My first crush had a charming sense of humor, sandy blond hair, and the all-American name “Mike.” He was also four feet tall, with a unique talent of falling flat on his face intentionally and popping back up with a smile. I remember thinking he was so cool. We were in third grade.
Don’t tell my mom, but I think I might have given Mike a peck on the cheek when the teacher wasn’t looking–very out of character for me, a shy, pig-tailed strawberry blonde. Sadly, our romance was short-lived as his family moved to Texas.
Nevertheless, I moved on and began taking horseback riding lessons.
A family friend named Cindy recommended we call a young gal she knew who gave riding lessons in her family’s pasture. The backyard instructor had strong credentials as a former Pony Clubber and 3-day eventing competitor.
For my first lesson I wore jeans and tennis shoes and a borrowed hard hat. The instructor showed me how to hold the braided leather reins properly, with the looped excess flopping over to one side, resting on the horses’s black mane. She led me around for awhile and drilled into me the importance of looking up where I was going, not down to the ground. Nothing else stands out to me from that first lesson. I was probably on information overload.
The second lesson was much more exciting. I learned what lunging was as Riley, my bay lesson horse, was attached to the line and went in dutiful circles around his owner, with me up top. I tried to get my heels down and thumbs up and remember all 52 other pointers and tips that were necessary to have a good seat.
The trainer thought I was ready for a trot and explained the idea of posting. I got the rising up out of the saddle part right, it just wasn’t textbook. For some reason unbeknownst to me, Riley shot away from the holder of the lunge line off toward the woods. When I rose up, it was not over the pommel, but up and over his withers, into the air, then down to the grassy ground with a thud.
The young instructor rushed over to me and asked if I was okay. It had hurt, but I was a rather stoic child; I don’t think I even cried. She helped dust me off and then ran to catch the cavorting gelding, who made it so obvious he was happier being free than having a newbie on his back.
“There’s a saying that you have to fall off ten times in order to be a good rider,” she informed me. “You’re already on your way.”
Thanks to that pep talk I agreed to get back on the horse, and with a leg up was good to go for a few more laps, this time with the trainer holding the reins leading me. It was important to end on a happy note.
I never again heard anyone else state the “ten falls” axiom.
And those were the first of many falls related to both horseback riding and men.