One of my dreams is to become proficient at horse-back riding. Throughout my life, I’ve had a few lessons; just enough to know there is a LOT more involved then just sitting on the back of a horse for an hour ride at many vacation spots that offer stable rides. Probably the biggest reason for my interest is the human-animal connection; the ability to communicate with another species. This ability is something I’ve been able to achieve with numerous animals of various species but to be able to do it in saddle on a horse… Well, that is my dream.
About two and a half years ago, I rescued two abused and neglected donkeys. Although donkeys are equines, donkeys are a bit different then horses in how they communicate. Jack and Jill (named by the child of their previous owners) mean the world to me. Through time and patience, both have recovered from their previous lives and have given me the greatest gift of all: their trust. One of the ways I’ve learned to communicate with Jack and Jill is through horse riding lessons. The signals and “buttons” used to communicate when riding a horse are the same as they are with the donkeys. And although both donkeys have come a long way from their previous lives, it isn’t quite the same as riding “in saddle”.
I’ve looked at a few options in taking riding lessons but have never followed up on them. It seems “life” always seems to get in the way and “riding” always got put on the back burner. That is until I was offered the chance to lease the most beautiful horse I could ever imagine!
Galliano is a Missouri Fox Trotter gaited palomino gelding. With a temperament rating of 2/10, he would be considered a “husband safe horse”. Just what I would need! I entertained the idea of living with this horse on and off over the course of a few days before I contacted his owner to let her know of my interest. We set up a time for me to come out to meet Galliano and to ride him. I was like a kid the night before Christmas. I could hardly believe that I might actually live with this horse and develop that “in saddle” bond I’ve always dreamed of having… Wow!
The morning we were to go meet and ride Galliano had me full of nervous energy. I worried about all sorts of things mainly my ability to ride this horse? I knew I could provide for his basic needs; his needs would not be that different then the donkey’s needs. And so as we drove up the mountain to where this horse lived, I imagined my dream coming true.
Upon meeting Galliano, I was overwhelmed at how beautiful he was. At 15.2 hands high, he was the perfect height for me to ride. As my lesson with this horse began, some of my initial fears were put to rest as I listened to his general routines and began to groom him to be saddled. Led out to the arena to ride, his behavior was impeccable!
The lesson was wonderful! Riding Galliano had me concentrating hard at what I had previously learned riding horses along with listening to the particulars of this horse. It was a blue sky sunny day with just the beginning of crispness in the air of approaching fall weather. And I was in heaven! Regardless of outcome, this will always be one of the best days of my life!
As the lesson continued and more of his “gaits” were explored, I knew I was going faster then my riding ability. I should have slowed down, I should have known my limitations, I should have not tried to keep up with the instructor who rides daily; who grew up riding horses. But I was having too much fun to listen to that inner voice. Instead of working on form, instead of realizing my core strength was not where it needed to be to ride that fast, instead of being afraid of consequences, I was “riding”. Well until I wasn’t! Following his horse mate and cutting the corner, I was out of the saddle and when I came down, Galliano was NOT under me. Falling off this horse was like slow motion. One minute everything was fine and the next I was headed for the ground!
I landed hard on my shoulder/ribs. Galliano? He stopped perfectly still wondering what I was doing on the ground? I heard people yelling at me to be still yet I was squirming to get out from under this horse. Quickly assessed and finding nothing broken, I was helped to a standing position. I was mortified by embarrassment that I had fallen off this horse. And I hurt! As the saying goes regarding getting back into the saddle, I did although in hindsight, I’m not sure how I physically did this? And after walking in a circle, I dismounted and led Galliano back to the hitching post to be unsaddled. Still embarrassed that I had fallen, I hid my pain well, at least I think I did, but I could feel the stinging pain any time I tried to twist or move any of the muscles on my left side.
Time passed and soon we were home. Hubby determined that I probably broke a few ribs and definitely sprained/strained more then a few muscles. All I knew was that I had done this to myself. I should have slowed down. I should have known better. Sigh! Friday night found me in a lot of pain especially after the long drive home that allowed my muscles to tighten. And Saturday, I spent the day in bed with pain being relieved by meds from a prescription written seven years ago! I’m better today although still taking pain medication and moving gingerly; I even took a shower and got dressed today; woohoo!
It’s going to take a few weeks to heal from this life lesson. I’m just thankful I didn’t hit my head or break any bones! As for Galliano… emailing his owners that this probably wasn’t the best time for me to bring in a horse with my limited riding abilities was probably one of the hardest emails I’ve ever written! IF I am ever going to have a horse of my own, I need to take riding lessons first! And while I COULD take those lessons on Galliano, it wouldn’t be fair to him to NOT be ridden while I was learning more of the basics. And now that I’ve injured myself, it will be at least a few months before I can even entertain the idea of getting back “in the saddle”. By then, my bruises will have healed as well as my wounded ego. And maybe then, I’ll try again?
Still, that day on the back of Galliano will remain as one of the best days of my life! For awhile, he and I were one. That has to be one of the most incredible feelings I have ever experienced. I am so grateful to his owners who gave me this opportunity to ride such a magnificent horse; to my husband for believing in me enough to allow and to encourage me to even entertain this idea of mine; and of course to Galliano… for just being himself.