BY VYLA CARTER
I have fallen off my horse a lot. More times than I can count on all my fingers, including the swollen pointer finger I just sprained from falling off. And more times than not, I find myself falling off at shows — especially in the last year.
Falling off at competitions is the absolute worst, even if you land on your feet. You are surrounded by other equestrians, some at your level and maybe even some top level riders. In the seconds it takes you to fly off your horse there is a collective gasp, followed by silence from the crowd. The seconds that follow are even worse! Your horse is likely taking a joyride around the ring as you try to get yourself out of the dirt in as little time as possible so your parents don’t worry. The EMT comes over to make sure you are ok, you shake your head yes trying to hold back the tears. And then there’s the walk of shame out out the ring, covered in dirt and shaken up.
Most times, we are lucky. We fall off and all we have to show for it is a bruise or two and a couple days of being sore. For those times, I’ve learned it’s important to shake it off, wipe the dirt off and and get back on. Don’t be too upset – we’ve all been there. As hard as it may be, having a positive attitude after your fall can help the healing process… maybe even your ego.
At this point, I consider myself a professional “faller offer”, and offer my tips on how to keep smiling after you hit the dirt:
Remember it happens to us all!
Mclain Ward, Beezie Madden, top equitation riders and the person who always wins: They have all fallen off. It is simply part of the sport. You can’t consider yourself a real rider until you have had your fair share of time spent in the dirt.
Learn to laugh at it.
Laugh at your mistakes. It’s better than sulking over something you can’t fix. The countless times I have fallen off I watch the video and see where I went wrong, then I watch it again and find a little joy in it. I can’t help but laugh re-watching my horse jump over the next jump by himself and take a joyride around the ring as I sit in the dirt. I also share it with my friends, even the non-equestrian ones can find something to laugh at. All you have to do is learn to laugh at yourself.
“You lost trying to win.”
The famous words of my trainer after telling me she is proud of my round even though I fell off. In the jumper ring sometimes you can go a little too fast in the jump off or make a turn that is a hair too tight trying to win. But going all out for the win also comes with its risks. After taking the time to learn from your mistake that resulted in the fall, focus on the positives of your round. There is always something that is good even if the end result is failure.
You’ve actually been given the opportunity to ride and show. Be happy about that!
Yeah, falling off at a horse show can suck, but at least you are there. You are given the opportunity to ride and be showing and be surrounded by the equestrian community. Falling off at the barn is ok too, you are still surrounded by horses and in your happy place.
During this winter when I was falling off a lot it was hard not to be disappointed. I was traveling to the Winter Equestrian Festival almost every other weekend, a trip that included two planes and an Uber ride just to get there. Sometimes I felt I traveled all that way only to fall off. As disappointing as it was I had to remember where I was. I was in Florida, surrounded by horses, getting to watch top riders and given the opportunity to ride at one of the top shows in the country. That made me smile.
Falling of is and always will be part of the sport. We don’t want it to happen but sometimes there is no stopping an unplanned dismount. Next time you fall off or have a disappointing round just remember why you started this sport in the first place.