Confessions of a Timid Rider,  Equestrian Life

School of Hard Knocks: Children Need to Fall Off Horses

Confession: We’ve all bit knocked down from our pegs a time or two, hopefully, to get up again stronger. It’s a lot harder to watch your children fall.

We all know what it is to get knocked down, wipe ourselves off, and get up again. It’s entirely a different story when it is our children. Yet, we need to let our children fall of horses from time-to-time to learn. My daughters all ride horses. All of them. I am both happy to share my passion with them and terrified because it can be all-consuming. More, I know firsthand how riding a horse both elevates me and also takes me down a few pegs. As a mother, I know this can only strengthen my daughters. Of course, it makes me cringe when I see them frustrated atop a stubborn pony or holding on for dear life because said pony decided to go a little faster than anticipated.

My daughter Zoe, who is most like me in internalizing and worrying, had her first fall recently. A mother’s worst nightmare but as an equestrienne, I know that it is only a matter of time. Talk about being torn.

Ferrous was stubborn and unwilling to trot, so of course, Zoe felt frustrated with him and neared the point of crying.

Horses certainly do have a way of testing us. Still, she took a deep breath and persevered. Her trainer introduced two ground poles which they trotted in two-point in both directions. On the last round, Ferrous decided to perk up, trotting the first pole and then cantering straight over the second. Suddenly he was going much faster than she had ever ridden.

There were a few things running through my mind as a mother and horse rider:

  • Fear that she would fall and hurt herself.
  • Straight up admiration that she sat about five strides before sliding off as he turned the corner.
  • Wondering why she didn’t even try to slow him with a rein, seat, or half-hearted “whoa”
  • Questioning if I was a bad mother because when she did fall I ran straight for the loose horse instead of her.
  • Grateful that her trainer went to her because she would have had a complete meltdown with me.

There is no cookie-cutter response to watching your child fall. I err on the side of “Don’t scare them more” and tend to hold my reaction in.

For sure, as terrifying as it was I knew that when he broke into a canter she was going down. I just crossed fingers and hoped she didn’t try to hang out awkwardly or get caught underneath him. She is so little. She was terrified and leaned forward to hold on causing him to keep going and her to be unbalanced in the saddle of course.

Luckily, he was not out of control and she slid off at the corner, landing on her feet before eating dirt. Ferrous, realizing he had no companion, immediately slowed and stop soon to chat with a friend in a nearby stall. I needn’t have worried about him going fully wild. I brought him over, he already half asleep and watched my daughter be coached by Robin. She asked for a hug but I let Robin take control and really talk her out of her reactionary tears. Robin has even said a few of those things to me, how this is part of horse riding, and it is important to get back on or later it will be much harder. She then told her how all these other older girls fell recently at a horse show over the weekend, girls that Zoe looks up to.

School of Hard Knocks: Children Need to Fall Off Horses Share on X

My approach, of course, is a little different but supportive.  I like to say when my daughters fall for the first time they are part of the “club”. The Equestrian Club, the Eat Dirt Club, the Get Back On Club, whatever you want to call it. There were high fives and hugs from her trainer’s daughter and honestly she was a champ.

Despite her fear and tears, she mounted again and walked off lead with Robin ahead and Ferrous following behind.

I was so incredibly proud.

While I never wish my daughters to fall I understand that it is part of our sport and bound to happen. Both twins have now fallen off and handle it beautifully. My oldest has been riding six years at a therapeutic riding center and not fallen once. I don’t wish her to but I also realize that the longer she goes without, the worse the impact may be when it does happen.

The school of hard knocks is a difficult one to go through, but it IS part of the process after all and part of growing up. Now that first fall is out of the way I’m curious to see how she will react. She has always been more like me, easy pace and experiencing nerves when trying new things.


  • Tina

    Thank you for your honest words. I just watched my 8 year old daughter get tossed like a rag doll. Her pony took off and took her on a rodeo bucking Bronc ride. She held on so long the pony stopped for a breath 3x but, eventually took her to a hill and tossed her. I have many fears … fear of my husbands reaction, fear she’ll
    Never want to ride again and fear she’ll be hurt badly. But this experience ended well, eventually … just knowing others feel the same love and passion for these beautiful animals as well as being “timid” gives me confidence and comfort .

    • Heather Wallace

      Tina, I’m so glad your daughter is okay! I’m sure you were all shaken, and deservedly so. I try to have a healthy respect for these animals but acknowledge, they are still animals and you just never know. Still, 98% of our rides are without falling or unfortunate behavior, and I try to remember that. Sometimes I think it is easier for it to happen to me than my children. But, luckily my own daughter did keep riding and is still enjoying it. How about yours? Was the reaction from your husband and daughter what you expected?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.