When you fall off your horse, your trainer will always tell you to get right back on and do it again. George Morris has said you either go to the hospital or you get back on your horse. I think there is incredible value in getting back on after a fall, for many reasons. Sometimes, you are physically not able to get back on your horse, but that doesn’t mean you back off or stop showing up. You can always get back on, just in a different sense.
Earlier this fall, I broke my back and had to sit out for about two and a half months. Instead of sitting at home and crying about not being able to ride or compete, I still showed up to the barn everyday. My trainer rode my horse, Sparrow, every day until I could come back and I was there watching for at least all of the jumping rides and many of the flat rides.
During the time I had off, I watched more lessons than I imagined both where I board and at other farms. I took the opportunity I had to attend shows as emotional support despite not being able to be of much help. I expanded my photography skills by following people at an event all day and being my trainer’s right hand girl — giving advice, making sure people got where they needed to go on time, checked to make sure numbers weren’t on upside down.
I also got to audit a William Fox-Pitt clinic that my trainer rode in and tagged along to multiple lessons she had with Phillip Dutton. In addition to being out and about at the farm, I did a lot of reading and research to keep my brain sharp. During the time I was out, I also began my own business. My intention was to keep myself busy with smaller tasks and start saving up to help my horse winter in Florida. Thankfully, my back healed and I was able to work enough to get both me and my horse to Florida.
We have now been in Florida since the start of January and the both of us have been working incredibly hard. In addition to being a regular working student, I have been continuing my business and working at other farms.
In the past week or so, I have noticed more pain creeping into my back in my daily chores. And in the past few days, I received word that I am supposed to stop working and riding and put my back brace on again.
Getting this news meant I had to withdraw from my first Novice run with my horse at Rocking Horse 2. This was an incredibly hard choice for me to have to make and I have certainly been devastated, shedding a lot of tears. It would have been very easy for me to pack up my stuff and sit in my camper until I was allowed to ride again — so easy, in fact, that that’s almost what I did.
Instead, I chose to figuratively get back on the horse and I offered my services as a volunteer at the event. I spent one day as a dressage ring steward and am now spending the day as a cross country judge for Preliminary and Training.
I am pretty genuinely worried that I have officially pushed myself too far and that I may not be able to come back from this injury, but until I know that for sure, I will still be making the choice to better myself everyday. I may not be able to lift water buckets or tack up a horse, but I can still make phone calls and send emails. I can still read books and type things into the Google search bar. I can still be searching for advice, owners and sponsors, barns, trainers, clinics and planning my rehab.
So when I say get back on your horse, it doesn’t always have to mean physically — sometimes that just isn’t plausible. The mental aspect of this sport is just as demanding, if not more, than the physical.
Read a book, volunteer at a show, or make a phone call. It all adds up, keep yourself prepared.