How I Found What I Thought I’d Lost

Back in October, Bonnie bucked me off in a particularly energetic bout of playfulness.  It was not a minor incident.  I broke my right elbow and did some nasty damage to my left knee, which resulted in a crippling bursitis and, later,  cellulitis.  I couldn’t walk for three days and to this day I still can’t straighten out my right arm.  I owe various doctors a total of around $11,000 for my three emergency room visits and three visits to an orthopedic specialist.

I never thought that I would be afraid after a fall, but I was.  I couldn’t overcome it, and that infuriated me.  I was unable to ride until mid-December because of my injuries, but even when I could, I was timid and overcautious.  I wouldn’t canter.  When either of my horses got worked up or showed any inclination to buck, I’d go back to a walk, get a good walk, then quit.  I know better than to just hop off immediately, but I couldn’t make myself work through the problems.

In early January, Bonnie pulled something in her back while running the fenceline and bucking like a fool.  The next time I rode her, she would not move forward without bucking.  When I watched her canter in the pasture, she kept switching leads and hopping.  I almost felt relieved: she was injured and I couldn’t ride.  An excellent excuse.

For the next three weeks, under the guise of giving Bonnie time off to heal, I didn’t ride.  I would groom her and make her stretch and bow for treats, but I never climbed astride.

Bonnie is not a crazy horse.  She is just about as safe as a sensitive and hot horse can be.  I have had her for almost two years and I have ridden her many times in lots of different situations and yet this fall was the only unplanned dismount I’d ever taken off of her.  She has been very good to me.  That’s why I was angry at myself; there was no reason at all to be afraid.  Bonnie and I are a great team and falls happen.

Today, in athletic shorts and flip flops, I overcame my fear and Bonnie has evidently fully recovered from whatever she pulled in her back.  I was infuriated about a problem I had with a braiding client today, and I NEEDED to get on a horse to stop thinking about it.  I didn’t even take the time to put a saddle on that Red Mare.  I just stuffed my head in a helmet, bridled her and dragged her to the mounting block.

Bonnie: bareback style. Yep, western reins and everything.

At first, we just walked lazily around the pasture.  Pretty soon, we were trotting around comfortably, the mare moving out beautifully, soundly.  Before I knew it, I couldn’t resist a canter and we breezed around the perimeter of the five acres, Bonnie obedient but energetic beneath me.  I felt confident and safe.  Empowered and brave.  We galloped the longest fenceline.  Galloped. Bareback.  Thoroughbreds get so smooth in the gallop.  It’s just easy to ride once you’re there. I haven’t done that in a long time and it was like flying.

I rode until we were both a little bit sweaty.  She had sweat-prints from my legs on her back and I had dirt-prints of her body on my legs.

It was the first time I’d cantered (much less galloped) her since before my fall, and it was the most cathartic and beautiful experience I’ve ever had on the back of a horse.

Thanks, Bonnie.



Filed under Bon Appeal

13 responses to “How I Found What I Thought I’d Lost

  1. Caitlin

    I am so glad you shared this. I went through the same thing a few years ago – fell of and became afraid of falling again. I was so embarrassed about being scared because I had been riding for about twenty years! But my confidence was fractured and I would get nervous at a brisk trot. It took about 6 months of riding with an instructor every time I rode to feel safe again. I never wanted to ride my horse my myself – I had to have someone watching and keeping me calm. Then one fine day I went out alone for a hack without being scared. Thank you so much for sharing. It’s good to know that I am not alone 🙂

    • 😀 Thank you for feeling the same way! It’s hard for us hard-core horse people to admit that our confidence has been shaken, but it happens, and we have to eventually approach it and deal with it! Bonnie is the best horse I’ve ever had.

  2. karen

    Thanks for sharing this. As Caitlin’s good to know we’re not alone. So glad (and a little jealous…ok a lot jealous) that you had that gallop. Best feeling on earth. Love reading your posts! Pats to Bonnie.

    • I was grinning my face off as her stride opened up and stretched out. It was soo awesome. I honestly can’t remember the lest time that I really let a horse move out at speed. I’ve ridden too much dressage lately.

  3. I’m so glad you had this wonderful ride on Bonnie! I could feel the joy –

  4. I know exactly how you feel – I had a very bad fall in June – my first in over 10 years – resulting in a severe head injury and several broken bones, and I’m close to 60 so things don’t heal up very easily. It’s great that you’re able to ride, and so glad you had a great ride today – but be gentle and forgiving with yourself – it takes a long time to recover mentally from this sort of thing, and you may have ups and downs for a while – I still do.

  5. This was so inspiring, Katherine–thank you for sharing. I have been battling my own issues for about a year now. I’m totally fine on the trail, or at least more fine than I am in the arena, but there were times I could barely breathe riding Calabar.

    It’s better, now, and my confidence does continue to improve. I also spent a lot of time being mad at myself, but Kate is right–be gentle and forgiving with yourself. It helps a lot.

  6. Kim Alexander

    OOOPH!! I’m gonna cry! Been there, done that.
    Man, we gotta love these thoroughbreds.

  7. OH! This is so good! We all get this.. part of being a grown-up rider as opposed to a kid, I think. Thank goodness you got through it faster than I did. I needed several years… and Final Call… to get over being “a bit windy” as my friend called it.

  8. It’s taken me several years too. Even though we know that we have to get right in our minds about riding after a bad fall – that negative thoughts can be a self fulfilling prophecy with horses – it’s easier said than done…

    Glorious story – thanks for sharing!

  9. Cindy

    That’s wonderful :o)

  10. I loved this!
    Sometimes I feel I am the most fearful rider in the ring, but, it’s getting better. Funny, but I’m riding a red horse too, a TB gelding. Though not bareback, I am discovering better connection with no fleece pad, and soon, a smaller, saddle.
    You describe so well the feeling of losing the fear and embracing the joy of the ride.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s