On falling off of horses

I just took a look at Sunday and Monday’s blog posts, and I’ve noticed a trend – learning lessons.

It feels like I’m very much in that phase of my life right now. I’m falling off the horse.

My favorite thing to do with my horse when I was a tween/teen was ride really really fast.  We would walk the length of a clear, flat field checking for holes that could cause a stumble, then we would turn around and gaze back down that airy distance. She would jitterbug under me, ready for me to click my tongue. I’d nudge my heels into her sides, and lean forward.  This was our language.

She would glide from a canter into a gallop, her short legs like tiny pistons.  I imagine she liked to feel the bit loose in her mouth, my weight on my knees, high and forward on the saddle like a jockey.  I imagine she enjoyed the feeling of her mane and tail streaming behind her like sorrel pennants.

I would feel a rush of adrenaline, I was always a little afraid when she took off like this. I knew better than to rise to my knees and hold my seat off the saddle. I loved how fast she could go. I also liked the lack of bone-jarring bouncing that came with the higher stance.  I knew better. I knew I should wrap my legs around her and settle for the bounce. Or, I should slow her back down to a rocking-chair canter gait where the bounce wasn’t a problem.

Animated sequence of a race horse galloping. P...

But I loved the speed. I loved the wind. I loved the power of her body under me, and I loved her mane in my face. I loved my long brown hair streaming along with hers.   I knew better. I knew I’d pay the price. But I didn’t care. This one moment – these heartbeats of fearless, power and speed – this was worth the inevitable end.

It might be anthropomorphism to say that my horse was an utter brat, and to grant her a high degree of playfulness or a sense of humor. In her language of facial expression, flickering ears and noises, I may have projected her personality onto her. But I don’t think so.

We would always have a bit of field left – it wouldn’t be time yet for me to sit down or slow her motion.  She somehow knew exactly where the puddles were, even in a bone-dry field.   Her portion of this game was to bolt as fast as she could down the field, and then, at precisely the right moment, turn around to face the direction.

Anyone who sees the physics of this problem can imagine me hurtling in slow motion through the air. I guarantee, I landed with a splat. Always on my thigh or butt. Always in a puddle. If it were fall or late spring, the puddle may have a thin layer of ice to crash through.  If it were summer, there might be tadpoles to swim away in terror at the incoming asteroid apocalypse that was my ass.  It didn’t matter.  I fell off my horse at the end of every gallop. And I fell into a puddle every time I fell off my horse.

She wouldn’t run off. This wasn’t a bid for freedom. It wasn’t an elaborate horsey plot. It was more along the lines of a running joke.

She would stop just a few steps away from me and turn around, lowering her head. She’d whicker, and one refined ear would flick from straight forward off to one side and then forward again.  I can still feel the mud congealing on my jeans as I sigh and stand up, as I attempt to dust myself off.  I talked to my horse, because in my mind she was standing there laughing at me.  I would tell her that she is a mighty brat, and I’d tighten the girth strap on the saddle.  She would head-butt me and try to scratch the dish-space between her eyes on my shoulder-blade. I’d hoist myself back onto the saddle, and we’d continue our ride.

I never did learn to sit those field-runs on Seriffa.

Now, as then, I continue climbing back up onto the horse.


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