First Fall – Where It All Began

I can still picture the inaugural day. I was standing there on the dusty trail, brushing off my pant legs as I turned to face the bay horse that was coolly staring back at me, his head hanging low and licking his lips. I let out a sigh as I climbed back into the saddle to resume what was a pleasurable lost-in-thought childhood ride. That was until the horse galloped off causing me to lose my balance and plummet to the ground.

I was a skinny 7-year-old tomboy with a bowl cut of sun-bleached hair, bangs hanging over my brown eyes, and freckled nose. My favorite attire was an iron-on, horse-printed t-shirt, grungy bell-bottom Levi’s, and Jodhpur boots. Yes, I was a child of the Seventies. I lived for the weekend escaping Suburbia for the sights and sounds and smells and all the sensations the country and horses had to offer. So it didn’t phase me when the fall had me landing right in a pile of manure, the evidence pressed to my clothes and tangled in my hair. My mother surely noticed. She bellowed out a sidesplitting laugh when she saw me reappear at the barn on old Sham. After catching her breath, I hear her say, “What happened?” My face in a scuff, holding back the tears, I muster out a, “Nothing.” I was too ashamed to admit I had fallen off. As if the muck-stained clothes and the liability release form my mother signed didn’t clearly say I took a spill.

For most serious riders, it is inevitable – falling off of the horse. Sparing major injury, I rode on with nothing more than a few shaken nerves. Easy to do when you’re a fearless and resilient child.  As years went on, I became a better rider, learned to hold on a little tighter. As an adult, I would learn there are experiences and lessons reflecting in the eyes of equine waiting to be discovered. And, I’m not talking about just “getting back on the horse.”

Pictured: 1978 – riding Sham in Poolesville, Maryland when I first started taking horseback riding lessons. Notice no helmets. Life was simpler then.

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