Eli and I fell on Saturday. First, both he and I are pretty much okay.
I was riding with my trainer Saturday morning. She had me working on a more engaged but slightly collected canter from a two-point. Eli cantered right on up the long side on his left lead, and he tripped. He is pretty athletic and passably coordinated, the trip didn’t even register at first.
Until he tripped again, on himself, while trying to catch himself. The ground got really close all of a sudden. The feeling of my horse going down underneath me sickened me, and I was concerned he was seriously injured. And then I hit the dirt. I lay in a heap, staring at Eli’s hooves a foot in front of my face — he had already gotten to his feet. We both had dirt everywhere.
The trainers were right there telling me to sit still for a minute as I asked if Eli was okay and I tried to reach for him and stand up. Then it kind of sunk in that I felt okay and Eli looked okay and we just got extremely lucky. I asked if my head hit the ground, because it didn’t seem like it. That’s not to say I wasn’t dazed — both of us were. I kept wanting to check on Eli, but my trainer was looking him over and reassuring me; he scraped his knee and had dirt all over the front of his head, his face, but he seemed okay otherwise, standing quietly with a slightly confused look. The barn owner/trainer’s dog came over and sat on me, which was quite possibly the most comforting thing ever, so I hugged her.
I stood up. I walked Eli a few steps, and then — this is important to me — to the mounting block. On the face of it, we were okay. But I needed to know if Eli really was okay. Why give myself time to think? I breathed a sigh of relief when he trotted off sound, cantered without one hoof out of place. Falls can be just as traumatic for the horse as the rider, so getting back to doing what we normally do as soon as possible felt very important to me, so as not to damage Eli’s confidence. And since we didn’t seem injured much, that’s what we did.
Our lesson continued — we jumped around and I missed a lead, he played a little in the outside line. He rode in fine form otherwise, jumping great, as though nothing had happened, although the footing ground into his bonnet and browband might have given up a clue.
At first, I thought what a shame I didn’t get this on film … until I talked to a few other riders who witnessed it. It looked really scary. It was a freak thing. “Are you okay?” I rarely ever allow myself into such a position as to even be asked that, but I was okay and Eli was okay. One rider said Eli did everything in his power to avoid stepping on me, flinging himself back as he got up and screeching to a halt, staring down at me. I can’t tell you what a relief it was, that I never saw him down.
I have been riding Eli for years, and I had not fallen off in years, and never off Eli. Perhaps we are so amicable toward each other’s inclinations that we even fall together, and count on each other to recover together. This could have ended quite differently; that is not lost on me, and my hope is that Eli won’t think twice about it. This isn’t even the first time a horse has fallen with me! I can’t recommend it, but each time has been completely out of the blue, so I have no idea how to avoid it.
Perhaps this was a “freak” accident, although I am not sure something like this is really a freak thing with horses. Unpredictable, definitely. And hopefully unlikely. But it is very much within the realm of possibility that this could happen to any horse and rider pair, regardless of either’s previous experiences. Make safety a part of your daily routine around horses and prepare for the worst. Eli and I got really lucky on Saturday, and I know neither of us were cutting any corners. I had complete confidence we were in a safe environment with excellent footing and good equipment: but don’t think this can’t happen to you, because it can.
Eli came out of his stall on Sunday with his characteristic toddleresque snippishness, prodding for treats. I had poulticed his fronts after our lesson on Saturday, along with doctoring the scrapes on his knee and face. We had storms Saturday night and Sunday morning, so I just let him graze and walk around for a bit, as the turnouts were too muddy and working students teamed up to get all of the horses hand walked. I rubbed liniment on Eli’s fronts after jogging him. If I really wanted to see it, he could have been slightly off on his left front, the scraped up knee. Understandably so as I have some soreness here and there myself. I also poulticed his knee around the scrape, putting Corona on the scrape itself. I cannot get a chiropractor out to look over Eli fast enough, and if anything’s truly amiss, I’ll have the vet out. For myself … Alka Seltzer.
Please, be safe out there. After 30+ years riding horses, I don’t know how many close calls I have left, but I would rather focus with gratitude on what I do have. And I can’t wait to get back in the saddle with Eli, our scrapes be damned.
Sports amnesia really came in handy for me. I had few worries after jumping Eli on Saturday. But I must admit, once I finally took my helmet off, it had dirt in it. I have had my share of tumbles, and this was new for me. While I don’t think my helmet was damaged in this fall as Eli never touched me and my arms and hip hit the ground first, I can’t help but wonder if I would be more comfortable going forward in a different helmet with smaller vents and higher performance ratings in independent impact studies. Looking at you, Kask and Trauma Void.
Maybe this reads melodramatic, but I don’t care. Addled and faulty as my brain may be, I only get the one. And without it, who’s picking up Eli’s tab?