I asked a more experienced rider yesterday about falling. She’d seen me do it the other night and asked about my level of soreness (not much, as it turns out! Just my left hand and left tricep. I was expecting much worse). When I mentioned how I wanted to talk to people who fall professionally (martial arts practitioners, OK Go On Treadmills, gymnasts, trapeze artists), she said that the best way not to fall off was to stay on.
“Ah,” I said. I believe my enthusiasm about studying falling was seen as a side issue to the matter at hand.
Yesterday I held Gabby while she was shod. I was so glad to be at the barn, I’d missed her so much, and it was so wonderful to stand around with the horse, the farrier, and his assistant and listen to them talk about horse hooves. Really. It was wonderful. Honest and I kid not! There’s nothing like standing in the barn with your horse while the craftsman goes to work.
And the farrier was so kind and so nice and so gruff. “Anything you need, you call. If you call and I’m not there but it’s an emergency, leave a message and let me know it’s an emergency. Call any time. I mean it.”
I felt surge of undue enthusiasm and wanted to throw my arms about his neck and clap him on the back and call him a splendid, splendid fellow — but I’m not sure we’ve read all of the same books and this series of gestures might have been misunderstood.
I got some advise on how to hold Gabby’s back feet when I’m picking them out. The demonstration provided by the farrier was much appreciated. I need to put her foot high up on my thigh and hold it in place. That should give me some leverage, angle, support, etc. because I often feel like I”m holding up her big butt.
It was also splendid to watch another horse get its hooves polished. I had no idea that some horses have pretty white hooves like a pair of white patent leather shoes.
Gabby was hot shod, so the red-hot shoe was applied before the final fitting to her clipped and rasped foot. The smell was not quite as bad as the smell of burning hair or feathers but in the same family, for sure. The smoke rolled off of Gabby’s hooves and she curled back both of her lips as did the other horses.
I swept up a little afterwords. I wanted to stay and help because that’s pretty much all I want to do these days; stay and help at the barn. But I had to get home.
So does anyone out there have any hints or tips about how to fall? How do you train your arms to stay close to your body instead of trying to brace with them? Is it a Martial Arts thing? A Yoga thing? I’ve thought about trying to fall (when no one is around, of course) from different heights (short heights – Webster’s Unabridged, the bottom rung of a step ladder, a piece of firewood) onto different surfaces to try and figure out the best way to do it. Would it be wise to simply fall down from a standing position with arms crossed? How about tucking and rolling? Is learning to tuck the chin good or bad? Or neither? And there’s always the example of poor Mr. Reeve and how do we explain that to our loved ones?
Now I am a real horsewoman because I have fallen off THREE times. The first time was in 1971 when I was 11, the second was in 2005 when I was 45, and the third was this week at age 46.
According to barn custom, I owe to the barn in general, so I hope to get out there tomorrow and/or Sunday with cookies.
We had an evening lesson and Gabby spooked at Bob-Bob, the cat who is missing most of his tail and most of one ear. Bob-Bob was doing his panther imitation (he’s really, really good at it, by the way) by sitting on fense posts and runing back and forth in the arena. It finally got to be too much for Gabby who spooked. Naturally. A 10 pound black cat could, technically, eat you.
So one minute I was riding, the next moment I was flailing and knew I couldn’t stay on, and the moment after that I tried to break my fall with my left arm and my chin and the moment after that I was yelling “I”m alive! I’m alive!” And I was, otherwise I wouldn’t be here rattling on about it.
I stood up too fast for safety’s sake (one needs to remain prone to ensure that one has not broken anything or is in peril of being paralyzed) but nothing bad happened. Gabby was standing there, looking at me. Leah had the post-fall talk with me, I got back on, and Gabby tried to hide by shoving her big horse head under Leah’s arm. She was a little jittery but we did some more trotting. Not much. Mostly I wanted to walk and since we were both walking on eggs, she started to canter at some point which I Did Not Want but settled down. Obviously, she wasn’t punished, yelled at, or anything else negative. She saw a predator. what could she do?
