Thank God snow is soft landing, ’cause I took a header today.

I brought L and her friend R with me to the barn today. R is a equine massage therapist, and she took at a look at Image for me. She did a “quick and dirty” massage (her words, not mine!) and said that she was pleased to see that nothing particularly scary popped out at her. He’s got some tight muscles, for sure, and taught me some things to do to help that with the curry comb and cookie stretches. I really appreciated that. I have Dr. Steve Katz, a local (and very highly recommended) chiropractor coming out at the end of next month so I have all my bases covered before we really start working together, but that definitely gave me faith that his issues are more in his head than anywhere else.

After playing dress up a bit (aka trying a few of L’s saddles on him to see which one fit better than my Bob Marshall), we headed out to the ring. I did a little bit of lunging to get his attention on me, and after a few rounds at a slightly frantic pace, he dropped down into an easy walk. I flexed him to both sides a bit, and asked him to drop his head. I’m always impressed with how quickly he picks up on concepts. Three weeks ago, he was really confused when I asked him to drop his head. He now drops it a good few inches for me the second I ask. Good pony!

He was curious as to why L was playing in the corner of the ring with the black clicky thing.

So, I readied myself to get on. I put on my helmet this time (like a good girl), after having forgotten it the last time I rode (flog me if you must; I spent most of my time on GP without a helmet so it’s going to take some time to get back into that groove!), and stepped into the saddle. R stood at his head. It was a split second before I realized I didn’t have my left stirrup, and R had stepped away. Image exploded.

It’s honestly the worst he’s ever been. He was full on broncing and spinning in circles, instead of simply crow hopping. The combination of a few things cause me to be pitched forward, which made me unable to sit back and get his head up.  I tried to brace myself against his withers, but couldn’t find purchase. I was also trying very hard not to pop him in the mouth, as I feel that’s where a lot of his issues stem from.

Before I knew it, I was pitched over his right shoulder. Unfortunately, I was pitched towards the very large, very solid wooden mounting block. I did not help the situation with the uncontrollable squeal of panic, and the “Oh SHIT” that come out of my mouth. Fortunately, I missed it by a few inches and ended up hitting the smaller, plastic step stool that was near by. R and L’s cries of “let go!” rang in my ears as Image took off. My hand released, and the critter booked it away from the ring.

I popped right up, as the only thing truly hurt was my heart — and not because I had fallen off in front of an audience. Someone really fucked this horse up, and it just sucks. I apologize for the language, but there’s no politically correct way to put it. I shuffled through the snow to go catch my horse, trying to rein in the emotions coursing through me before I reached him.

I had done a decent job, until I actually got within catching distance. My sweet boy saw me and stood stock still, his head up and eyes wide. I spoke to him quietly, reaching for the rein that was closest to his shoulder. He flinched heavily, screwing his eyes shut and cringing, as if he was waiting for a blow. I stood with him, not doing more than stroking his shoulder and talking to him. He dropped his head after a moment, and I moved in to rub his forehead. He sighed and leaned into it, licking his lips in realization that I was not going to lay a hand on him.

So, we walked back and I got back on. Barn Owner L stood by his head, and led us off. A few laps in each direction on the end of the lunge line at a slightly more relaxed walk, and a few times of simply stopping and letting him stand, and I called it a day. Once I jumped down, I threw my arms around his neck and told him what a wonderful boy he was.  I brought him back in, rebraided his tail, and did some cookie stretches with him.

Good boy 🙂

I honestly expected this to happen the first time I rode him. I also never expected to last through as many of his bucks as I did, being pitched forward and without a stirrup. So, it came at no surprise, and there is no regret. I knew he and I had a lot of work to do, and this is just the beginning.

It was also a lesson learned. My biggest mistake, which probably would have saved me, was not tipping his nose. Every time I have gotten on him, I’ve had his nose tipped towards me so he immediately is directed into a circle. I’m not sure what caused me to completely forget this little “emergency break” today. Directing him in a small circle when he’s trying to bronc has been the way to break him out of the cycle, and “restart” his system, so to speak. I will NOT be forgetting that again.

The other thing is that I really should not have was get cocky! Now, I like a longer stirrup, but when I tried the saddle out on L’s little Arab last night, I shrugged it off and figured I’d be fine because I’d ridden his minor freak outs before without an issue — why should this be any different. Well, guess what? I wasn’t fine. The stirrups were too long, and I had nothing to really brace against to get me back into the saddle once I got off balance. I will be pulling those stirrups up to a better length tomorrow.

Lastly? Laugh at yourself. When I returned to the ring, I called out to Barn Owner L: “Did you get that on video?!” She had. It’s hysterical, especially with the sound on. Not sure I’m brave enough to share it,  but despite feeling like a raging moron, I know mistakes happen. Quite frankly, my fall was pretty funny once you know I’m okay! I burst into peals of laughter when I watched the video back in the barn, and I made sure to joke with the girls so they knew I was okay (I am nothing if not a wiseass!). Shit happens. You either dwell on it, or you learn from it and move the hell on. And laugh. A lot. Because sometimes, getting tossed off a horse and landing in the snow is pretty damn funny!

So, I learned good things today, and we ended on a good note. Today was really meant to just assess whether or not this particular saddle was going to work at all, but it’s also given me a very, very big sign that backing waaay up and starting much smaller is an even better idea. His compliance with everything on the ground surprised me greatly. Now it’s time to do some work on the ground with the saddle on, then advance to the bridle, and so on and so forth. Baby steps!

Fortunately, I’ll have a physical reminder of “baby steps” for quite awhile…my wrenched finger, the rope burn from my reins, and the bruise that’s forming on my upper thigh is already all kinds of pretty colors, will all be around for quite some time!

Kisses for the best pony ever.

4 thoughts on “Splat!

  1. Kate February 17, 2013 / 3:01 am

    Hey, it happens to the best of us! And the best part is that it is always a huge opportunity to learn, which it sounds like you are doing quite well. Flexing them to the side is one of my favourite tools. I used to have a horse that would take off as soon as my butt touched the saddle when mounting — he got the flex treatment, too, at least until I started to trust him. Any of these little mitigation techniques that don't cause harm and work to prevent a huge outburst/issue are priceless. I am glad you weren't hurt!


  2. Cat Powers February 17, 2013 / 2:06 pm

    Hi Amanda. So, as you know I read all of your Image stuff on FB and after reading your posts this morning about “Splat!” I found myself wondering “why haven't I read her blog yet?”. So this morning I sad down and read it, from start to finish. Wow. Seriously, wow. It’s well written and full of delightful contradictions – it's wise-ass but touching, heart wrenching yet full of hope, amusing but thoughtful at the same time. I was enchanted…you sucked me right in. I know it sounds cliche, but it made me laugh (out loud) and it made me tear up. Keep writing young lady, keep writing!


  3. Madeline C. February 17, 2013 / 11:34 pm

    Oh yes… the “Oh shit…” You and I have so much in common with our boys. SOOO much.


  4. Amanda February 17, 2013 / 11:51 pm

    Aw, Cat, I'm blushing. Thank you so much!! I love to write and am glad my journey is something you think is worth following 🙂


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