I’ve been riding for 17 years now. I don’t jump or do any high speed riding, so I can count the amount of times I’ve fallen off on two hands (eight times). There have, of course, been a lot of close calls, and plenty of times where I thought I had no control on my horse. I don’t think any equestrian can say they’ve never been scared while riding. I’m not talking a little scared, I’m talking that sick to your stomach, hands shaking, adrenaline pumping feeling. But if it has the ability to make us feel that way, why do we continue to get back in the saddle?
I remember, specifically, a liver chestnut mare named Ginger – and man was she dirty. She knew what to do to scare the cr@p out of me, but I still showed up for my weekly lesson, timidly grooming her and tacking her up while secretly dreading her mare-ish shenanigans. She knew to spin and run, and although I never hit the ground, there were too many close calls for my liking. Through all of this, I never once told my mom I didn’t need a ride to a lesson or that I was going to call in sick. Why would I put myself through it, week after week?
Even as a skinny twelve year old with lessons once a week, it was outside of my nature to step away from horses, no matter how frightened I was. In fact, stepping away from horses was even more upsetting than sticking with them.
With the recent death in our community, I think many equestrians have realized just how dangerous our sport can be, in a very quick moment. When we go awhile without taking a few bad spills, we get comfy and forget that we have only a fraction of the strength, weight, and power of our horses. Who puts themselves in that position of constant danger?
I bet more equestrians can attest to that awful feeling of wanting to see your horse or ride your horse, but not being able to, for whatever the reason – injury, money, schedule, even fear. It’s almost a nauseating feeling, and I honestly feel that sensation is more painful to the heart and mind than the feeling of fear. And there is the reason: equestrians would rather feel the fear of our dangerous sport than put their soul through the pain of removing horses. It’s just not an option for us.
I think it’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to realize that our horse could cause an accident. It’s okay to realize that one bad spill could alter our entire life. These things keep us grounded, and remind us of just how real our sport is. It stops being a day to day grind and starts becoming a daily adventure.
I think if we learn nothing else from the rare but deadly accidents that occur in our sport, we learn to treat our horses like the truly unpredictable creatures that they are.