Friday, October 7, 2011

No, You Don’t Have to Get Back On

Everyone knows that saying about getting right back on a horse after you fall off. No matter what! Well, I really take issue with this philosophy.  It depends. Instructors who enforce this rule without thinking through the situation are not being responsible. Sure, it can be a wise move for a kid who isn’t hurt and needs a confidence boost right away, provided that the horse is quiet and not the cause of the fall. But, I’ve seen injured people allow themselves to be persuaded and get back on, unaware that they need medical attention. Myself included: In college, I got back on a horse before I knew I was suffering from a concussion. I do not remember riding for nearly 15 minutes before a smart observer took me to the hospital. To this day, I still don’t remember being at the hospital for hours.

When you are more--shall I say, mature--falling really does hurt. No longer do you “bounce” like kids seem to; you are much more likely to land on the ground with a resounding thud. As a kid, I had my share of landing on jumps, through them, over them horseless, a very scenic route around the sides—all unscathed. As an adult, a fall results in a painful consequence such as an x-ray or multiple visits to my favorite massage therapist (who also rides—that kinda helps with the embarrassment factor).

Fortunately, I have a wonderful trainer who has helped me overcome some real confidence-shaking moments. After one fall that landed me outside of the arena, I waited about a month for the bruising and pain to subside before I felt I could go back to the barn. When I did, she said that if all I wanted to do was sit on the horse in the ring, not even walk, and call that a victory, that was good enough for her. 

So I recommend that is what you do. Find a friend or trainer or instructor who knows when going slow is what you need or will help you find non-scary ways to get your confidence going in the right direction again. Don’t force yourself or ignore the sirens in your head—those sirens are nature’s way of reminding you that you are no longer that infallible teenager. 

This is Belle, a large Pony of the Americas. I don't ride her very often (I feel way too big for her!), but nothing beats a quiet hack on a schoolmaster to boost your confidence after a fall. Ponies like Belle are worth their weight in gold.
I know a lot of women who have returned to riding having once performed amazing and fearless feats of horsemanship in their youth. But something about getting older makes us not want to take the risk anymore. I know I could handle a nervous horse, but some days I don’t always want to. And, maybe because we are a bit older, we find our most satisfying moments while riding are a bit different than when we were young. It’s not about jumping a certain height or riding the newest horse in the barn. It’s something more meaningful—maybe a quiet walk around the field or how your horse drops his head and closes his eyes when you rub behind his ears.


  1. The best piece of advice you can give to anybody and everybody. Good for you ! from Mary Dixon

  2. Nice post. You're so right. When I was younger, falling was pretty much not a big deal. Now, even though I am only in my 20's, it's a lot more painful! Besides the painful bruising, back aches, etc, it creates this fear in you. Getting right back on the horse may not be the best option. When a person is ready, they will get back on. No need to rush it. You certainly do not want a fearful rider.

  3. Great post. I've just started riding again after a significant break, and this was one of the first things that went through my head. I know I'm no longer made of rubber, and I no longer have the desire to take unnecessary risks. I have other obligations now that require me to be in good health, so an injury would derail the whole system.

  4. Every now and then I pull out an old photo of me jumping my pony bareback over a 3 foot fence. It's nice to be reminded I actually did that, a long time ago. I'm a little more cautious now, but having that memory is a real boost when I decide not to canter down a trail, but stick to a nice safe trot instead.

  5. its not always shud get you can avoid some burishing if you are riding a horse(be a man).....i always get back and get a mental satisfaction that yes i m fyn and can ride back again....and suddunly bringing body a rest gives more pain....
    thats my view ))))))