Updated: Jan 4, 2022
Why I don't believe in the old adage that every rider seems to hold true to.
So I'm going to share an opinion with you that a lot of riders are not going to like......
I am fundamentally against the idea that “When you fall off a horse you get right back on, then and there no matter what”
I know some people are going to come at me for this because it’s a horse industry cliche that every rider is trained to follow but before you get your nickers in a twist hear me out.
Here are my reasons why I am against this saying:
Forcing yourself to ride again when you’re not ready is like putting a bandaid on a bullet wound. Sure you’ll get back on and so called “face your fear” in that moment.
But what happens the next time you ride? What happens the next time your horse spooks? What happens the next time you find yourself in a similar situation to the one you were in when you fell off?
Will you still be feeling confident then? Will you be able to forget the fear and pain you felt?
Sometimes the answer is yes, but more often than is admitted, the answer for a lot of riders is no. They don't feel confident and safe when getting back on after a fall.
See our bodies and minds aren’t always able to process trauma so they have safety mechanisms in place to help protect us. And after something happens, the mind and body learn to kick these mechanisms in anytime they PERCEIVE danger. Even the slightest hint of it. Now we have an automatic trauma response in our body that our subconscious mind created after the scary incident of falling off your horse. The next time we climb on our horse we find ourselves kicking into fear mode (heart racing, adrenaline pumping, our body tensing) and we might not even be conscious of it....But our horses certainly are conscious of it and you can bet dollars to donuts they perceive that change and response in us.
If we don’t address these events and learn how to make our mind and body feel safe when we’re riding again, we’re constantly going to be triggered and reacting and never able to truly feel confident and secure in the saddle and in our riding.
Now, I know that this all greatly depends on the situation. And I definitely agree that in some situations it is best to shake yourself off and get right back on. But I believe that it takes careful discernment and awareness with yourself and your horse to know whether that is the right choice or not. To know whether you are getting back on because you feel like you are ready and strong enough to continue the ride while managing your horse from a calm, patient place to work through the issues that lead to you falling off. Or if you are just getting on because that's how the old saying goes.
There have been times that I’ve been thrown off and gotten right back on. And times when I couldn’t and chose not to because I wasn't ready either physically or mentally. I absolutely appreciate the need for toughness in the horse world and in life too. When life knocks us down we have to know how to get back up right? I even have the saying buck up tattooed on my wrist to remind me to just go for it, try hard, be tough and continue on. BUT, I also think we can be tough by accepting and acknowledging our downfalls and vulnerabilities and know when we need to take a breather and a step back.
My problem with the old adage "when you fall off a horse, you need to get right back on" is that it's often used as a hard-and-fast-rule in the horse industry and it truly doesn't give any consideration to the rider and their mental state. And my job is to advocate for the riders as an Equestrian Mindset Coach.
I hate seeing poor riders who have just experienced something that really shook them feel like they have to immediately get back on because of this rule. Riders who are fearful and shaky but feel like their only option is to get back on before they are really ready, so soon after a scary event.
Not only do the riders need time to breathe and calm their nervous system but also their horses. I think jumping right back on often leads to anger and fear from the rider and confusion from the horse. This doesn't spell a safe situation to me.
What I have found is that spending more time OUT of the saddle, is what will actually get you back INTO the saddle faster. Doing some mindset work, uncovering the fears and self doubts, moving and releasing the energy from the body that is still stored from the trauma of being thrown off. RESETTING.
So no, I don’t believe in getting right back on after a fall.
I believe in taking the time and awareness to process the event, settle our nervous systems, B.R.E.A.T.H.E and find safety and connection with our horses again before getting back on (no matter what the cost to “training”)
The main point I want to make with this post is that we so often focus on what will be best for the horse but forget about what will be best for the rider.
“Get right back on or he’ll know he can get you off"
"Get right back on or you’ll go backwards in training”
I would like to see the mindset and mental health of the rider considered just as much as the horse’s and make THAT the hard-and-fast-rule in the horse world… don’t get back on the horse unless you are feeling good enough mentally and physically to continue riding and training with connection, patience and calmness.
In my opinion that’s what will create long lasting confidence for you and your horse more so than “Getting right back on the horse”
I'd love to hear what your thoughts are on this. Leave a comment below with your opinion.
P.S: If you believe the same as me, then you’re probably a spiritual horsewoman like myself and I invite you to join my group of beautiful, soul led, spiritual, tough, connected riders and have conversations about important topics like these inside my facebook group the Spiritual Cowgirl Community.