I have never owned a horse but I love them, and I used to be a keen rider. Several of my friends at school owed their own ponies, so I got interested in riding, and started going for lessons at a local riding school when I was about 13 or 14 years of age. I used to go every weekend and it was one of the hobbies that I enjoyed the most. Not just because I was an animal lover (the feeling of closeness and communion with the horse is a wonderful one, I am sure you will all agree) but also the fresh air and exercise, the lovely scenery of the hacks in the country, and the scary but exhilarating feel of galloping and jumping.
It is an interest I have pursued into adult life, whenever finances permit, which is not that often, because hiring a horse even for an hour's ride has become so expensive now. I have been pony-trekking a few times in England, mostly when I have been on holiday, and (almost) always found it very relaxing and pleasurable. I always think it is a wonderful way to see our lovely countryside – you get to see more than just being on foot because you are up higher!
However I have twice fallen off a horse in my life: once as a teenager and once as an adult. When I used to go to the riding school the horse suddenly broke into a canter without warning, and I slipped off. Obviously it is a shock when you fall off, but I wasn’t hurt. The second time was the most recent a few years ago. I was on a holiday break in Devon, in the West Country, and on a long hack in the fields and woods with some others. The horse I was riding was very temperamental and contrary, and I couldn’t get on with her at all. We were having a gallop, which was exciting, when suddenly the mare swerved without warning, completely unseated me, and I found myself flying through the air, before I could regain my balance! It was incredibly painful and winded me, but fortunately I fell on long, wet grass, so I was not badly injured, only bruised. They told me the best thing I could do was to get straight back on the horse straightaway, so I did. I didn’t enjoy the rest of the ride after that though, I was shaking with nerves!
However it has not put me off riding – it is just an inevitable part of it, something that happens sometimes! I can see why they say get back on at once, otherwise you will probably develop a phobia about riding and horses. It is better to nip that in the bud, do it before your mind really has a chance to process it! This also applies to a lot of other situations too, metaphorically: when you fall down, it is important to get straight back up again and keep going.
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