Dear Horse Crazy Riding Student,
You fell off! It finally happened. I’m sure that the thought of it may have crossed your mind once or twice. I hope you hadn’t spent too much time worrying about it. Everyone that rides eventually falls off!
I remember when I was little the owner of the farm where I rode would fill in for our regular instructor every once in a while. She was knowledgeable but had a whole different personality from our normal instructor. She was intimidating to me and most of the kids in my lesson group. I remember one of the girls in my lesson group fell off when her pony put it’s head down to eat grass. Mrs. Carol, the instructor, made sure she was okay (she was just grass stained). Mrs. Carol announced to the group that now the girl was a “real rider” as she got back on the pony.
I remember being puzzled. How is it that she is a “real” rider? She is the one that came off and all of us had stayed in the saddle? It just didn’t make any sense at all. I didn’t think about falling off, or the whole “real rider” thing for a while after that.
My time came on a windy winter evening. I was riding a gem of an old horse named, Magic. Magic was one of my favorites, we were trotting over poles on the ground. It was sort of dusky out and there were shadows over the poles. Magic thought she was trotting over the first pole. In fact, she was going over the shadow of the pole. She lost track of her footing when she misstepped over the poles. Magic lurched to a stop. I fell off of her before I even had time to think about holding on.
It was scary. That was the first time in my young life that I had the wind knocked out of me. I think I cried, I don’t remember. I know that I got back on Magic. We did the poles and ended the lessons with a ride on the little trail behind the barn. By the time I got back to the barn, I was over it. All week long I told everyone how I had fallen off in my lesson. That now I was a “real rider”.
That was the first of MANY falls I have taken along my horsemanship journey. I realize now, why they say you aren’t a “real rider” until you fall off. It shows that you are dedicated and determined. There are a lot of people who if given a choice would never get back on a horse after their first fall. Horses aren’t their “thing”, they fall and that’s the end of their interest in horses.
The “real” riders, devoted child riders, adult amateurs, horse crazy kids turned horse crazy grown-ups, we are the ones that so horse crazy, that even hitting the ground doesn’t discourage us. “Real” riders, prove their dedication to learning and love for the animal by accepting that falling off comes with the territory. We don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it, but we know in the back of our mind that it is always a possibility.
Now that you have fallen off and gotten back on again, you can tell the story to everyone you know that you are a “real” rider. Now that you have fallen off.
The thing is though, it’s about the getting back on that makes you a real rider, not the falling off. Being strong-willed enough, that you can grit your teeth, take a deep breath, climb back on and try again.
Falling off can be scary, it is okay to cry if you want to. Of course, I want you to make sure that you are alright before you get back on. It is a defining moment between an instructor and a student when they fall off and the instructor checks them out, dusts them off, and says “time to get back on”.
We know how it feels to take our first fall, we know just what it’s like. It sticks with you. Just like it stuck with me. Even all these years later I still remember the night I fell off of Magic. I can see a picture of Magic in my mind. I even remember my helmet had a purple and white cover on it. When I got in the car I noticed it had a grass stain on it.
I’m writing this letter to tell you that the minute you put your left foot back in that stirrup and swung your leg back over that horse you fell off of, that was the moment you became a “real” rider. Not the moment that you fell off.
I’m proud of you for getting back on even if you are nervous. By trusting me enough to get back on and try again, you solidified our relationship as teacher and student. It is hard to do something you are afraid of! You have to have a certain respect and trust for someone to be able to do that.I’m so happy to know that our relationship is on that level. I’m so proud that I instilled in you the spirit of a true horsewoman. J
It is that spirit and the horse craziness that you don’t outgrow, that led me on the path that brought me to be your instructor. Falling off and getting back on is all part of the horsemanship journey. It’s going to happen. It happens to everyone. One of the downsides of being so in love with animals who can think for themselves! They don’t always want to do what we want to do!
Being a rider and a horseperson takes great strength in character. You can’t have an ego, you have to be able to take. when something goes wrong and it’s your fault. You have to be devoted to trying to learn, even when you are so frustrated you want to scream.
So remember, it’s not the falling off that makes you a real rider, but the getting back on!
Ralph Waldo Emmerson said “r
I’m proud of you, keep up the good work. Go home take a hot shower, eat some ice cream and tell everyone you are a “real rider now”.
Your Riding Instructor