“It’s ok I bounce” me and a work colleague had just gotten back from taking a group of tourists on a trail ride, she was riding up the front leading the horse and rider behind her and I walked up the back with a couple of kids and a pony in each hand. The wind had blown a piece of plastic tarp (top ten list of most scary things for most horses I know) the horse up the front spooked one way and the horse behind spooked the other way, unfortunately my friends first reaction wasn’t to let go of the lead rope and she got pulled to the ground. Naturally those two spooking set of a chain reaction in which two more tourists ended up on the ground and I stood perfectly helpless unable to let go of the the kids. Everyone was ok, one of the tourists was pretty banged up but no broken bones (I doubt she will ever get on a horse again though) anyway after we safely got the remaining riders off and rounded up the loose horses I went over and made sure my friend was ok and our boss was checking on her again as well.
“It’s ok I bounce” she said, these words struck me mainly because lately I haven’t been “bouncing” my recent falls had left their mark of severe bruising and soft tissue injuries and x-Ray’s to rule out breaks and features and also because I’ve heard it before.
My friend from Perth who I rode with often had said the same thing after I had admired her dusting herself off and getting back on her ex polo pony with questionable breaks who had once again forgot he was in a dressage arena not on a polo field.
Since then I’ve been thinking about it a lot, are some people tougher, more resistant to injury, I certainly used to be, is it a state of mind? Thinking back my recent falls haven’t been that severe, I’d had worse and it’s always going to hurt more the next day but I still couldn’t understand why recently even a slightly bungled emergency dismount has left me worse for wear. It all made sense after I read an article in the January 2017 Heals Down magazine “Fear of the Fall” the article wasn’t specifically about injuries and bouncing back this passage made something click in my mind:
“When you fall, if your body is tense- which it probably will be if your nervous- you stand a greater chance of injuring yourself” (Fear of the Fall, 2017, Heels Down, pg 21)
I believe I’ve mentioned it before but I suffer from anxiety, not going to lie lately it hasn’t been as under control as I would like something I’m actively working on. I’ve always being aware of my anxiety when I’ve been riding forcing my self to keep it in check so my horse doesn’t feed of my life emotions. I didn’t make the connection that the same tenseness in my body that they can feel was affecting to my in ability to “bounce”.
As always having all the answers doesn’t fix all the problems but knowing I’m probably not any worse at falling of a horse than anyone else and I’m not defective or anything like helps. I know with some more hard work I will get my mental health back under control but I know giving up riding is never an option and regardless of how many times I fall off I’ll always get back on again, hopefully with fewer injuries and a newly re-discovered ability to bounce!
Today was the first day of pony club for the year, yay! It was a great day and fun was had by all. Anyway Equestrian Australia has updated their helmet regulations and their seems to be a fair amount of confusion as to what complies which meant I spent a good portion of the morning inspecting helmets and matching number sequences to the new regulations.
All helmets must now meet one or more of the following standards:
- Current Australian standard AS/NZS 3838 (2006 onwards) provided they are SAI Global marked.
- New Australian standard ARB HS 2012 provided they are SAI Global marked.
- Current American standard ASTM F1163 (2004a or 04a onwards) provided they are SEI marked.
- Current American standard SNELL E2001.
- Current British standard PAS 015 (1998 or 2011) provided they are BSI Kitemarked.
- Interim European Standard VG1 (01.040: 2014-12) with or without BSI Kitemarked.
(Image: Equestrian Australia)
This information can be found on the tag inside your helmet or on a sticker under the lining.
For more information or to see if your helmet complies check out the Equestrian Australia website: http://www.equestrian.org.au/news/helmet-regulations-updated
I like kids, I get kids, I’ve worked as a teachers assistant, I’ve babysat for the best part of a decade, I’ve taught pony club, so I guess you could say I’m qualified to handle kids! So why was this so hard, why was this lesson rapidly deteriorating into my own personal hell.
Ok so my summer job is some casual work at a riding centre in my old home town and it’s awesome, it’s everything extra I do at my riding school and when I volunteer during the year except I actually get paid for it! It’s awesome. Full disclosure I’m not saying all kids are like this or even all kids in this particular lesson were like this but it’s not the first time I’ve noticed and it only stuck with me after my colleague mentioned it: kids these days have changed.Ok so I feel like I’m about 70 years old now having a rant about “kids these days”… And “in my time”
I remember my riding lessons in the arena doing trot poles and figure eights and endless circles practicing rising and sitting trots and I have no memory of it being boring. I lived for every moment I just got to be around horses let alone riding them, it was a privilege, a privilege my parents worked hard to pay for. My instructors then were like gods (I was 10), with epic riding skills and endless knowledge the were my teachers and I respected them as such.
I guess that’s why when my colleague I took a lesson of about 10 six to twelve year olds I was so surprised by their behaviour. First their was an actual tantrum by a girl who wasn’t assigned the pony she wanted and she was closer to twelve years old than six she refused to ride unless it was it was on her terms and on “her” horse. I remember the disappointment of not getting my favourite lesson horse Bindi a grey mare and have a streak of jealousy to who ever did get to ride her but I would never throw a tantrum mainly because my mother wouldn’t allow it. My mum is not strict by any means but I was always taught that extra curricular activities were a privilege not a right and you don’t always get what you want.
