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.
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.