Oh Hi, Dirt. Nice to See You.

You know that old wise saying, “when you fall, you have to get right back on?” Yeah, well, I think there’s something missing.

When you fall, you get right back in the saddle.
And then you go home, take a hot bath and eat Advil like it’s candy.

I fell off Joe last night. Hard. There is a silver lining here, which is that the fall was the result of a series of unfortunate events, not that Joe was scared or trying to buck me off or anything like that. So it wasn’t really that scary…just painful.

We were working on some tiny jumps made out of blue barrels cut in half. They were little enough that he could walk over them, however, being made of scary blue plastic, we were working on calm and smooth jumps. Joe is not a terribly confident jumper. He’s been known to balk at trot poles. At some point in the past, it’s suspected that he had an accident that involved a pole catching in his legs, but no one is quite sure. At any rate, he hasn’t always been so nervous about jumping, and we have been working a lot on his confidence. He was doing pretty well working over the half barrel jump, even with a couple of balks at first.

Image: Lindsay Kahn, Eventing Nation

The trouble came when we tried to do two of them in a row. We went over the first one nicely, but he was surprised when we didn’t go past the second one like we had just done several times. We bobbed a weaved a bit on the way to the second jump but I thought we were going to be okay, and he went for it over the jump as I grabbed mane. I’m actually not quite sure what happened next other than a snapshot of memory in which I felt the saddle smack my butt and launch me in the air. Then, I was half out of the saddle one foot in the stirrup, and one foot flying over the saddle, with the reins still in both hands. It was at this moment I realized there was just no coming back from this. I actually thought, quite calmly, that it was time to let go of the reins because I was really hauling on his mouth with most of my body weight.

So I let go.

And that ground came up fast. I landed almost flat on my back and my head smacked the ground. Immediately, I could hear Leanne asking if I was okay, so I said, “Yeah, I’m okay,” and once more for good measure, “I’m okay.” I sat up, put my arms over my head to get my wind back and took some deep breaths. When I stood up, Leanne told me what had happened. Unfortunately, I have this bad habit of letting my heels come up when I put my leg on firmly, which I was doing to straighten out the approach. This set me up for failure. Joe over-jumped and my leg swung back so that I accidentally kicked him in the flank on landing, while also tipping me forward onto his neck. Obviously, he was not thrilled by this, and I was not in any position to right myself. Ooh-dah.

Keep Calm and Ride OnAt this point I was seeing little stars, like I stood up too fast. (Does that happen to anyone else?) So I sat down for a little while until they went away. After they passed, I got back on. We walked around a bit, and trotted for awhile. Joe was going really well, being very soft in the bit. Even though I was already feeling that impact with the ground, I wasn’t scared. I knew exactly what happened and why, and that it wasn’t going to happen again. It wasn’t really anyone’s fault (well, maybe it was mine), and I knew exactly what I needed to do to be successful on the next attempt – i.e. stay on, and get Joe over the jumps smoothly and with confidence.

Once we had our legs back, we went over the first half barrel jump and it was fine. He hesitated a bit but went over. Then we went for both in a row again. It was smooth, forward and relaxed. Boom. Done.

To cool out, we putzed around with moving off my leg more quickly and staying balanced in the corners. This continues to be an ongoing issue. Before my fall, Leanne had shown us a trick that seemed to help him soften off my hand a lot more. Basically, when picking up the inside rein, you rotate your hand and wrist like you’re turning a doorknob. This changes your position slightly, bringing the elbow into your ribcage, and clears up the cue through the rein. It was working really well for Joe, who tends to brace or lean on my aids. We’ll continue working on this in future rides.

Today I’m very sore. The right side of my neck and my upper back is stiff. I scraped and bruised my left elbow. And my mid-lower back on the left is pretty painful to the touch and when I twist, bend, flex, walk or move in general. Ah, the life of an equestrian.

