So You Want to be a Professional Stunt Rider?
The #1 Lesson to Learn About Horseback Riding: What the professionals know and you should too.
Everyone probably has one or more of these stories. No matter how wonderful your horse is, at some point, something has probably gone sideways, and it may have been you! Here's my testimony to unprofessional stunt riding.
I came home from work early and decided to take my horse Sassy out for a quick ride in the park behind our house. Just put the reins on her and headed out bareback. It was a beautiful spring day, the wind was fluttering the leaves in the trees, the path was moist clay on her hooves and my husband was cooking me some sort of delightful seafood dinner. I had an hour to kill with no obligations.
I named my horse Sassy for a reason of course. She was a bundle of energy and attitude when I got her and I just loved the way she was always ready to get up and go! We cleared the gate on my property and began the scenic walk along one of the side trails toward the main trails of the park. There were hundred foot pines and hardwoods all around, with blue sky showing through the canopy of leaves and the air had that clean taste to it. Just a beautiful day. We hit the first field and I allowed a trot around the edges. There's nothing like riding bareback for me. That feel of her muscles as she moves and her responses to my gentle cues.
Then back into the woods we went, over the roots of trees, up the hills, through a small stream, up the bank as I lay down against her neck. Then we hit the main trail and it had been freshly graded and graveled. We walked across the bridge and began the long climb up the slope. Probably 200 yards of gradual incline and Sassy was pulling at the reins, wanting to pick up the pace. There was no one else around so I decided this would be great fun! We took off at a nice pace and I was marveling at how my body sort of floated above her back. Just sort of touching on the beat to stay directed. The biggest grin on my face, you know the one!
Well, off to the right I barely picked up the movement in the woods before Sassy's body jolted and she made a 90 degree left turn in a split second. You know the results I'm sure. My body kept going straight and flew over her head. I hit the gravel on my left shoulder and both of my hands did a roll and came to a stop. Of course Sassy was just standing there looking at me as the turkey in the woods flew up to a tree. As I tried to gather myself I began pulling gravel out of my shoulder, my left hand was killing me. The palms were scraped and full of rock and one of my fingers was pointing at a right angle. Definitely broken. OUCH! Once I collected myself I stood up. It was a good two miles back to my barn, I was hurting and not wanting to walk, but trying to mount bareback with a skittish horse and multiple injuries just weren't going to work.
Fortunately for me, a couple came walking up over the hill. I can imagine I was quite a site, bleeding and limping along. I asked the man if he would give me a leg up. He looked at his wife and they both nodded and said "nope". I was so shocked that they wouldn't help me I can't imagine the look on my face. So I continued back down the hill until another couple came up behind us. I asked again, trying not to grimace and look scary. "Excuse me, I fell off my horse and broke my finger, do you suppose you could help me get back on so I can ride on home?" I swear this man looked at his wife too! She was at least non-committal so he sort of edged over about 10 feet from my horse, like that was going to be close enough. I convinced him to move to within about 3 feet and that was as close as he was going to get. Sassy's eyes were white around the edges and she was very skittish, he put his hands together for my foot and I went for it. Literally, I jumped from his hand over her back and as I landed, Sassy shied and took off! I had one hand on the reins and was holding onto her mane for dear life. I was NOT going to take another fall in that gravel. As we took off down the hill I let out a yell "WaHoo!". I'm sure they all thought I was crazy.
I did get my horse to slow down with no issues and walked the rest of the way home. I put Sassy away, went up to the house and held up my hand for my husband to see. All he could say is, "I guess this means I shouldn't put the shrimp in."
Ask any professional stunt rider what's the first thing they learned to do? They'll tell you its "learn to fall!"