Cantering: As Easy as Falling Off a Horse

Different horse in 2004 when no decisions were needed

Different horse, different course: We followed a trail, and neither the horse nor I had to make a decision.

I bounced along in a fast and much too dangerous canter, which I’d just learned is like a gallop with a missing beat. I had been trotting so well, too, even lifted a hand from the saddle to give my mother-in-law a wave as I went by. I’d given the horse a little kick, as instructed, and here it was a mere two seconds later and everything had changed, all confusion, like a wave knocked me over from behind and its pal the undertow snatched me and dragged me away.
Falling off a horse circle quotation
I’m not good at making decisions even when calm, and now I was just one yippee-ki-
yay away from a broken neck if I didn’t do something fast. That pommel was there for a reason, and I clenched it with both hands as hard as I could, the exact strategy I’d used when whitewater rafting
block everything out and focus all my will on staying on, never get out of the boat, don’t give an inch,
the opposite of the relaxed confidence I needed while riding a horse.

During all this bouncing and clenching, I got the impression that the horse was beaming a message to me:

Um, you’re aware that you have to tell me whether you want to go left or right up ahead, right? Um, human, excuse me and all, but a wall is approaching us, and you don’t expect me to canter straight into a wall, do you? Is that your plan or what?

Even though I picked up on an inkling of this, I was quite busy with my whole holding-on-as-tight-as-I-can strategy, so I started to imagine that the horse would turn left. The wall continued to approach us, and at the last possible second, the horse went right. Meanwhile my whole being, my legs, my hips, my arms, all my bits everywhere, were still operating under the idea that we would turn left.

At that point, it didn’t matter what my bits were expecting. They all leaned one way while the horse went the other way, and basic physics decided for me that it was time I made a clean slide off that horse, a fluid smashing of my face into a fine silt that seemed to rise up to meet me, that covered me so completely that my mother-in-law, who was one of the nicest women in the entire world, had to make sure I was not grievously injured while trying her hardest to suppress a smile at how much I was utterly caked in dirt.

I had thudded onto that ground hard. I was gripping and gripping the whole way down–never get out of the boat!–not even turning to instinct to break my fall. I just slid right off that horse like a diver off the 10 meter platform slides right into the water.

I looked at the horse standing a few feet away, twitching its ears at me. It beamed:

Really? That was your plan? Are you happy with how that plan worked out? Did you even realize that you were in charge?

Was it suppressing a smile? It was hard to tell with its horseface and horsemouth, but I think it was trying its hardest not to laugh. I made a decision right then and there: I would not get back on that horse.


This is part of an occasional series, Scene from a Memoir.

About Marcy

I blog about trying to get out of my comfort zone, completing 101 things in 1001 days (and beyond), and writing my memoirs. My book: Timid No More.

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24 Responses to Cantering: As Easy as Falling Off a Horse

  1. What a fun and funny story! I felt like I was right there with you on that horse.

  2. Hema says:

    Marcy, this was so funny! but, ouch! I remember my first (and last horse ride). My thighs hurt for days!
    Hema recently posted..Short Fiction : The Boy Next DoorMy Profile

  3. Abby says:

    Cantering looks so graceful in the movies! But I’ve had a few horse rides. Your description was very real – had me in pain.

  4. Tina says:

    I love how this story trotted along! My horse had the grace to look embarrassed when I fell off of it, but I got right back on, mostly because I didn’t want to walk back to the stables.
    Tina recently posted..The Holder of All ThingsMy Profile

    • Marcy says:

      Ha ha, if only it had stayed trotting along. I would have liked for the horse to look embarrassed, but, then, it knew it was all my fault. Good for you for getting back on.

  5. Have never been on a horse – it’s on my someday list, but I wonder now? 🙂

    • Marcy says:

      I hope you get the chance to. I’ve been on other times without any drama, but it’s fair to say I was not ready for cantering. Thanks for the comment.

  6. Nancy Lowell says:

    Perhaps you both learned a lesson… though I’m sure the horse won’t remember as clearly as you. OUCH!

    • Marcy says:

      I’d like to say I learned the importance of being decisive, but I still stink at making quick decisions. As for the horse, I think he knew I’d be a mess right from the start, ha ha.

  7. Ellen says:

    I was laughing as I was reading, and thinking, boy, I shouldn’t laugh. I loved the horse’s “side comments” that you added. The description of the fall and the moments leading up to it was so visual, I could feel myself leaning left with you.
    Ellen recently posted..Life in Tornado AlleyMy Profile

  8. What a cheeky horse! Yes, I think I’d stay off that one too :/

  9. Horseback riding seems like fun, but I’ve never tried it. Your interpretation of the horse’s thoughts added a fun layer to the story.

  10. Michael says:

    I was on a horse once, when I was a kid. I don’t think I did anywhere near a canter, though, I kept that guy slow and steady all the way. And I don’t think he was snarky either, like yours apparently was. Nothing worse than a snarky horse.

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  12. Oh, you *have* to get back on a horse! Maybe just go back to trotting for awhile, but def get back on! You can do it!

    (who has fallen off more times than she can count)

    • Marcy says:

      Good advice, but I wasn’t getting anywhere near it! I have ridden since then, just walking on a trail, only kind of scary. Thanks for the comment.

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