by: Meagan DeLisle
It had been a year and a half since I had fallen last and so many things have changed. Somehow, between falling over the top of Oliver’s head and hitting the ground, I had enough time to think about all of these things. My mind is always in the clouds lately- well, except for this moment when it is upside down and falling in front of my horse that is.
I had never wanted to take a year and a half hiatus from riding, but life after graduation proved to be just as tough as everyone told me it would be. Between working two jobs to try and just pay my board bill as I searched for a career and my trusty Quarter Horse Lance having fractured his splint bone in a oh-so-typical clumsy horse fashion (he kicked himself. Yep. That’s right. My horse kicked himself in the field and fractured his own leg. Welcome to my life) I was broke and had little time for riding. I wasn’t looking for an out when my coach at the time offered to buy Lance from me and rehab him and keep him at her barn until I was ready to start riding again, but that out seemed like my only option.
Fast forward a year and I had found a demanding job in Human Resources at a Fortune 500 company and spent my spare time picking out wedding flowers and arguing with my mother over how many people we needed to invite to my wedding. Stressed isn’t quite the word to explain how I felt. I was working 10-12 hour days, planning a wedding, buying groceries, paying bills, and helping my husband out on his farm. I couldn’t sleep, I was gaining weight, and I was a nightmare to be around. If there was not a tub of ice cream in the freezer, trust me, you wanted to avoid me at all costs.
My then fiancé didn’t quite understand what he was getting himself into when he surprised me on Valentine’s Day with money he had been saving up for me to return to taking lessons. He is a corn and beans kinda guy, he avoids things that breathe, says they’re too ‘unpredictable.’ But he knew I was happier when I was around horses and that was his way to make me tolerable again, and I wasn’t even going to argue.
My Lance was on lease to a sweet little girl that I actually used to give beginner lessons to and somehow returning to my college barn just felt...wrong. Maybe I had outgrown that part of my life, maybe it was too painful to see Lance showing with someone else, I am honestly not sure. So I took a chance and went to another barn, a barn I had ridden at in the start of my English riding career, and haven’t looked back since.
That is where the differences between my last fall and this fall come into play. My last fall was off my ornery 15.2 hand Quarter Horse who knew his job better than I did and often let me know that with a frustrated stop at a fence. It was like he was saying, “SEE? See how crappy that spot was? How was I supposed to make that?” It was hard to get Lance to refuse, but somehow I was so terrible at picking spots that I made it happen monthly.
This fall, however, was off the top of the 17 hand Thoroughbred, Oliver, who I am leasing. And let me tell you, I could tell the size difference. When I would fall off Lance I could barely blink before I hit the ground. Quick and easy. Falling off of Oliver, though, gave me time to think about how bad it was going to hurt when I landed. Thankfully, I have an uncanny knack for landing on my butt (which has resulted in a fracture of my coccyx before; in case you didn’t know coccyx is a fancy word for your butt bone) which usually only leads to a week or so worth of soreness and your coworkers making fun of you as you get in and out of your chair.
My last fall was for a semi-decent reason. I had launched myself forward over the fence at a long spot. To me, it looked great, but Lance was a pro at his job and would usually haul my big butt over a fence at the spot he wanted. My coach said towards the end that he was getting frustrated with my mistakes and had taken to coaching me in his own way on how to pick a good distance, AKA ditching my butt.
This fall was embarrassing. My new coach laughed and yelled, “What the #@!! was that?” as I brushed the dirt off of my breeches. Oliver, who is usually a steady eddie for being a 5 year old with just a year off the track, had been feeling his oats that morning. A few baby bucks, some predictable refusals, and one little crowhop later, I was on and feeling pretty darn confident. My non-horsey husband, Wayne, was sitting in a Ranger outside of the arena and shook his head every time I giggled and grinned after riding out an ornery spell. We came to a little 2’6 white gate, jumped it beautifully and made our way to the end of the arena for a little simple lead change to track onward to the next fence. I am not sure what happened. My coach is not sure what happened. My non-horsey husband is not sure what happened. But as I went to ask Oliver to slow to a trot and get the simple change, he did this little wiggle with his butt and I, who was leaning dangerously forward, was pitched forward even more over the top of his big head and made my way to the ground.
Of all the things. Of all the things he had did that day, THAT is what made me fall? Oliver was perfect. He stopped and looked at me as I sat there on the ground wondering if getting up would hurt worse more than staying down. Finally, I hopped up and hid behind Oliver, never making eye contact with Wayne. I knew he was angry (he is convinced if I will die young, it will be on the back of a horse), and what was bad was he was probably angry with Oliver when it was me who he should have been angry with. It was my fault. I was leaning. Don’t. Freaking. Lean. I knew that. There were a lot of things I knew that my mind screamed to my body as my body continued to do them wrong.
It was in that moment, as I mounted back up, that I knew I was way out of shape. That my dreams of jumping three feet with Oliver (a feat my little Lancey wasn’t quite capable of) needed to be put on hold for more time working without stirrups and perfecting my form and body position. That year and a half wasn’t just robbed time from the arena; it was time that saw my body lose all muscle memory, and time my that allowed confidence and strength to fade.
I have put myself on a diet, for Oliver’s sake, and have started trying to find workout plans that fit my lifestyle. My barn is an hour away, so riding every day to build my body back up to what it used to be isn’t an option. I am lucky if I get to ride three times a week. So I walk the dogs and run up and down stairs and do those dreaded planks that I hate so much. I have never loved the gym, but I do love Oliver and I have dreams of 'A' shows this winter circuit, so I will do what it takes.
As for now, I am going to go sneak a pillow out of the backseat of my truck and smuggle it into my office so my poor, injured behind can relax.
My mom said she knew she was in trouble when I wouldn't shut up about horses from an early age and there were no other horse lovers in the family. Growing up, I did everything possible to be around horses and while my parents hoped a prayed it was just a phase....well, we all know how that story ends. My name is Meagan, I'm a 24 year old equestrian just trying to get by. 24 hours in a day is just not enough for me! After a year and a half out of the saddle as I jump started my career in the HR department of a Fortune 500 company, I'm trying to balance a demanding job, riding horses, a new marriage, and a microscopic budget! I'm excited to share my journey into adulthood and back in the ring with my new OTTB I lease, Entertain That Thought AKA Oliver. Its not gonna be easy, but it's going to be quite comical and hopefully I'll learn a thing or two along the way.