My Gabby. My big girl. My three-buckets-of-water-a-day-girl. My big, lovely, big horse whom I almost cannot believe is mine to care for, mine to keep healthy, mine to learn about, mine to know. My horse. I have a horse.
Filed under Gabby, Ownership
Today my plan was to go out to the barn and lead Gabby around like a big old dog but once I got there I found an excuse not to do so. Gabby was out in the pasture with two other horses. The pasture is accessed through the outdoor sand arena which also had some horses in it. Fetching her would have required me to navigate her through a gate which means keeping the pastured horses in the pasture and the arena horses in the arena and I just didn’t want to do it. So instead I just watched Gabby and how she interacted with the two other blanketed horses sharing space with her. But she looked up when I called her name, and that was satisfying.
Gabby and one of the other mares were not being very nice to a third mare. It reminded me of mean Fifth Grade Girls, a pair of whom have decided to alienate the third. I know; this is the very worst kind of anthropomorphism but I can’t help it! Horses bring out that kind of thing in humans. We treat them like mirrors: We look at them and see ourselves reflected back far too often for their welfare. So the third mare trotted up to me but Gabby drove her off. Then Gabby and her pal wandered around the pasture togeother, which was very interesting. They were clearly moving together in tandem, but not getting too close. When Gabby turned around to nose about for more hay, the other mare turned around also. Then the two of them came up to the water trough and gently touched noses for what was probably 10 seconds. It was very sweet until Gabby pinned her ears back and chased her friend off. When this happened, I was startled and reacted by doing my little-jump-hop-startle move which neither horse seemed to notice.
Before I left, I put some treats in Gabby’s feedbucket so that they’d be there when she went back inside. I’m hoping she’ll associate the treats with me and it was as close as I could come to leaving her a note: “Goodby for now. Have a nice evening. See you tomorrow.”
Today was too cold to ride. Leah called me — but my cell phone didn’t take the call and I got her message 3 hours later so I was at the barn anyway.
Leah suggested that we go to the inside ring and just kind of fool around together and for a few minutes I thought I might indeed do that but then thought better of it and instead sat down on a hale bale with a book and a rapidly cooling mug of tea and a spare cat and just looked at Gabby. I called her name once or twice and rubbed her on her muzzle, then watched her outside as she ran around a bit with another mare. They approached each other nose to nose, then were head to head as if they would both groom each other along the neck. After that, they trotted back and forth and Gabby made some kicking motions at the other mare that were received with indifference, from what I could tell. A few more trots back and forth across the sand arena produced more of the same. I called her name once or twice and she looked at me. That was nice! And then it got too cold and I left, off to Christmas shop.
Perhaps sitting on a hay bale and looking up at her was not the best thng to do — she looked even more enourmous from that vantage point then when I lead her by her halter. I watched the groom who took her outside. He puts on her halter and leads her out, no nonsence, one-two, one-two, and it’s up to her to watch her big head which clonks up agains the lower rafters. She didn’t even spook when she clonked her head, just kept on going.
My startle reflex has provide countless minutes of amusement to the kind of mean people in this world who suck. Folks who don’t suck get the idea after they see me jump out of my skin after they addressed me when I was engrossed in something and then make it a point to give me a heads-up by coughing, shuffling, whistling, etc. I appreciate such consideration because being jumpy isn’t exactly a virtue. It’s more on the Big Old Nerd end of the scale.
It’s finally kicked in that I’m going to have to lose the startle reflex when working with Gabby. No, nothing bad has happened bu I see how my nervousness over her nervousness feeds back into her nervousness which (ta da!) makes me . . . nervous!
What helped the most was spending some time with another student when we were both grazing our horses after a lesson. Her horse Dusty started at something. I was grazing Sadie and Sadie started also. It was a noise of some kind or another; car door slamming, motor starting, whatever. What really impressed me is that while both horses flinched, my co-student did not. Not a bit. We were having a discussion about confidence and ability and she displayed both right there in front of me.
Putting that lesson together with what I’ve read, experienced, and heard, I am now concentrating on Not Acting Startled. It’s not easy, especially when you’ve been acting like that for a long time. As a Professional told me the other day, it’s an opportunity to retrain myself physiologically.