First Year Student
When I arrived at Meredith Manor in the fall of 1991, I was proud of the fact that I had not fallen off a horse in years. Proof that I had good balance. Right? Well, apparently not.
There was the time period that I called the “month of creative dismounts”. It seemed like I fell off my horse at least once during my 2 daily lessons and sometimes it was multiple times in a lesson.
Once my instructors succeeding in un-gripping my legs, unlocking my joints, and unfreezing my muscles, and I had no backup for staying on my horse, so I fell off – a lot. In addition, apparently I had been balancing on my reins because when they were taken away from me, I lost my upper body balancing aid. Thankfully, I just had to ride on a very long rein vs. one student who had to ride with her hands on top of her helmet. All of this resulted in some pretty hilarious steering incidences since we had a class of six riders all trying to follow their horses in balance without the use of rein for steering.
I think I fell off in every conceivable configuration. There was the quarter horse who simply stopped from canter and launched me over her head so that I could perform a spectacular slide on my belly while eating arena dirt. A small Arabian cross managed to swiftly change direction every couple off strides, darting all over the arena, usually leaving me standing in one spot without her underneath me. There was one very round little horse who felt like one of those exercise balls underneath me; he is the one who put his head between his front legs and bucked so hard the saddle and I slipped down his neck and over his head and front legs, and I landed in the dirt still sitting in the saddle. It wasn’t uncommon for me to go through a corner and simply slide off my horse on the outside since I wasn’t balanced over my inside seat bone; sometimes I took the saddle with me. One time, in a last ditch effort to stay on, I managed to get myself back on my horse’s back after slipping sideways, albeit it was sans saddle. I triumphantly rode my horse to a halt sitting on the girth with the saddle and pad hanging on the side. I have shaken arena dirt out of my shirt and my helmet, pulled down my breeches and emptied out dirt, spit it out of my mouth and cleaned it out of my ears, and even found some in my boots when I took them off at the end of a lesson.
Simply put, without gripping or holding onto something, I had no notion of how to sit in balance on top of a moving object with an opinion that rarely matched mine regarding direction and speed.