If you haven’t read part 1 yet, why not start there?
So, it finally happened. I fell off a horse. On my last day of riding.
When I’ve been skiing, I, alongside my mates have celebrated ‘backflip Friday’, Friday being the last day of our tour. Having skied (comparatively) safely at the start of the week, the levels of recklessness have always increased as the week progresses, culminating in the last day, where, frankly, it doesn’t matter if you get injured… Right?
Well, I’m not sure how fall-proof a philosophy that is either, but it’s an ethos I found myself practicing on my last day at the ranch.
It was the last day on the ranch for both Joanne and I, which apparently qualifies us as pretty much exempt from work duties – not complaining about that! The two of us set off for a fast ride. As appears common in America, neither of us were wearing a helmet. Basically, a helmet doesn’t look anywhere near as cool as a cowboy hat, and you can’t wear both so… something’s got to give. It would be unheard of not to wear a helmet in England, but here on the ranch, it seems fine. It seems that as long as you’ve waived your right to sue, you can go for it, irrespective of how dangerous it may be. Is this the ‘American way’?
The entire duration I had been on the ranch, I had heard what a great horse Liberty was. How responsive. How well behaved. How handsome. Somehow I’d never ridden him, and so it seemed high time to change that! Not having his saddle or bridle with us, I am forced to ride him bareback and with makeshift reins, comprised of two lead ropes. What’s the worst that can happen!
We canter half a lap around and I can immediately see where Liberty’s reputation comes from. He listens to me well, responding to even the slightest twitch in the reins. He’s fast. Real fast. Give the command and you’ll be halfway around the pasture, before you can get your breath back.
Being our last day, we decide to film each other cantering past. Joanne sets up 100 metres or so in front, waiting for the moment to capture me a I ‘whiz’ past. Now, I’m not sure what happens next or why it happens. It may be a question challenging even the world’s best horse psychologists, but before I can so much as click my tongue, Liberty is off. And when I say off, he’s galloping. Now, I’d never galloped before. Here I am. Without reins. Without a saddle. I’m galloping. The only way I can tell at the time is because it feels unlike anything I’d ever done on a horse before! I can feel as we hang in the air, not a single point of contact with the grass beneath us.
Suddenly, Liberty veers ‘off-piste’ with a hard right and he’s heading straight for a big metal post, metres from the road. Events are changing too quickly for me to process. He changes sharply again, bounding around the metal post. It’s just too much, and as much as I cling to his mane, my knuckles white, holding with all my strength, I’m just too off balance. I fall head first over to one side. I do a somersault in the air, which would be the envy of many gymnasts. As I drop through the air, I prepare for a thick impact and listen out for the thud, expecting imminent pain. To my surprise, and that of Joanne, still frozen behind the video camera, I land gracefully, rolling swiftly back to my feet. I am particularly grateful for the neat roll back up due to the fact that several of the passing cars who managed to see stopped to check all was well.
I am back on the horse pretty quickly, stoked to have another experience under my belt, to have escaped unscathed (and have a pretty awesome video), and good to continue another few laps cantering around. I remember messaging my flatmate before heading to the ranch, mildly concerned that I wouldn’t get enough of an adrenaline rush, or be challenged by the horse-riding. I was wrong. What a great reminder of that this was!
I feel we did our last ride justice. Good job Joanne! Today, the ‘Backflip Friday’ ethos pays off well!