There is a history with horses in the family. My father grew up on a farm, was an avid racing fan all his life. My mother took English riding lessons as a teenager.

Pony Ride

My first ride.

So I was not surprised to find this picture of myself on a pony at 18 months old.

We spent a lot of time around race horses in Delaware, Steeplechase events in Maryland. My dad knew a lot of these folks, we often went behind the scenes as they prepared these sleek, beautiful creatures.

I thought I knew something about horses. I should have known better than to express that to a group of cowboy friends when we relocated to Utah.

We were invited/challenged to an afternoon of riding at a ranch set in the mountains near Park City.

These were working ranch horses, and they might as well have been elephants. Someone picked out the smallest one for me.

It took a village just to get me up in that saddle.

That was my first warning.

We all took off at a gentle pace. My husband was getting along well, keeping up with theΒ other riders.

My horse was losing patience. They say that a horse recognizes an inexperienced rider, and will only tolerate for a while.

scrub oak

He turned suddenly, slowlyΒ aimed toward the only tree on the property, a sick looking scrub oak with dwindling branches.

He ducked. I fell off. Mission accomplished.

I don’t remember details of the rest of the day. Someone rode out to rescue me.

My sunglasses were broken. My legs were bruised. So was my ego.

It was the last time I was ever on a horse.


This post was inspired by the 141st running of the Preakness Stakes to take place today in Baltimore. There are high hopes for Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist to take this second jewel in U.S. horse racing’s Triple Crown.

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55 Responses to Equestrian

  1. Erika Kind says:

    At least nothing worse happens! He simply wanted to save you from a serious injury and made you lose the joy of riding early enough!

  2. Jim says:

    I would have had a new name for that horse had it been mine – Dog Food

  3. Joyful2bee says:

    Ouch! How humiliating. Do try again if you can. They are all marvelous creatures. Since I can’t ride anymore because of my back, I photograph them and still admire their beauty. I actually rode a strawberry roan named Sophie when I was a teenager who stopped when she felt a stirrup dangling because my foot slipped out of it. She was so kind.

  4. As beautiful as horses are, they can be very strong willed. I remember the first time I sat on a horse (at camp) I felt like I was on top of a mountain. It was nerve racking as we walked a trail through wooded steep terrain. Today, I continue to marvel at their magnificence, but I do so from ground level!

  5. LaVagabonde says:

    Aw, Van. I’m an awkward horse rider, too. In fact, something very similar happened to me in Costa Rica and I ended up with a very bruised knee. He did it on purpose. Last time I ever rode a horse.

  6. Elyse says:

    They are beautiful, and I love watching them. But whenever I got on one, it would not move. Three different times, three different horses — with other people pulling and coaxing. Sigh.

    We must be related.

  7. Just Plain Ol' Vic says:

    I have only ridden a few times and really enjoyed the experience but oh the pain!! LOL

  8. I too have been scraped off on a tree, Van. Not fun. 😦 They are big animals with personalities.

  9. Deb says:

    Oh Van thank goodness you weren’t more seriously hurt…your legs and ego were enough. My senior year in high school we had a class trip to Jamaica and while there we went for a horseback ride in the mountains. My riding experience was very limited, well it was a hot day, we were riding along and the horse was sweating. We starting galloping along a trail and suddenly I could feel the saddle starting to slip on the horse and I was slowing sliding around the belly of the horse and finally fell off. My upper outside thigh landed on a good size rock. Like you I fortunately did not have anything broken but boy did I have a HUGE black and blue bruise on my leg, ouch! Needless to say I was afraid to remount the horse but I had too. They made sure the saddle was on nice and tight and the horse just walked the rest of the way. I don’t think I’ve ridden a horse since then either! πŸ™‚

    • You always see those images of folks riding a horse on a sunlit beach, wind in their hair, smiling happily. No one ever told you about the sweat ! (even if you’re not on a tropical beach, you can walk away with sweaty pants). To be young and unbreakable! I don’t blame you for not doing it again. Thanks for sharing, Deb. 🐎

      • Deb says:

        Funny you should say that because that’s where we came out, down the mountain and onto the beach…it would have been so magical if my leg wasn’t throbbing! HA! Glad we’re both ok!! πŸ™‚

  10. Bun Karyudo says:

    I still think the horse handled it rather badly. It’s never nice to get physical. What was wrong with a carefully worded letter to its owner expressing its dissatisfaction with the inexperience of its latest rider?

