‘Fallen Rider’ Musings

One of us completed 13 fences on course . . . and one of us cleared the 14th, too!
Photo by Xpress Foto One of us completed 13 fences on course . . . and one of us cleared the 14th, too! Photo by Xpress Foto

I want to preface this blog post by saying that this is all very tongue-in-cheek — I have absolutely no problem with USEA wanting to gather information about rider falls in order to make our sport better, safer, and enjoyable and available to us all.

That said …

I live in Wisconsin. Yesterday, the polar vortex that we all remember so vividly from last year (cue horror film music and shaky camera work) came BACK. With a vengeance. I woke up to -20º and a horse that had decided to use his front legs to pull down a fence line. *facepalm* My fingers truly appreciated stretching, squeezing, pounding, hammering and swearing all those little plastic insulators back into place. I can almost feel my fingertips again …

Today was no better — it’s been 48 hours without a single degree above zero at our farm. I must say, the ponies are doing wonderfully — eating my entire savings account, toasting in their spendy, trendy blankies, drinking from clean, clear, heated water tanks that are sucking my electric bill down a black hole. And asking for treats, as always.

It’s not really too bad in my insulated coveralls and enormous chopper mittens, either, if I’m being truthful. But we LOOOOVE to complain about the cold up here, and it HAS been a while since we’ve gotten to see a nice green field for galloping on.

Sparkly and cold!

Sparkly and cold!

So, you can imagine how wonderful it felt, on the first Monday back to work after the holidays, at the beginning of January, in the freezing-donkey cold, to find this in my inbox:

“Dear Eventing Competitor,

Our records indicate that someone at this email address had a rider/horse fall on cross-country at a USEA recognized event in 2014.”

Ouch. Thanks for the reminder! Just when winter had been here long enough that I convinced myself our season was flawless, had mentally revised all my dressage scores to something in the 20s, and erased all the rails that came clattering down behind us.

Is she also thinking about dressage . . . ?

Is she also thinking about dressage . . . ?

I get it — USEA wants to know more about what kinds of falls we’re having out here, what might be causing them, if there’s anything to be done to make our sport safer. I applaud it! But here’s what I really think:

What might have caused this fall? Well, let’s face it, I definitely can’t ride like the Fox. Either one of them. Heck, I can’t even ride as well as most of the young riders out there! Also, I seem to be lacking the superglue factor that keeps the greats like Boyd and P. Dutty hanging on by a toenail while they use their superhero strength to hoist themselves back in the tack. (Sidenote: Are they human?!?). Perhaps more time without stirrups will help … and a little duct tape?

At what type of fence did the fall occur? At a corner, henceforth known as the “horse-eating-corner-of-death-in-the-scary-Blair-Witch-woods.” I had no idea my adorable mare had a problem with corners. It’s pretty clear from the picture, though, that I still remembered how to jump it, even if she was a conscientious objector.

One of us completed 13 fences on course . . . and one of us cleared the 14th, too! Photo by Xpress Foto

One of us completed 13 fences on course . . . and one of us cleared the 14th, too!
Photo courtesy of Xpress Foto.

Did my horse have sufficient impulsion and balance prior to the fence? Ummmm … if you ask my trainer, he seems to always say we need more of both. Clearly, I thought things might have been going okay, until it was obvious that they weren’t. Although it appears she was sufficiently balanced enough to pirouette right away from that danged scary corner.

But the best question of all asks if I would stay at the level or drop back … and I am VERY proud to say that my little mare and I not only stayed at the level, but conquered it the following weekend with a solid XC ride and a respectable number to begin our journey at Training Level. USEA is doing their part to make our sport safer, but I definitely felt accomplished to have put on my big-girl pants and tried again. The success was so much sweeter.

So I think I’ll sit here in my warm house, after tucking all the critters in for the night, and remember not only the unfortunate fall, but all of the superstar moments before and after. And feel that Lili and I are a better team because of it.

Go winter. Go courage. Go eventing!