s a harsh hit to the ego that a fall brings - it can slowly start to eat at one’s confidence as a rider. Am I making the right decision, am I asking too much, am I asking too little? Why did I get that response instead of what I was asking for? I hit the ground in a most unremarkable fall and in seconds was up and ready to get back on. I knew then it wasn’t the horse’s fault or desire to throw me. Getting back on to “teach the horse a lesson” wasn’t even a thought in my head. That type of thinking gets us nowhere.

Goody for me I had my assistant videoing this particular ride, as I was proud of how wonderfully the horse was working. Then I asked for canter to the left. The horse picked up the outside lead and instead of disciplining the wrong lead I simply led her across the diagonal line so the outside lead became the correct lead. I went to half seat to try and help this young horse gain her balance without me sitting heavy but sensing this change in my balance the horse promptly laughed, hit the brakes and proceeded to show me a vital weakness in my seat. And there it is, folks - the seat. No matter how long you have been riding, your seat can always get better, your “feel” can improve and your timing can become almost flawless. We never get to a point and proudly state, “I HAVE ARRIVED.” There is no max level or final form. We should always be seeking to develop a better seat.

During my training, I spent a long long time on the lunge line. At first I was disappointed that I was tethered to a human and had to work up down, up down, up down until my time was up. I didn’t appreciate it until I couldn’t stop falling. Then I began to focus on the things that were causing me to fall. Stuck legs or joints. Bouncing seat. No engagement of my core. Whatever it was, I was able to focus completely on it. I would pick challenging horses to lunge on (the Manor was full of them!) and work through my problem until I felt it was something I could successfully do off the line.

Then my lovely Sir William spent a period of time hitting the brakes, pulling me over the handle bars and leaping in place over and over. I fell more times my first show season on that horse than probably my whole time as a student at Meredith Manor. My wonderful trainer Faith Meredith had finally had enough and told me I should join a cutting class to learn how to stay on my horses. At first I thought she was crazy but after the first handful of times of being thrown around the saddle chasing after a cow I saw her point. After three months of cutting practice I no longer fell off of William, my seat had learned to follow the up and down and side to side as he tried to get out of work. (Thanks Faith!)

Now that I have hung out my shingle to train others’ horses, I don’t think of myself as the best or at the peak of my game. I still have a trainer to help me as any good rider should. Charlotte has Carl, I have Felicitas. I get stressed and insecure when things aren’t going as quickly as I think (or my clients think) they should be progressing. I start to doubt myself and my skills and it turns very negative in my head. Getting bucked off adds to this. Just because I’m a trainer doesn’t mean my fears magically disappear. I have a fear of failing the horse and ultimately the client. I can either wallow in self-pity and let that insecurity eat away at all the progress I have made up to this point just because I was thrown for some stupid mistake (on my part) or I can hook up my lunge line, pull an assistant into the ring to lunge me so I can work on my half seat game.

When we are thrown, we have a choice to recognize what we need to work on or ignore it. I don’t know about you but I hate hitting the ground for something I could do better, so I’m going to work on it.

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