When babies begin to walk, we clap and cheer and make happy noises when they fall – just to let them know it’s all right, they are just fine, phrases like “you can’t learn to walk without taking a few falls” are recited.

Somewhere along the line, falling goes from being a learning process to a movement of shame.  As a teenager you trip and fall in the hall at school and all the other students laugh and point. A few might ask if you are ok, but you now have earned the nickname of biff for the next 4 years.

Outside of sports, falling becomes a humiliating maneuver.

As a middle-aged business woman you go to get out of your car in the office parking lot and step on ice, down you go, coffee and briefcase spill all over and your first reaction is to hop up, look around and exhale when you confirm no one saw you. A quick prayer is said in hopes no YouTube video hits Facebook later in the day.

As equestrians we hear on a regular bases, if you ride, you will fall… Another classic: it’s not a matter of if, but when.

My son was about 9 when he had his first real fall while riding.  He was embarrassed and begged me and his trainer not to tell anyone. Much to his surprise the barn threw a party annually, the major activity at this party was to honor riders who fell throughout the year. Trophies were awarded followed by the entire barn standing to sing an old cowboy song, something about you can’t be a real rider unless you eat a pound of dirt. He got over it and sings the same song to his students now.

As time goes on and age becomes a factor, we do a personal evaluation of our rides. When asked “How was your ride?” the response is “I stayed on”. Mental check lists …no fall this week, phew! It’s not that I’ve become a better rider, I just stick better. I work harder to avoid the fall situation. Safer, saner horse, less risk taken, grew some personal padding.  Wider seat = Better balance.

Sometime ago fear set in. It’s been years since I fell.

Ummmm!!!. What would happen if I fell? I’m not young anymore, would I break into pieces. Would I even be able to get back up? Yeah… let’s not explore that. So I began to ride with the fear that I would die if I fell. I rode so carefully, so timid, so unsuccessful, so stagnate that it was a waste of time for me, my horse and my trainer.

At nearly 55 years old, after back surgery a few years back and knee surgery, I stand before you a fallen rider. Ok maybe not standing as straight as I did yesterday, but I stand.

I fell! Heck, I tanked! I went full face plant, belly skiing behind my mare type of fall and I must say it was a liberating experience.  I fell, I got up, I did not break. Ok, I hurt. But I got up and on that horse I rode and I am looking forward to riding again tomorrow more now because I fell.  Who knew a fall could be just what this rider needed.

Cheryl

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