Main lessons from the impromptu meeting with the dirt:

  • My helmet is great. It protects my head. (See my full review of the IRH ATH SSV helmet.)
  • I will now be looking into that whole helmet lifetime replacement warranty thing.
  • It’s time to get some breakaway stirrups. The one thing that really scares me is the possibility of being dragged. Any recommendations for good safety stirrups?

In a lovely little twist of fate, a great post from Horse Listening appeared on my reader this morning, discussing strategies for facing fear and keeping your butt firmly in the saddle. While I didn’t read it through the lens of facing a fear, it was a good reminder about how to react to unexpected situations – and hopefully have fewer run-ins with the arena dirt.

What are some of your strategies for staying on or facing fears after a fall?
Tips for dealing with stiffness and soreness (other than taking Advil and icing)?

In closing, here’s a picture of the sunset from a recent, pre-Daylight Savings Time evening at the barn. Thank goodness much of the snow is gone!

Sunset at the Farm

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8 thoughts on “Oh Hi, Dirt. Nice to See You.

  1. I am slightly giggling because this post and this post (http://agifthorse.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/the-one-where-i-fall-off/) were the first two on my reader today! However, falling is never fun, so I’m not really laughing (except what else can you do but laugh about falling when you’re an equestrian??)

    I actually had a similar experience in a lesson two weeks ago, except it was just a bizarre he tripped two strides AFTER the last jump in the grid line. Nice, right? I tried to stay on but then there was this very clear-headed decision that I needed to bail since he was going all the way down (didn’t want to get rolled on) I pushed off and landed hard on my hip/back/head. SO funny how the slow-motion thing happens as you fall!! It was funny because I think I was cussing as we were going down, then as my decision to bail processed, I said “or die” and pushed off. My trainer got a kick out of it.

    I, too, saw stars after – but still got back on after answering some basic questions to my trainer. I finished my lesson and wasn’t too sore that night- but two days after! HOLY CRAP! So sore. I thought I was going to have to go to the hospital for internal injuries or something! Luckily, the next day I felt way better so I never went. But if it does continue to bother, do go get checked out!

    Kudos to you for getting back on πŸ™‚ I hope you feel better soon!

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    1. Well that is quite the coincidence. Hopefully we don’t make it a habit to have lots of posts about falling off!

      It’s weird what goes through your mind in the middle of a crisis situation.
      For me it normally goes something like, “Oh, okay. This is happening. That’s okay. I can still stay on, just sit up. Heels down. Sit up! SIT UP. SITUPSITUPSITUP- CRAP! CRAP! NOPE, NOT STAYING ON. ABORT. GETOFFGETOFFGETOFF!” On the plus side, this means I can normally land semi-upright. (Just not this time.)

      I’m glad to hear that you’re feeling better and no hospital visits were necessary!

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  2. I am glad you were not scared to get back on afterward! It always helps when you know the cause and effect of the incident, instead of a bucking fit for no apparent reason. Obviously the ice and Advil, but also go for a walk and come back and do gentle stretches. It will not be fun during, but it should loosen you up some. Best of luck!

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  3. Oh sigh. The eternal dilemma – get on or fall off? The old truism is that, if you don’t want to fall off, don’t get on because EVERYONE FALLS OFF. EVERYONE. Also, about this gettiing back on thing – scratch that if you have a broken leg/back/shoulder/rib(s)/neck. The problem about not “getting back on” is that you get scared if you wait too long unless you are 15 years old or certifiably looney. Last time I fell off my 13 hand pony (riding bareback, true, but whatever) I broke my tibial plateau and was laid up for 5 months.

    So the moral of the story is – don’t get on if you don’t want to fall off and the moral of the moral is – when you DO fall off, 9 times out of 10 the only thing seriously injured is your ego.

    In France it is a tradition to buy drinks all around if you fall off. That alone has kept a lot of people in the sadddle.

    Happy trails.
    Judy

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