In case you think that I'm impossibly uncoordinated, let me just mention that I have actually stayed on several uncooperative horses without mishap.

No, not the movie. Not the book, either. This legend of the fall is about real life, where the fall, particularly if it's from horseback, can be excruciatingly hard.

There are people who go merrily through their entire horseback riding experience without ever getting tossed off. I'm not one of those people.Kay Jewett My first fall occurred when I was all of 7 years old. The big Tennessee Walker I was riding made an abrupt about-face while moving at a fast clip. This resulted in my being promptly tossed up and off and down, but not far enough down. My foot caught in the stirrup and I was dragged for quite a while before the horse, exhibiting a rare sense of equine empathy, came to a halt. My big brother, who was riding with me, was able to disentangle everything and I was lucky to escape with a few bruises and scratches. However, when I was 8, my father bought me a pony at an auction. We knew nothing about "Glider" but soon discovered that he tended to resemble a roller coaster more than a glider. In fact, I'm sure the word "glide" wasn't in his vocabulary — but the word "buck" definitely was. He wasn't a nice guy.

With these less than inspiring experiences, I elected to go horseless for quite a number of years. When I did return to riding, it seemed to be to a safe, controlled environment — I took a trail ride at a dude ranch. As luck would have it, our guide decided we should trot (a rare happening on a for-hire trail ride). Looking back, I think I must have found Glider's counterpart, only he was named "Klutzer," because for no good reason he stumbled and fell, giving me a sprained elbow as a souvenir of my safe, guided trail ride.

Life and circumstances ultimately decreed that I move to the country and acquire more horses. More horses for me just meant more spills. One hot summer day my much loved Arab mare managed to fall badly, sending me catapulting over her head in a somersault. It was a very hard landing. At a later date, the same mare ran away with me and managed to buck me off as I was moving her in a circle in order to slow her down. I got a black eye and a wrenched back out of that one. I had no sooner recovered than I climbed aboard my daughter's horse, because she seemed a little too wound up for my daughter to ride, and ... you guessed it.

Around this time, I started wearing a helmet (I'm a slow learner). In case you think that I'm impossibly uncoordinated, let me just mention that I have actually stayed on several uncooperative horses without mishap. The trick here is to find a horse that won't buck to begin with, and I thought I had done so. But alas, my little black horse, recently returned from training, arrived with a sore back and nobody thought to tell me about it. I had just swung into the saddle and had not even placed my foot in the stirrup when all hell broke loose! I managed to bang myself up pretty well, but permanent damage was avoided because I was wearing my helmet.

So what now? A smarter person might give up riding altogether. While I am loath to do that, I have to admit that the reality of getting older, coupled with trusting one's fate to a 1,200 pound unpredictable animal, seem like risky propositions. I'm much more cautious these days, much more aware of my own mortality. Horses now make me a little nervous and I make them a little nervous, too. I regret the change in our relationship, but I do have many beautiful and unforgettable memories of galloping over the hills with the wind in my hair, the sun on my face and the feel of a fast and powerful living creature moving beneath me. As a fellow horse lover once said, "When I am on my horse, only God is taller than I." Maybe that's worth the risk.

Kay, who still tempts fate occasionally and goes for a ride, can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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