In 1977 or so, I was injured by my first horse, Duff.
I was on a trail ride…my first…on him. He was wearing a brand new western saddle. I was riding with two girls, also on horseback, one named Irene.
Duff had very few redeeming characteristics. I’d bought him because he was convenient, not because he was suitable for a green rider like me. He was barn sour to the utmost. He was lazy. Oh my gosh, was he lazy, and he disliked having to do anything other be fed and let out for the day.
So we are about two miles from the barn when Duff finds the ideal place to get rid of me. We were on a rather steep trail that dropped off precipitously. Duff knew exactly what to do. He got his forelegs down below his bottom line, dropped his head…and BUCKED. Off I went, onto rock, I believe, and he changed from a knot head slowpoke into a horse that would have given Secretariat a run for his money. I remember seeing his shoes glittering in the sunshine over my head, as he spun and jumped over me to run back home.
In the meantime, I was doing everything I could to find out what happened to all the air in my lungs.
When I was finally able to breathe, I was able to sit up. My companions had dismounted to see if I was alright.
I was most definitely not. While nothing was broken, my back was sprained. Sad to say, at the age of 22 at the most, I heard a doctor tell me when you eff up your back, it’s for life. He was right. My back has always been an issue since then. Oh, god, did it hurt, and I walked two miles back in agony.
Irene stayed back with me, trying to get me to get up behind her on her horse. I tried, but it hurt much too badly. The other girl went back to try to catch Duff, to no avail.
Duff raced back home to the barn. As I trudged, every step painful, all I could think was: he has a brand new saddle on his back and if he’s hit by a car (most deservedly) I will be liable.
When I got back to the barn, I found that someone had untacked Duff, put up my saddle, and put him in his stall. That’s where I found him, eating his horrible head off. If I’d had a gun, I would have shot him right then and there. Instead, I got a ride to the emergency room. I spent the next month in bandages and ace wraps. Duff was a horribly spoiled horse, and I sold him a few months after that.
I DID get back on his back, but never again with the same unearned confidence.
Fast forward to today. I’m older, and wiser. I’ve got a lot more miles under my rider’s belt than I had then.
Patti and I went trail riding today in the forest. It was nice. Penny was unaccustomed to it, but Trooper is one, an old hand at trail riding, and two, a trusty mount. I swear he would make a superior endurance horse, were I so inclined to work him hard enough to be able to compete. He just has that let’s go attitude, that ‘what’s around the next bend, let’s go see!” outlook.
In fact, I had to keep him tight on the rein, for he wanted to trot. Uphill, downhill, it made no difference, let’s GO.
And I’ve been trail riding before, on Jordan, and on stable horses. The former I could trust implicitly, and the latter are solely interested in making this round and then loafing on the picket line until the next greenhorn turns up. Stable horses have one fault…wanting to run their noses in the butts of the horse ahead of them. They are too smart to do the bucking thing. That takes energy and they’ve learned they’re not going anywhere but back in line.
Trooper and I know each other well enough, now, I think, that he knows I won’t be buffaloed, and that I am kind and a decent rider.
But still. I was afraid. That fear will probably never leave me. I will never be comfortable riding through the woods, far from the barn and such. I will never be able to fully trust my horse…or myself.
It wasn’t full blown fear, just a nagging worry that Something Might Go Wrong. Will I ever be able to trust Trooper? He wears easy boots on the forefeet, and those things aren’t known for their gripping ability on steep slopes. Although I must admit they have an aggressive tread. Only once did Trooper want to stop, while pointed downhill, and with Penny right on his tail. He even tried to back up. Patti told me to sit back and weight my heels…I was riding in a western saddle. And I convinced him to carry on.
And that was when the fear rose up in my throat, and while I didn’t have flashbacks (it’s been an awfully long time and many horses later) I still was afraid.
I don’t know if Trooper felt it or not. Probably. He’s pretty sensitive. But I was.
However, he went forward with some urging and I had no such problems afterwards.
He is a kind and nice horse. I don’t love him nor trust him as I did Jordan, but…Jordanwas a once in a lifetime horse. When I fell off of him, he merely looked at me with a curious, what are you doing down there? He didn’t run away from me. Perhaps it was because we were with each other. He’d bonded to me. I don’t know if Trooper will bond or not. Probably not. I will always be chicken hearted when it comes to such obstacles.
Ah, well. Maybe such a small fear isn’t a bad thing.