I had a feeling something was going to happen as I got ready for my lesson on Friday. Just…a feeling. In truth, that’s probably why something did happen, because I was expecting it…and with horses, I have learned, what you expect is what you get. I hadn’t had a very good week, so I was feeling overwhelmed already. And then we practiced jumping.
My biggest problem (I think) in riding, aside from being totally ignorant about what I’m communicating to Fire in the subtle equine language, is that I’m stiff. Stiff + jumping = bad things. I didn’t fall off the first round, but I almost did; and I didn’t fall off the second round, but I almost did. Once I was literally sitting on Fire’s neck, holding on for dear life, and only managed to get back in the saddle because I thankfully hadn’t lost my stirrups.
But he was going way too fast and I wasn’t in control, so I had to redo some things several times. Then Sue told me to do the one reign stop, which I learned about 8 years ago during some stray Western lessons but never actually had to use. So I tried it, but of course, being me, I turned him toward the jump. He jumped, I was suddenly sitting on his neck again, but this time I had lost my stirrups and there was no way I could get back on. I realized it would be better for me to decide when to fall, as opposed to tumbling over his head and being run over, so I dropped to one side and landed in the (thankfully) soft, deep sand.
And then I almost cried. Like I said, it was a bad week, I’ve been struggling with Fire for months, and it just felt like too much. Everything on its own is never that bad, but you all know as well as I do, and probably better, that life loves throwing everything on you all at once sometimes, just to keep you on your toes.
Anyway. Sue showed me the right way to do it, let me calm down before getting back on, and generally everything was okay. I won’t mention the insane bawling that happened later that night, because that would be embarrassing.
After falling off, even if you get back on right away (which you should), I firmly believe you should go riding again as soon as possible after the fall. So I went yesterday, and I was newly determined to make this work; to ride better, to listen to him better, and to communicate better; to be more aware of him and what he was perceiving. I rode for a bit and it was okay, but once I had to do the one reign stop. He was rather surprised when I did this, and even swung his head around to look at me like, “Who are you and what have you done with my usual timid rider?” After that things were much better.
At one stage I got off because I wanted to put a pole down so I could practice the movement of jumping. Usually he just stands there, looking bored. This time when I walked away, I saw him move out of the corner of my eye, and I looked to make sure he wasn’t going to roll or something. But he wasn’t. He was walking after me. When I stopped, he stopped. We stared at each other for a couple seconds, and then I bent down to move the pole in place.
And then I stopped and thought. In a thing called Join-Up, which I won’t go into detail about here, you do a bonding thing with your horse where he chooses you as his leader, and you know it worked if he follows you around afterward. Fire never follows me around unless I have carrots. So I thought, let’s see what happens. And I started walking…and he stayed right behind me. Not invading my space, just staying close, with his nose practically touching the ground. When I stopped, he stopped. A few times he nudged me very lightly on my arm, but that was it; none of the usual pushing and shoving. I did some zig-zags, some sharp turns, and he stayed with me the whole time. And I almost cried again, because this is what I’ve been wanting to experience; Fire being with me because he chooses to be.
So much so that when I was unsaddling him, he tried to come with me to the tack room and was very frustrated by the halter that kept him from following.