Almost three-quarters of a century ago, I fell off a horse. It was really on a pony but when you’re just five years old, size is irrelevant. A couple of weeks ago, I had another equine altercation. A very gentle horse that I have been riding decided he did not like being saddled or ridden at that particular time. We discovered later that the pain from a stomach ulcer was exacerbated by the tightening of the saddle cinch and my weight in the stirrup. When I placed my foot in the stirrup, he backed up as fast as he could until he hit an electric fence. Then it was rodeo time.
I can’t say I was thrown from the saddle since I was never really in it. Most of my short attachment to the saddle was my tenuous stance in the left stirrup. This experience gave a whole new meaning to “riding side-saddle”. So, the horse didn’t throw me as much as I made an unconventional exit.
I landed on my chest resulting in a cracked rib and some bruises. My pride wasn’t hurt because there was nobody there to see me as I lay among the dirt and manure of the pasture. Anybody who has ever ridden many horses has been thrown. Only the small herd of colts on the other side of the fence was witness to my unplanned, equine-assisted attempt to fly.
I have always believed that when you are thrown from a horse, for whatever reason, you should get back on. ( Aside from its application to horsemanship, it’s a pretty good philosophy to follow in life, too.) So, I walked down the fence line to where the horse was placidly standing, got the reins and led him back to the end of the pasture where there was a patch of sand, and remounted. (Actually, I mounted since I had not completely mounted in the initial effort.) I went to the patch of sand in case there was to be a repeat performance.
There was not a repeat performance so we went on our way and checked out the status of a newly-arrived herd of cattle in another pasture.
As I rode contentedly through the pastures that afternoon, I recalled other occasions over the years when I had made unplanned departures from the back of a horse. Learning experiences, that’s what they were. Although I have suffered the aches and pains, bruises and contusions and even some broken bones, I don’t regret any of it. The pain that horses have caused me is greatly outweighed by the pleasure they have given me.
Oh, and that little pony I was riding when I was five? My Uncle Frank (just a couple of years older than me) was the instigator of my relationship with horses. That first experience occurred when he was leading his pony on which I was astride across a pasture leading back to the barn. Walking with us was my mother and father. Of the four humans, Mama was the only one who didn’t like horses. Frank, in a playful mood, slipped the halter off the pony with the result that the pony took off as fast as he could go toward the barn, his only encumbrance my excited body clinging to his mane. I loved it! But just before we got to the barn the pony took a sharp left turn that deposited my little body a few feet from a hand-dug brick well.
To say that Mama was not happy is an understatement. But after determining that I was not injured, my father and Frank insisted that I get back on the pony. I have continued to do that many times since— even seventy years later.