During the lesson instead of concentrating on their position or the joy or riding we were bombarded with questions or rather demands: “I don’t want to play this game I want to canter, I want to jump, etc.”
I felt like I wasn’t there to teach them I was there to entertain them, that everything had to be fun and what they wanted and I was somehow failing in that, that no matter how fast I transitioned between exercises I couldn’t keep their attention. I was the teacher so why did I feel they were the bosses. I made everyone stop and made it clear that nothing was going to happen until everyone was lined up the same way on the centre line and listening, put on my strict face and cut off anyone that tried to speak I gave them free time allowing anyone who wanted to practice their canter or trot was to stay out the outside path of the arena and there had the be safe distances and controlled riding at all times, anyone else was free to ride in the centre of the ring and use the trot poles and other obstacles if they desired. We spent the rest of the lesson not teaching exactly but putting out spot fires. “You need to leave a minimum one horse space between you and the horse in front of you,” “if your on the inside of the arena your walking”…
To be honest if I was a parent or even my boss not a teacher I would have had everyone dismount and had them doing theory until they understood that riding can be dangerous and it’s important to listen to the instructor and how riding these beautiful animals is privilege and if you don’t actually want to learn how to ride just have fun perhaps a carousel horse is a better option.
Kids aren’t the only ones who have changed, I can’t imagine my mum questioning one of my riding instructors she was paying them for their expertise, to teach me and yet… I had to pull a student off a horse who was perfectly sound at the start of the lesson at a walk but was suddenly and profoundly lame at the trot, I’m talking limping big time. The only other horse that was tacked up was a pony who the girl was happily going to get on until her mum came up and asked if I had anything bigger for her to ride as if me asking her daughter to ride a pony was some comment on her riding ability and ponies were beneath her.
I had another parent in Perth who used to teach over me “grip with your knees when you go over the jump!” What!?
This is not to say I haven’t had some great kids, the girls who volunteer to help whenever their parents will allow just to earn some more saddle time, the little boy who hung on the every word you told him and who I fully believe will be a high level eventer one day, the kids in those lessons who did listen and did want to learn. Similarly there are the great parents that say thank you for your efforts teaching, for inspiring, for encouraging their child. For watching and encouraging from the sidelines.
I think probably why this issue is such a big thing for me is both teaching and horses are something I’m passionate about and probably because in these situations I end up feeling like a fraud and a failure. I spoke to my mum about it after the above mentioned lesson and she as a teachers assistant and child care worker she noticed a shift as well. She told me of her friends daughter and her husbands son. They take it in turns, each taking a day and whoever is on that day is in charge if entertaining him and being with him at at all times being a full on parent. There is at no point any time where the son has to entertain himself, it’s all about him all the time. She also reminded me that this is the iPad and technology generation where everything Is just a click away. Is this the way forward, the future, do I need to revise my lesson plans to give every child what they want as soon as they wants it? Is there a new generation that expect instant gratification all the time? Am I at 24 so hopelessly out of touch I couldn’t possibly understand?
Maybe I am, maybe I should take my Harry Potter books and other relics of being a 90’s kid and reminisce about simpler times!
By Kelly Wilson
For the Love of Horses tells the true story of the Wilson sisters: Vikki, Amanda and Kelly from their humble beginnings at pony club on cheap second chance ponies they trained themselves to show jumping triumphs to their amazing journey with the wild Kaimanawa horses.
Written by Kelly it documents the highs and lows of growing up poor with horses meaning they often bought horses that others had labeled as problem horses or difficult and learning how ride and train with the horses welfare and happiness at the forefront.
The Wilsons are best known (at least to me who doesn’t follow show jumping that closely) for their work with New Zealand’s wild Kaimanawa horses which was first documented through a documentary made by Amanda called Wind Eaters and the reality show Keeping up with the Kaimanawas.
The Kaimanawas are subjected to a yearly muster to control the population and reduce the environmental impact and due to the reputation of being difficult to domesticate most are culled. Introduced to their plight rafter training a Kaimanawa pony into a successful jumper the Wilson sisters were inspired to rescue a number of the horses and train them while Amanda filmed their journey to domestication. Following their success they were inspired to help found the Kaimanawa Stallion Challenge which was filmed for Keeping up with the Kaimanawas and lead to a huge rise in the number of horses that were saved.
This book is so full of heart and the Wilsons are the best kind of horse people with their genuine love of horses showing through in all aspects of their lives. I admire those who start from the bottom and get to the top with hard work and dedication and use their influence and position to rise awareness to a truly great cause.
Kelly Wilson has also written another novel documenting her and her sisters in America working with wild Mustangs called Mustang Ride which is definitely next on my reading list.
For more information on the Wilsons and the Kaimanawas check out: