Confessions of a Timid Rider,  Equestrian Life

Big Horses Result in Big Falls


Confessions of a Timid Rider: I fell off Delight for the first time. Ouch.


Big horses result in big falls. I forget how big Delight is until something reminds me.



Do you ever feel like you can’t get anything right some days or even weeks? Maybe it’s this looming solar eclipse, I don’t know. After days of technological chaos, I was excited to ride Delight. We had a fun lesson last week when I got out of my own way, and the weather was proving to be overcast. So much better than the glaring sunshine we’ve recently had.


Unfortunately, things started off on the wrong foot. Delight was a total grump during tacking. Every once in awhile he show attitude when he sees a saddle. He’s been checked and it’s behavioral. Even when already tacked Delight will see someone walking with a saddle and become grouchy.


Grouchy horse


But this was a horse of another color. I went to put his saddle pad on and he pinned his ears. He then simultaneously tried to kick and bite me. Not one to back down easily from a tantrum, I kept taking the pad on and off until he stood nicely then let him be for awhile. The saddle upped the ante and he started to pop up on the cross ties, enough that I thought he might break them and warned my kids out of the barn.


I pulled out the big guns- peppermint


Although not a professional horse trainer but I do know enough not reward bad behavior. I asked one of the barn girls to stand in front crinkling the wrapper to distract him.


Ears forward, curious nose, and I added the saddle and girth with barely a tail swish from Delight. All sorted. Because he stood nicely- he got the peppermint. I don’t believe in holding grudges. 


Delight can be cranky- but this is not the normal behavior for him. I talked to his owner and we thought maybe because he’d been in his stall all day and was feeling pent up, or the camp kids were teasing him again (he hates attention in his stall). Who knows? But something was off. 


I thought he might benefit from some lunging before our lesson, but didn’t push the issue because we were already running behind and my riding partner was waiting for us. It took a lot of time and patience to tack him. Besides, once the bridle was on Delight calmed down and started dozing as per usual. 


Delight falls asleep once his bridle is on and becomes quiet as a mouse.


During our lesson we worked on walk/ trot transitions in the outdoor ring. Ground pole grids in a figure 8 pattern, which was a lot of fun.


Everything was fine until we cantered


A few things I know about Delight:


  1. As a Kentucky-bred OTTB he is stronger tracking left. So I chose this direction to start because he is better at getting his lead.
  2. Delight is downhill. I have to sit up, shoulders back, and let him have his head at the canter because he neck is naturally long and low. This helps him to balance his weight appropriately.
  3. He slows on the corners, especially going uphill. There was a time not long ago where we could just not get the canter in that ring and we kept breaking.
  4. He likes to kick out when throwing a temper tantrum. His tantrums are rare and usually for good reason. He is predictable in what he will not put up with. 
  5. Temper tantrums are usually caused by too much leg on his sensitive left side or using the crop incorrectly, i.e. on his hindquarters.


We started the canter tracking left going slightly downhill and really opened up on the long side in anticipation of the uphill turn. 


Coming uphill I made a mistake. Instead of sitting up and driving him off my leg, I collapsed my body and flicked the crop. Big mistake. Delight made it known that he was not okay with that. Because we were going uphill his normally small (for a 16.2 thoroughbred) kick became a full fledged buck. His head was DOWN. Once before he did this and I stuck it. Not this time. I almost regained my seat, but because I wasn’t balanced in the saddle, I toppled off. Superman style. I hit the ground- HARD.


First thought that goes through my mind when I fall? Avoid the hooves. Share on X


Despite riding this horse for almost 2 years, I’ve never fallen off Delight before. I didn’t know if he’d bolt or stop. I tried to move and trusted my trainer to keep him away. But he had stopped anyway, surprised I was no longer with him. Next thing I know I’m face down trying to breathe and take stock of my body.


I heard the crack when I hit the dirt and knew I’d hurt my ribs. I was afraid to breathe, but I did eventually. Robin sat there, kneeling next to me, with a contrite Delight poking his head over her shoulder checking on me. I would have laughed if I could. He’s just so cute. And I was absolutely covered in dirt head to toe. I even made an impression in the hard ground.


Big horses mean big falls


I was in so much pain I didn’t cry, nor was I shaking from the adrenaline. They got me talking. Oh, and did I mentioned my kids were there? Yup. So I had to get up and wipe myself off. After removing the 5 inches of dirt that had embedded itself in my field boots. 


My kids’ reaction? “Mom, can I have gum?” I kid you not. Barn kids, right? 


I stood up, trying to breathe and walked Delight around the ring a few times. Then with a little help- I got back on. It wasn’t pretty. My ribs were bruised, but luckily nothing seemed broken. But I was like a sack of potatoes. I walked around on Delight a little while. When we passed the impression I made in the dirt he stopped and sniffed it curiously.


Maybe he'll think of me on the ground next time and decide not to buck? Share on X


See, it wasn’t Delight’s fault. No, he shouldn’t have bucked. But I should have trusted my instincts and lunged him before hand. That’s on me. Sometimes mistakes happen. 


I still love him, even though I’m in loads of pain. I went to the emergency room for a scan of my ribs. Bruised ribs and no fractures! Only 2 weeks off, I’m lucky. I’m barely able to put on my pants in the morning, but I’m disappointed that I can’t ride. 


What do you think? Does size matter when falling off a horse?



  • Mathilde Kvernland

    Well, speaking from experience, size noes not matter! I have been flinged a few times off of Baldur, av damn, it’s almost worse than falling of the big ones. But I guess it depends on how you fall! Glad there were no fractures! Oh, and I almost cracked up about the comment from your child, epic!

    • Heather Wallace

      LOL you are so right about the way you fall. Yes, my kids are so compassionate. 😉 It’s good for them to see me fall too, it’s bound to happen but I could’ve used a “Hey are you all right?”. But the gum. Laughing hurt my ribs.

  • anne leueen

    Last time I came off I was riding a 17.3 hh trakhener mare. She leapt capriolling across the ring after a spook. I decided I should bail and forgot I wasn’t a teenager anymore. I literally flew through the air and could see the arena ceiling and landed on my back! Boom! Nothing was injured. I got back on. Rode her for ten minutes and traded horses with my daughter. She had a nice Hanoverian mare and she was fine with my big mare who continued to be a real handful until we sold her to a jumper rider and she loved that career! Sorry to hear about your ribs. Mend soon!

    • Heather Wallace

      Ouch, that’s quite a fall! I’ve fallen on my back before too. I think I need to practice my landings. Glad you were okay and probably best to sell her to a home where she was a better fit. Sometimes I think I’m too old for this- not that I’ll stop.

  • starboundeq

    I love it when they turn around and look at you like, “What are you doing down there?” On the slight occasion it happens with one of my youngsters I wonder if they wonder if this is something we will be practicing regularly.

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