Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Memorable falls

I learned to ride as a small child, taught by my grandfather, saddle seat in one of the families American Saddlebred horses. The farm on which I learned to ride was about two hours south of where we lived, so I didn't actually have my own horse on which to take lessons as a kid. I lobbied for a horse to keep in the 'burbs of Cleveland where I grew up, but my parents both nixed that, saying "There are horses you can ride down at the farm, why should we buy you one here?" So I took lessons to the point until it was necessary to have a horse of ones own, and then stopped.

But many weekends of my youth I went to the farm and went trail riding, bombing through the woods with friends and siblings. We never thought about danger, we wore the invincibility of youth and had no fear. I would ride the tallest, rankest horse and never think twice. One of my cousins, who lived in a town near the farm, was lucky enough to ride with my grandfather almost every weekend, which she did not enjoy, while I would have happily committed crimes galore to have such a chance. The grass is always greener I guess.

Dixie and me, circa 1984
In my youth I had several glorious falls from my favorite horse, one Dixie. He was a persnickety horse, if he didn't like you, he dumped you. You had to have a gentle hand on his mouth, and a good seat to ride him. But once you made him your friend, he would teach you to fly!

One of my memorable falls was down along the creek, where R. and I were riding as teens. The trails were often overgrown, and I didn't notice as we galloped along that some of the overgrowth was thick vines. One got between my leg and the horse (we sometimes rode with saddles, sometimes bareback.) The horse was going fast and furious, and the vine was thick and sturdy. I was dragged off Dixie's backside and plopped onto the ground. The bruise that developed along my thigh was large and glorious to behold, purple and green. But I still had no fear.

Another legendary fall happened the time I had taken my church youth group to the farm for the weekend. D. wanted to ride, so I thought it would be a good idea to have him up behind me on Dixie and take a quick turn around the arena. Dixie thought this was a very bad idea, and with the slightest of effort bucked us both off. D. landed on the ground and lost his breath, I was tossed into the fence, and surely must have had a concussion, although I wasn't aware of it at the time. But still I had no fear.

Many years passed, and I was married and living in Duluth. J and C and A took riding lessons with our friends the Ns, and we had several horses by then that we boarded there, along with our goats and chickens. One day we went for a trail ride in the snowy woods (glorious!) and I rode Buddy bareback that day. Now Buddy is an older horse who has done many things; Western Pleasure, Dressage, a bit of Hunter Jumper work. He knows it all and then some. But he is not over-fond of crossing water, far preferring just to jump creeks he comes upon. That day we were about to cross a creek, and I said to Buddy, "Don't jump, don't jump!" But here's the thing about horses, they don't get the concept of "no" and "don't", so the term has null value to them. If you want them to not do something, you have to tell them to do the opposite.

So, of course, Buddy jumped the creek, and upon landing I did a glorious somersault into a snow-covered bush. It was hysterical, and I sat and laughed and laughed, as did everyone else. Since that time I've made a point of being sure to use positive terms when asking for things, had I said "Walk through the creek Buddy" I would have been much better off.

J with Mac on the Ns farm
One of the things that the Ns insisted on for their borders was helmets. Which turned out to be a very good thing. J was riding his horse in an arena there one day, when another riders horse got agitated. J's horse Mac is a large and meaningful horse, and very protective of J, so when the other horse lost his mind, Mac made some sudden maneuvers to move J out of the danger zone. Unfortunately, when he did so, J was ejected and went flying.

Now, the Ns take very good care of their farm, and keep the arena shipshape. But naturally, J managed to find the one rock in the place on which to land on his head. His helmet cracked right along the front, but saved his skull, as it was designed to do. Before that time I was a rather surly wearer of helmets, although insisting the kids wear them (I considered myself too good a rider to need one, don'tcha know.) But since then, I've always worn one, and anyone who rides here on our farm will too (well, at least any kids.) I've still got that cracked helmet in a box in the basement, and I pull it out from time to time just to tell the story of how it saved my husband from catastrophic brain damage, as it surely did. It's really simple folks, if you're riding, you should wear a helmet, I don't care how good a rider you are. Just do it.

1 comment:

wanda said...

Oh please continue to write " ms greenjeans" I did so enjoy reading this. I see a book of short stories in your future! I want the first autographed copy! Say hello to the family and give Jethro & Magee a pat, and from a distance give my regards to Ziva as I respect her "attitude" towards non family members! W-