Equestrian vlogger on what she learned from her first horse fall and how she got back into the saddle… day by day
Excerpt from Part I: To be honest, I wasn’t afraid of falling. I’d watched both my girls fall, dust themselves off, and swing back into the saddle. Lessons were learned. Progress was made. We all moved on. My first fall off a horse would happen, too. Though, I was in no rush… [Click to Read Part I]
At our barn, the rule after someone falls off is to 1) get back on the horse, or 2) go to the hospital. When I had my first fall in December 2018, I made the decision to go to the hospital. Actually, my body made that decision for me.
I had unintentionally “parted ways” with our mare Stella during a canter gone wrong. The result was a broken pelvis, six days in the hospital, and a realization that it would be months until I could even think about getting back in the saddle.
All this occurred only 1.5 years into my riding journey as an adult, wife, and mother. I came home by ambulance right before Christmas so I could be with my family, but my road to recovery was just beginning.
I always knew I would ride again. Yet, the sound of thundering hooves (and sometimes even non-thundering ones!) gave me panic attacks in the weeks after my fall.
Each time one of my daughters would begin the cantering part of her lesson, I had to leave the arena. My heart was in my throat.
The broad belief is that if you get right back on the horse after a fall, you’ll be able to work through your fear more quickly.
Except, I never had that option. I had six days in the hospital with plenty of time to mentally relive my fall, build it up in my mind, and worry about whether it would happen again once I returned to riding.
As time passed, however, my body healed and so did my mind.
My anxiety slowly vanished as I learned to walk and move again on my own. My doctor had told me it would take at least three months to heal well enough to ride again.
While I was “grounded,” our family moved into our new farm and brought Stella home.
Willow, a spunky miniature horse, joined the family to keep her company. Slowly, Stella and Willow settled into their new routine.
My girls and I were finally able to spend time with the horses every day. We groomed them, mucked out their stalls, fed them, and simply enjoyed being with them.
That time healed my soul, and it took our bond with Stella to a whole new level.
The more comfortable we became around our horses — and the closer I got to the three-month mark — the more excited I became about my first post-fall ride.
My faith helped me to let go of my fear and trust that everything would work out. Letting go allowed me to not focus on the fear, but to focus on trust instead.
I knew God had a plan for me and that everything would work out the way it was meant too.
As I began to get better, the girls also began to blossom.
Gabby stepped up as the most experienced rider and horse handler in our family. She handled Stella at home, encouraged Sophia as she rode Storm, and dedicated herself to improving each and every lesson.
Soon, she was hopping on Stella bareback, jumping 3’+ with Storm, and teaching Willow ground manners.
Sophia has Storm to thank for helping rebuild her confidence in a big way after my fall. He was a patient, kind, and safe “babysitter,” as she liked to call him.
She walked, then trotted, then cantered — with a smile.
Soon, she found her own dream horse, a sweet Palomino pony named Finn. He has given her so much confidence, and watching their partnership develop has been amazing. I can hardly believe my eyes when I watch her ride now!
We had horse riding friends come visit during Spring Break in late March. Since it was their first visit to Canada, I wanted to plan some fun activities.
The first thing I did was book a trail ride on Paso Fino horses. None of us had ever ridden one before!
Paso Finos are a gaited breed, which means they don’t have the same walk/trot/canter/gallop gaits other horses do. Rather, this breed performs the Classico Paso, Paso Corto, and Paso Largo.
They’re known for being incredibly smooth, comfortable to ride, and even-tempered. (See Paso Fino gaits in action here.)
Still, I was not expecting my first ride back to go the way it did.
Everyone was excited for our ride. I didn’t want to be the only one complaining and worrying the entire time.
I put on a brave face, tried to exude confidence that I didn’t actually have, and went with the flow.
- I decided not to tell the guide all about my recent history and that this was my first ride post-fall.
- I decided not to be nervous.
- I decided not to worry and over-think everything like I normally would.
Instead, I decided to stay focused on trust and go into the experience with an open mind.
Within minutes of mounting the Paso Fino mare I was assigned, I felt an incredible sense of calm come over me. It was immediately evident that my horse knew her job. No matter what rookie mistakes I might make, she would carry us forward.
I don’t know why I trusted her so quickly, but I did. As long as I let her do what she needed to do, she would take care of me.
Check out the video below to watch me get back in the saddle… on a Paso Fino![youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZnIT_GzEBI]
Early Spring in Canada means two things: ice and mud. Most of the surrounding trails were slushy at best and ice rinks at worst. Even our guide was surprised by the conditions, and our ride was much more rigorous than she had planned.
My first time back on a horse involved cantering across fields and up steep hills. It involved picking our way down ice-laden hills at a snail’s pace.
During one particularly bad stretch of footing, I had to choose to get back on my horse to ride out of the woods or to walk out on foot. I chose to get back on and trust my horse, who was far more surefooted on the ice.
At one point I closed my eyes and surrendered. I prayed for safety and for God to help her down the cliff. I practiced breathing out and maintaining faith in my amazing horse.
I wanted to let her know that I trusted her and had confidence in her to get us down safely… and she did.
Looking back, I still can’t believe I did that ride. Trail conditions were so bad that it took more than two hours to get back, and it was far more advanced than anything I had ever done before. Yet…
My first ride back after the fall felt largely effortless.
That single ride worked to build my confidence and make me want to reinvest time and energy in my riding.
It made me see things I needed to change and gaps I needed to fill in my riding education.
I felt such a massive wave of euphoria and success for having succeeded in such a challenging environment. If I could make it through that ride, I could do anything!
Check out this video of me getting back on Stella bareback. It was amazing.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhN2Ls8QRFY]
Recovering from a bad fall, emotionally and physically, isn’t easy — and I won’t pretend it was. What I can tell you is that the hard work to get back in the saddle IS worth it.
Here are three things I’ve learned during this process:
- Mind over matter: You can tell yourself not to be scared, and your brain can listen. You can decide to do something you didn’t think you could and conjure up enough confidence to push through.
- Time heals all wounds: The anxiety and stress I felt after my fall went away naturally as I gave my physical wounds time and space to heal. I was able to focus less on the pain and discomfort and work through my emotional blocks. In the end, the motivation to ride with my kids again won out over the fear.
- Trust and surrender: Whether you’re grooming your horse from the ground, watching inspirational riding videos, or slowly working you way back into lessons, any activity that helps develop trust with your horse is worth it. Trusting that I would be safe, my horse would take care of me, and we could get through anything that came our way together was freeing. Believe in your horse, and surrender your need for control.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should hop on after a bad fall if you don’t feel ready or the horse is unsafe. It’s OK to take your time and ask for help.
Whether you have a trainer, friends, or family who can be by your side, surround yourself with people who believe in you and have your best interests at heart.
As we head into summer, I’m so excited for what lies ahead for our family — and my personal riding journey.
I knew I would ride again. But, first, I needed to heal… day by day.
LauraLearn About Air Vests DaybyDay Media Guide
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