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Wednesday, 3 August 2011
They say the first fall is the hardest.
I think they mean for the rider, but let me tell you, it is no picnic for the mother, either!

I have been writing about Rowan's (almost 6) experience learning to ride a horse~ a desire she has held for the better part of her 6 years.  You can find past posts HERE.
About this falling business.
It is much too hard on a mother's nerves/ heart/ soul!

I remember, when inquiring about riding for Rowan, a friend told me that 'they say' you have to fall 30 times to become a true rider. I brushed that off~ that queasy cold lump in my stomach... dismissed.  You see, I fell once. Well, no, I fell quite a few times, but one fall ended my riding when it resulted in spinal fractures (age 16). I have never ridden again, as much as I love horses, because the fear runs deep.  The wariness of putting my life at the mercy of an animal with thoughts and plans of its own (and a tendency to be spooked!) is very strong.  So putting my daughter in that position ~because she has such a deep seated longing to be in it~ has been a test of my will.

And last night she fell.
Well, to be more accurate~ she tipped and clung and flew off.
She lost her reins and her (very tall!) horse spooked and bolted
It was sickening, horrifying, to watch my little girl being tossed about by this giant panicked animal.

I had figured the first fall might be a gradual slide out of the saddle, or over the neck of a horse.
Not this.

When she flew clear and land (thank God!) on her bottom, I was on my way to her and arrived to her terrified screams and desperate grasping for my embrace.
She was conscious, moving and looked unharmed.
My heart started to beat again.

It took every ounce of self control not to wail and cry with her, out of my own fear.
Out of the myriad of other scenarios with different endings my mind was trying to shake off.
To suck it up and reassure her that she was OK and that Phoenix was OK and that 'these things happen'.
But I did it.
I think I turned grey and aged a decade.
But it is true.
Accidents do happen.
And if you want to learn to ride, you must be prepared to fall.
If you want to parent a child into a full and independent life, you must be prepared to see them fall and then help them get up and take the risk all over again.

And darn it, if we didn't sit there in the dust and tears, with pounding hearts, in the shadow of a very chagrined animal and learn another critical life lesson. 
Well, two.
Never drop your reins.
And accidents happen.
But we choose how we respond.
With fear or fortitude.

When I was certain Rowan was all in one piece, I picked her up and took her to Phoenix, she patted him and reassured him. I booked the next lesson with a confidence I didn't feel and we went home.

At home, I carried Rowan to her bed and removed her boots.  This covered the bed in hay and sand and horse scent... about which I complained.  At this, Rowan burst into tears and told me accusingly never to talk badly about her 'cute sweet horses'. And I knew she was going to be OK. A hot bath eased out the aches and a few extra cuddles soothed the fears.

Today she shared her adventure with a number of horse people. Every one congratulated her on getting over her first fall, told her about their own, and reminded her that you have to fall 25/ 30/ 50 times to become a rider... while she doesn't like the idea of 50 falls, she does plan to ride agin and she did realize that falling is a very normal part of riding.

And so did her mother. ♥♥


Jessy said...

That's what terrifies me. My oldest (now 4 1/2) has wanted to ride (very badly at that) since she was about 2 when my mother-in-law put her on one of their horses without asking us. Let's just say that hasn't happened since, though she was allowed a pony ride at the local fair last year.
My husband and I agreed that at the age of 5, she could start to ride. Now the part we're not fully agreeing on is if she can ride his parents' horses. I say they have to be horses that are ridden often, and I say she has to have a helmet. He says my in-law's horses are fine, even though they are very seldom ridden, and she'd be fine without the helmet. Not going to happen. (Especially since the one time we have been able to ride the horses in the 6 years we've been together, he was thrown.)
I had her birthday goodies planned out, but I'm thinking more and more that a trip to a tack shop is in order... And maybe even talking to somebody out near his parents that has a horse that is ridden all the time.

Unknown said...

It is tough, for sure!
honestly, I would push for a qualified trainer with horses intended and used regularly with small kids/ new riders. And around here, if it moves, it requires a helmet (and our coach's insurance does, too!).
Having had too many falls from our own home horses, I knew that the only way Ro would ride would be with a pro. This horse is a lamb and has never ever done this~ it was pure accident, unavoidable and no one's fault, but the risk is still there.
On the other hand, putting our kids in the car every day is WAY WAY riskier (if we go by the numbers and chances of harm)...!
With in laws having horses it is going to be a tough one for sure!! Good luck (it is magic to see them riding and loving it!!)

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