Many riders view falling off as failure. While it may be painful and embarrassing, it is a vital part of growing.
Just like leaves fall, so will you.
Failure is not the absence of success, nor is it the opposite of success, but rather a part of it. If you are constantly searching for perfection in everything you do, you will always be disappointed.
That is not to say you should not try, rather that you have to try. Never let the fear of failure get in the way to success.
When babies are learning to walk, they fall down. Time after time.
Falling in this scenario is failing. But did that stop humans from walking? Certainly not. You may fall down many times, but you always get back up.
If you are new to riding, do not be afraid of falling. There are many precautions you can take before getting on a horse.
One way to help decrease the fear of falling is to have the right equipment. A cheap bicycle helmet and a pillow wrapped around your torso with a belt is not enough to protect yourself. Buy a riding helmet and have a professional help you make sure it fits properly.
Having someone more experienced help you with using the proper horse tack, such as using a soft bit, a well-fitting saddle, and safety stirrups or slip stirrup pads is also helpful for beginners.
Not only do you need to have the right tack, but it also needs to fit properly, especially the girth. If the girth is not tight enough, the saddle can easily slip around, causing you to fall off.
Beware of horses that puff their stomachs out when tacking up; if they do this while you are tightening the girth, when their stomach relaxes the saddle will slide around and most likely also cause you to fall off.
Never ride alone, especially as a beginner or if you are jumping or practicing any other maneuvers that could prove dangerous.
When you are afraid, you most likely tense up. If you tense up, your horse can tell. While some horses are able to understand that you are scared and will take care of you, others might also tense up and get nervous which could put you in danger.
A 2016 study conducted by the University of Sussex found that horses are able to read human emotions and can distinguish between angry and happy facial expressions.
When shown photographs of negative human facial expressions, horses’ heart rates increased and looked at the photo more out of their left eye, which is associated with negative stimuli.
Understanding how horses respond to negative stimuli and negative facial expressions could help show horses’ relationships with their riders.
Being able to understand your individual horse’s reactions and personality could also be beneficial in predicting when they are cranky or in pain, both states in which a horse is more likely to buck a rider off.
Sometimes you cannot predict when you will fall off. It is not always that the horse is in a bad mood or that you did anything wrong.
Sometimes the horse gets spooked by a bag blowing in the wind or an unexpected sound. Sometimes there is slick mud or a rock the horse trips over. Sometimes things just happen.
What is important is that you avoid falling off when you can, be prepared for when you do, and understand that it is not failing, but just part of the experience.
So next time you fall off your horse, get back up.
And never give up.
Article by Kristen Buhrmann