I Don't Bounce Like I Used To

I fell off Coach.

It was in the 30's F when we got out to the stable. For some reason Coach had not been turned out at all that morning in spite of 2 days inside because of the cold rain. When Debbie brought him to the wash stall he was pissed off, he was more reactive to his grooming and he kept on putting one or the other cross ties in his mouth. His whole attitude was one of “I want to go out with my buddies and run”.

When we got out to the ring there were a few horses grazing in the “yard” surrounding the riding ring and going back to the barn. Coach saw them and sort of went “why can't I be turned out?” He behaved the first part of the ride though he was grinding my Mullen mouth rainbow titanium coated snaffle between his teeth pretty constantly on loose reins and often on contact. He usually does not grind this particular bit. I was pretty much on contact most of the ride, “giving and taking” with the reins when his attention drifted out to the horses right outside the ring. This was nothing new, every single ride on him there have been horses grazing in the “yard,” but usually I can keep his attention after a minute or so.

Then a light rain started, and my well-soaped saddle became slippery where it got wet. The horses in the yard started moving around the outside of the ring and Coach got antsier. A strong gust of a cold, North wind came and all the horses outside the ring, in the yard and in the pastures, started running around. Coach kept an eye on them, getting hotter by the second, and then Findley, an over 18 hand OTTB, running right at the fence line galloped towards Coach. Coach lost it.

Right at that moment I thought “uh-oh” and a second later BAM I was on the ground right next to the fence. Debbie went to deal with Coach who started galloping up and down the fence so he would not accidentally trample me. I got up on my feet pretty fast because it was obvious that it would be much safer for me if I was upright. Debbie caught Coach, put him on the longe line and sent him around a few minutes, then I asked Debbie to get up on Coach first. She rode him a few more minutes, dismounted, and I got back up on Coach. Debbie was kind, she walked right next to Coach's head for a few minutes and then I got off.

Even though I landed in rather deep sand this fall hurt more than my 20 or so previous falls. When Debbie started talking about me riding Coach a month ago I went ahead and bought the new

Trauma Void EQ3 helmet, and I also bought a safety vest. I had a feeling that in spite of not falling off a horse in the last 35 years that I better be prepared to fall off of Coach. He is a Thoroughbred after all, and they do not operate like normal horses (yes, there are some Tbs that are more “normal”, but riding a TB one must always be prepared.) I have fallen on pasture grass, hard dirt trails, and relatively hard riding rings and when I was younger I just got up, brushed myself off, caught my horse, remounted and went on with my ride. I might have gotten a little sore and bruised, but nothing like this.

My ability to bounce is gone.

I was lucky. I did not hit the fence, neither foot got caught in the stirrup, and I just sort of slipped off when Coach did a little jump and wiggle (he did not do a buck.) I got up on my own, walked off on my own, and I had no problems remounting.

But this fall got me thinking. I have been wanting to jump again for decades. However, back in my youth, I probably would not have fallen as back then I could keep up with a horse's unusual motions much better. Right now I am considering this fall as the Universe warning me that, no matter how hard I've been working on getting stronger, that my body no longer has the quick reactions necessary to do jumping. It would not be fair for the horse and I KNOW that I will inevitably and eventually fall when I jump. I've had two long term goals with my riding, to jump again and to go on riding until the day I die. Right now these desires look to be mutually exclusive so I've decided to go with riding as long as I can get up on a horse. Jumping is fun, but as an elderly person my body is considerably frailer than it was in my youth and my body takes longer to heal from physical trauma.

These rides on Coach also prove to me that I made the right decision for me when I decided to go with Arabs and part-Arabs rather than Thoroughbreds. Even the most difficult Arab I've ridden at Debbie's (her problem child Tercel) never gave me more than I could deal with. Several times at Debbie's the Arab I was riding started to act up, and then when my seat got insecure these horses moderated their movements so I could stay on without much difficulty. A few times the Arabs got to the very edge of my current riding abilities, and they chose to keep me on their backs. It is like the Arabs/part-Arabs CARE about the well-being of the people who treat them well, even those with screws loose in their heads.

Coach did not care at all. Coach is a Thoroughbred, his direct ancestors are centuries further removed from living in their master's tent than any modern Arab. One stable I boarded at years ago had many Thoroughbreds, including in my horse's herd. To these very well treated Thoroughbreds people were something to avoid even if that person raised them from a foal. I was the only person who did not need to take a little feed to catch my horse, but then my horse was half-Arab and he seemed to like me.

And there is another thing. Many decades ago I read in one of Margaret Cabell Self's books in which she said that horses change their personalities in the winter when it gets cold. I did not have that problem with my Arabs, part-Arabs or my Paso Fino mare, but I think that Coach qualifies. His mind felt like one of a different horse from the horse I've been riding these past three and a half months. I am thinking of telling Debbie that maybe I should not ride Coach again until it gets warm again, as the cold really seems to set him off even though I have an exercise sheet over his lovely butt to keep him warmer.

I am still sore from my fall. I did not ride this Friday and I do not think I will be up to riding tomorrow. Hopefully I will be recovered enough to ride on Wednesday for my lesson, on a different horse.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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