Friday, Jun. 9, 2023

Spring Ahead, Fall Off

Let me establish one thing right away: I don’t fall off. It has nothing to do with my riding skills. I don’t fall off because falling off hurts, and I have an aversion to pain.

I don’t remember the last time I fell off. Literally. I don’t remember it because I hit my head and four hours of short-term memory blew out of my brain faster than my medal course plan at the in-gate.   



Let me establish one thing right away: I don’t fall off. It has nothing to do with my riding skills. I don’t fall off because falling off hurts, and I have an aversion to pain.

I don’t remember the last time I fell off. Literally. I don’t remember it because I hit my head and four hours of short-term memory blew out of my brain faster than my medal course plan at the in-gate.   

Have you ever seen the TV series “Quantum Leap?” The main character, Dr. Sam Beckett, “leaps” through time and into the bodies of other people. Each show begins with him leaping into a new place, time, and body, and he’s got to figure out who is, where he is, and what he’s doing there.

It was kind of like that.

I did know who I was. It was also easy to put together that I had come off a horse; I was sitting on the ground, I was in an arena and I was wearing riding clothes.  

People surrounded me, looking at me like people look at you in those dreams where you have inconveniently forgotten to wear clothing. They were waving fingers, asking me to count them, and querying somberly do you know what day it is? 

I waved off their concern. Yeah, yeah yeah—three fingers. Wednesday.

What I didn’t know—and this is where it got very “Quantum Leap”—was where exactly I was, or precisely what I’d been doing. My barn had arrived a few hours earlier at a new horse show facility and we had been schooling horses in an unfamiliar arena. Having lost several hours of short-term memory when the side of my head played hacky-sack with the ground, I didn’t even remember making the trip. From my perspective, one moment I was home packing and the next I was on my backside in a strange ring. If that’s not how time travel feels, I don’t know what is.

So, I quite literally don’t remember the last time I fell off. But I do know it was 1996.

Since then there have been many times I should have fallen off. Some of those times I believe it may have hurt less if I had fallen. But riders develop superhuman reflexes, and when we sense impending doom we clamp down faster than a Venus flytrap. I’ve strained many a muscle clinging to various parts of equine anatomy like a barnacle. Dropping to the ground rather than scaling back up the side of my horse like it was El Capitan would have been much easier. But, no—I would claw my way back into the saddle by whatever means necessary to preserve the rider-horse-ground hierarchy.

Fast forward to a balmy springtime evening in 2016.  I was returning from a lovely sunset ride on Maggie May, the matriarch of the barn. She was a small chestnut schoolmaster who was as close to “bombproof” as they come, and a complete pleasure to ride.

I always get on and off at the mounting block. Our mounting “block” is more like a mounting deck—a big, sturdy permanent structure with a large surface area, and three wide steps down each side. It’s tall enough that you barely have to step up to reach the stirrup, and spacious enough to hold two good-sized hound dogs and a barn cat.


I went to dismount and swung my leg over Maggie’s back, preparing to step squarely onto the deck like I have every day for a zillion years. At the critical instant between on and off, a movement in the lengthening shadows caught my attention. It was a friend of mine, grazing her horse.

During that split second of distraction, I stepped down and I missed the mounting block.

I. Missed. It. 

Words can’t adequately describe the sensation of nothing but air underneath you, but if you’ve ever sat down in the bathroom without realizing somebody had left the seat up, you know the feeling. 

If I were to animate the event, it would play out like those old Road Runner cartoons where the Coyote walks off a cliff, realizes there is nothing under him, adopts the oh crap expression, and then falls.  

The real-life version happened much faster.

I smacked the corner of the platform just below my left butt cheek, bounce-flop-rolled down the steps, and plopped onto my tailbone on the ground. 

I’d like to be able to say that something profound flashed through my mind in the millisecond between free fall and impact. The meaning of life. My destiny. An understanding of my TV remote. But honestly, the only thought that formed was a single syllable, four-letter word that would never make it past the Chronicle’s editors.


Just $-&-#-*.

It hurt. It friggin’ hurt. I had taken the hurt train straight to hurt town and was a curled up, fetal-positioned, ball of hurt. 

Maggie was standing like a statue, ears cocked; one slightly forward and one to the side, in the classic “WTF?” position. She rolled one eye back to look down at my crumpled form, then slowly and decidedly took one sideways step away from me. “I had nothing to do with this.” I could practically hear her say it.


My mouth cycled through the full complement of vowel shapes before I regained the power of speech. Only then could I give voice to that four-letter word. Which, if you say it quickly several times, makes you sound like a mad hen.

I was angry for having done such a boneheaded thing. But more than that I was angry that, despite all the research and awareness campaigns and money being spent on environmental issues, NOBODY had ever addressed the phenomenon of Global Ground Hardening.

I firmly attest that Mother Earth packs a much bigger wallop than she did when I was a kid. Take any 10 mature adults, drop them on their backsides from a height of six feet, and I’ll bet the farm every last one of them will agree. 

The ironic part is that, just prior to my mounting block mishap, a barn friend and I had been talking about a certain discipline and extoling all the reasons it was ridiculously dangerous. Why, it was just a four-legged accident waiting to happen. Who, we postured, in their right minds, would subject themselves to inevitable catastrophe?

And then, the very next day, I splatter myself because I. Miss. The. Mounting. Block. 

I’ve included a photo of my most impressive bruise. If you do not see it, it’s because COTH’s editors have deleted it and placed me on some sort of watch list.

In conclusion, this event reinforced to me three unassailable truths about riding:

1. All horse activities are inherently dangerous. It doesn’t matter what discipline you practice. So if you’re going to poo-poo what somebody else is doing, be prepared for Karma to smack you upside the head. Or in the butt.

2. Keep your mind on what you’re doing. Even a moment of attention lapse can result in a mishap.

3. When a crash is inevitable, fall the shortest distance, as slowly as possible, onto the softest thing you can find.

I’m still working on that last one.

After years of trying to fit in with corporate America, Jody Lynne Werner decided to pursue her true passion as a career rather than a hobby. So now, she’s an artist, graphic designer, illustrator, cartoonist, web designer, writer and humorist. You can find her work on her Misfit Designs Cafepress site. Jody is one of the winners of the Chronicle’s first writing competition. Her work also appears in print editions of The Chronicle of the Horse

Read all of Jody’s humor columns for here.




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