07 July 2018

After the fall

Well, it had to happen, eventually.

I've been riding Raven for several years. Bareback, usually.

I'm not quite sure what set off the normally unflappable Raven, but today, he shied (napped?) and I came off.

He'd been unusually fresh this afternoon. I think it's because Anakin, one of the mares in the barn, may have been in heat.  She stuck her head over the wall into the arena to say hello to Handsome Raven.

Raven is a gelding, of course, but being one merely means he is unable to actually mate with a mare. (and I knew a gelding who could almost achieve intromission. He pestered the hell out of his female donkey pasture mate when she was in heat.)

A gelding still knows he's a male and what male horses do. They're not misogynists. They can still chat up the ladies (when the lady allows him to.).  

Anakin finally left the side of the arena, where she'd been hanging out in her paddock, and it took more than a few minutes for me to bring Raven's mind back to what we were doing...riding.

I don't know what caused it. I apparently didn't have his full attention, because he suddenly leaped forward and I fell over his right shoulder. It happened like that.



You know the 'things they tell you to do' in a fall, of course. It's usually advice to someone in a saddle. I'm betting had I been in a saddle I would never have fallen off. But Raven is slick as a seal this time of year and I was in jeans and bareback.

So much of the advice was useless to me, talk about slipping your foot out of the stirrup, throwing the reins away, etc.   You're told to curl up into a ball. "Tuck and roll", they say, don't stick out your arms or hands to break your fall, etc.

And it's all bullshit. I mean, it is very relevant and very good advice but a fall takes a split second. One moment you're on his back, and the next moment you're on yours.

 I remember the very first time I fell off a horse. I was going over a very small jump. My school horse, a big rangy Appaloosa named "Sarge", went left and I went right. I remember thinking how odd the world suddenly looked, and then bam, I'm on my back with no wind in my lungs. 

I seriously doubt that anyone can plan on what to do when you're about to hit the ground. Our minds just don't work that fast. Gravity, we know now, works at the speed of light. Our minds don't work that fast. Even our nerves don't. Your mind is still trying to understand that you are about to fall. It can't process that fast and I'm absolutely sure that a yellow sticky note doesn't pop up into your mind saying " You're about to fall so do 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 in that order....."

Let's not forget that, unlike cats, we can't turn our bodies in midair. Wellllll, perhaps if one has trained as an acrobat, but, ordinarily, we don't have the leverage to conform our bodies into the desired shape whilst flying through the air.
Not relevant to today's fall, but the torques that a stirrup holding your foot is going to cause some hard to overcome elements to a 'successful' fall. 


Not for me the slip the feet out, throw away the reins, tuck and roll.  Not having all that extra stuff to do while in the middle of coming off was of no advantage. Nope, my mind had no idea my body was in the air.

What 'they' also don't take into account is that gravity is unrelenting. It works every time.

But I can say that I did have an advantage. Well, two.
The first was that I was wearing my helmet. In fact, that was the first thought I had when I realized that I had fallen. I am so glad I was wearing my helmet. This despite the fact that I didn't hit my head.
The second thought, then, was...I don't think anything is broken.  The third thought was, wow. I tucked up, without thinking, because I had landed on my left shoulder and hip, my head up and off the ground.

How I did that...well, it's funny how muscle memory...and training...stays in one's brain despite many years of non-use.

When I was in 7th grade (which means I was, um..........12? 13?) I took a class in Judo.
My sensei (teacher) was the  schools  girls gym teacher  who was  probably one of the first women in the US to hold a black belt in karate.
For a week, the first thing we learned was...how to fall. I learned to tuck and roll! I learned to stop a roll with an out flung arm, but learning how to fall was undoubtedly the best thing I've ever learned in my physical life.
She also taught us self defense measures, which, at the time, wasn't considered very lady like, but she was pragmatic. She knew girls were the preferred prey for rapists.

 This, too, came into play once in my life when I was attacked by a guy, who came at me in a fury, fully intending to knock me down and try to kill me. I kicked him in the nuts. Oh, man, that was the most satisfying kick I've ever experienced. He went down like he'd been shot and I got away, unharmed.

I don't remember purposefully filing 'how to fall' in to my brain, but I didn't have to. My reptilian brain...that hunk of brain matter at the back of your head, had filed all that muscle data into long term storage labeled 'Use in Emergency".

It worked. Again.

I lay there for a moment, thinking how grateful I was for wearing my helmet, and then saw Raven standing next to me. He was calm, head down, reins on the ground before his hooves. Good boy. 

After a few moments, I took stock of me. Nothing seemed to be broken. I got up, took the reins and thought, okay, get back on. I'm no longer the type to be afraid of riding after a fall, but...it's good to do so anyway. So I got back on and rode a few circuits in the arena, just to set things right in BOTH our minds, then called it a day.

Raven was a bit embarrassed, I think. I didn't tarry too long after our ride. I unbridled  him and put on his halter, walked him out to his paddock and let him go with my customary gift of a some carrots.
Usually, when I've done that, he either heads right out to the middle of his paddock, or he gets a drink from his trough.
But this time? As I shut the gate and was about to put up the hot wire, he came up to me and put his handsome head over the gate. It was obvious he had something to say.

Sorry.

I patted him. "It's okay. I'll be fine."

Well, as fine as a 64 year old woman who's just fallen off a horse can be and still be in one piece. My neck hurts. My shoulders hurt. My hip hurts.

I was grateful, too, that I wasn't alone at the barn. Our stable girl was cleaning stalls and two other horsemen were there, but no one saw me fall.
How many times have you gone to ride without another soul around? We treasure those moments, when you have the arena to yourself, when you don't have to deal with other humans, but sometimes...sometimes you WANT someone around, in case you really get hurt and need help.

The moment I got home, I took a hot shower, slathered on the Ben-Gay liniment, and took some aspirin. My husband came in just then and asked me the usual, "How was your ride?" and I said "Bad".

"BAD?" in exclamation point eyebrows and verbal  all caps.

"Yeah, I fell off."

"You okay?

"Yeah, but I'll be sore for a few days."

And I will be.

Will I ride tomorrow?

I should. But I'll let my body call THAT shot.


  

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