Continued from part 1.
A round pen is basically a corral. You have your vertical fence posts and then the two heights of horizontal boards closing the area in. The horse I was riding was tall so the top board was lower than I was used to and reached only my knee. I am five feet four inches, which is 162.56cm, which is 16hands tall. This horse’s withers were at least two to four inches over my head. Being that high off the ground on an animal can be exhilarating or scary. In this case I just felt on guard. I’d easily been this high up on a horse before, and higher on an elephant ride at a zoo, but this was a whole different story. The nagging feeling was reminding me very distinctly of something my first riding instructor in high school had taught me both to help boost my confidence and as a safety measure: if you do not feel comfortable with a horse on the ground you should not get into the saddle.
Now, I am a fairly competent rider, somewhere between beginner and intermediate which to me means I know basic essential cues and how to make a lesson horse move. While walking the horse around the ring I found he was riding too close to the rail, meaning my stirrup was knocking against the top boards. As per the instructor’s direction, I used the leg cue meant to get him off the rail. Nudging and using a voice command did not work well. I had to prod and kick to get him to budge an inch. This did not happen in a previous lesson. Sometimes he would obey and swerve away, but then he’d be back. Knock, knock, scrape, went the stirrup. Again I prodded him. After a few bouts of this and trying to listen to the instructor at the same time wore on me. Just when the nagging feeling reared up inside me the worst part of that lesson happened.
I understand horses aren’t perfect. The ones available to ride aren’t kept in tip top shape and regularly exercised in the right methods. This horse was so bent on walking close to the rail that the next time my body touched the rail it was my knee and calf sandwiched between the top rail and the saddle.
Red flag number three.
When an equine accident occurs the stable/barn, horse, and owners will not be held responsible by law, most especially after you sign the wavier required before participating in equine activities on a property or horse that you do not own.
Three should have been it. I should have stopped the horse right there. If he didn’t stop, I should have executed an emergency dismount and then left the ring. I’ve gone over the scenario dozens of times in my head, all of which end with tossing the words “This lesson is over,” over my shoulder while I left. I don’t believe that it would have been arrogant. When you look out for your best interests it doesn’t necessarily mean you are a selfish git, it also means you are capable of being assertive when looking out for those you care about. That you can and, more importantly, will speak out and step in when you see cause for worry. Everything in me screamed that this was wrong, wrong, wrong. The one most prominent lesson I got from this session was that I had to start trusting my gut feelings again.
I’ve had bad lessons before. I’ve come off the horse feeling upset, disgruntled, unhappy with my progress. I’ve had a horse turn too fast the wrong way and tumbled off. I’ve tried to get a filly to back up when standing in front of it and the filly, refusing, reared up right in front of me. I’ve been nipped, shoved, stepped on, swatted, and once my mount even ran away with me at a gallop, half jumping over a ditch before I’d had a single lesson. I’ve never had a lesson like this.
If you are willing to exempt the the organization, owners, and instructor from responsibility to the injury of your person then you should by all means be insistent (and demanding if necessary) on the safety of your own person. If you are injured they aren’t the ones who will pay your hospital bills or sit by your bed and nurse you back to health. If you are blessed with great friends and family they will be there to support you, but for a large part of your recovery from a minor to major equine accident you will be the one who has to build back your confidence and coach yourself out of it. Most of all, you have to believe in yourself. You can do it.
There are tons of “should of” and “could of” options but what matters most is: What do you want to do, and do you feel safe with the risk involved? Keep in mind that there are times when I wholly support taking chances and standing back from a situation and trusting someone to handle it or themselves. Sometimes they turn out fantastically wrong and sometimes you survive. As you go you’ll see the more you trust your instincts (your gut feeling) the stronger it becomes. Remember, however, that there are also times when you just have to put your foot down, say, “Oh hell no” and walk away.
That’s it for this two part series, guys and gals! So, what do you think? What are your thoughts? Have you ever been through a situation like this? Leave a comment bellow and tell me about it! It doesn’t necessarily have to be involved with horses.
The next Kaleidoscope series story is coming out this week and will be free for a limited amount of time! I will be announcing it again across my accounts Thursday, March 21.
Until then, happy trails!