  11. Aww, so sorry! I like how you describe the incident. I’m a horse person and I take every chance I get to be on them, but my most humiliating horse ‘injuries’ have been 1) falling off at a standstill and ending up with a bruise the size of Texas on my behind, and 2) completely tearing a tendon in my finger when I tried to take off a sweater while on the horse, and ended up flipping the end of my finger backwards. Neither of those were the fault of the horse! They just do what they know. But yes, I guess those cowboys made a few assumptions! 😦 πŸ™‚

    • Thanks, Nadia. I hated to admit, they were probably right…I was humbled by that horse. And that tendon injury…ouch. They are harder to heal than a break. I passed on a few other opportunities to ride over the years…too bad this incident left such an impression. I envy your rapport. 🐎

  12. TanGental says:

    Well as my Vet daughter once described horses – ‘dangerous at each end and uncomfortable in the middle’ – and being an equine vet is in the top five most dangerous jobs in the UK I’m with you on how wary one should be near these genetically modified kicking machines. Nice to look at but at a very safe distance. My last riding experience was in Barbados on a horse called Macho – enough said; it ended as badly as both of us imagined it would.

  13. joey says:

    Ah. So sorry.
    I have a terrible fear of horses, or healthy respect — depends on how you look at it. They’re beautiful, majestic creatures. One of those beautiful, majestic creatures kicked my mother in the face when I was small. I do not remember it, but I saw it, and I guess I’ve never recovered.
    The last time I was on a horse was in the late 80s. I rode a HUGE horse whose name was State, because he’d won ‘state’ at the state fair. He was enormous. I cannot explain to you how enormous this horse was. We had to board him from the porch. I only went because I the taunting for not going was much worse. I am still known as “That girl who was afraid of State.” I kept my eyes closed and held onto my friend until it was over. I lived. That’s all I can say. I lived.

    • Yep. Big. I could have used a stepladder for this guy.🐎
      So sorry about that kick to your mom, I’d have kept my distance for a lifetime. ☺ I lived to tell too. But I never told anyone about it…gotta love what WP brings out of you, no ???

  14. Wow that is so scary! So glad you were not hurt worst. I only rode a horse once and is was so high and scary haha

  15. lisakunk says:

    Speaking as a woman who has knee issues dating from being thrown from a horse a few years ago and owns two of the critters, I enjoyed this greatly. People assume because we have horses eating and pooping in our fenced in field that we are knowledgeable on all things horse. Not. Just love them and let them enjoy their lives as we watch them do so.

    • What a great outlook from one who has “fallen off”. You are an inspiration, Lisa. Years after my incident, I had a friend who boarded horses. I saw how much work is involved, but she truly loved them all. Thanks for your comment. 🐎

  16. George says:

    Horseback riding looks like so much fun and I’m sure it is. My last experience, years ago, was painful. I didn’t get thrown but let’s say I never got into a rhythm so when he was coming up, I was going down. I don’t think I need to elaborate..:)

  17. writerinsoul says:

    I’d like to find that horse and kick it on your behalf, Van. Why can’t animals sense we’re kind & well-meaning?! Why’s it always gotta be they smell fear & uncertainty?? Rant,rant. Ok I’m done now!

  18. amommasview says:

    Hey, what about getting back in the saddle again??? πŸ˜‰

  19. Pan says:

    I love this post πŸ˜„
    And see I’m going to enjoy your blog πŸ‘
    Horses and mules both have it in for me, both have tried to dismount me with tree trunks and low hanging branches..

    • I’m not sure how/what they know about us, but they surely do respond in a strange way ??? ☺

      • Pan says:

        Picturing myself in their shoes :

        An unsure creature sitting on my back sending fear pheromones I can smell.. Making me nervous because I don’t see or smell the threat that the creature on my back does.. Sending my trust to flee with my hooves to throw this numbnuts off and hey, there’s a nice and low big tree limb ahead, if I duck I can make it πŸ˜‰

      • The horse’s POV…that’s a bit of brilliance there, Pan. Thanks so much. ☺

      • Pan says:

        I understand the world very differently when I attempt to see it through an animal’s eyes and mind..

  20. Great story, again.

  21. nimi naren says:

    Glad that you escaped without too many injuries…

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