As usual it was a brilliant, chirpy morning. Warmth from the rising sun and the serene drive from home to the riding school only adds to the “life is beautiful and people are so blessed to have me around” mood. There is definitely something about rising early. And rising early not to study for exams or to go to work, but to enjoy sun bathing and riding. It lifts my mood inevitably.
I always make it to school in time in order to have a brief chat with my horse and pick brains of a few lucky grooms before the ride.
I’ve been riding Royal Secret for a while now. He’s an old fellow with “I’ve been there, done that” attitude. He doesn’t bite, doesn’t buck, basically he doesn’t care. He knows all the tricks of the trade like the back of his hoof. He’s soon to retire and I wanted to spend as much time as possible with him.
I looked at the register and found out that I was riding Leon Cavallo. I thought Royal Secret retired way before his time.
Leon Cavallo’s mannerisms intimidated me slightly. His looks and disposition screamed high standards. He was well groomed, had glossy mane and coat and looked strong. His girth had fur lining. Pampered horse I thought.
He had an overpowering demeanor. It felt as if I was standing in front of a celebrity dressed shabbily. I patted him gingerly and he didn’t bite. I breathed a sigh of relief. The groom told me he’s a very nice horse. I was very happy and gained confidence. When I sat in the saddle, I realized there was something different about him. Sitar my instructor told me he was a show horse. That explained everything. She said all I had to do was to squeeze him gently with my legs and push him forward with my body. And I didn’t have to kick. My confidence skyrocketed. I thought, we were well on our way to becoming good friends. We walked for a while comfortably and I thought I understood his style. Slowly picked up a trot and we were good. Another round of trot went very well. Trot, walk and halt a couple of times was great too.
Third time I readied myself for a trot. Started with a slow trot and gradually gained speed. And the speed kept increasing I wasn’t sure why!
I got instructions to stop and I realized I was unable to stop. I looked at Sitar and told her he’s not stopping. She said “sit back,” I got more nervous and I leaned forward. She screamed “keep your feet away from him.” I tried and gripped the horse even tighter under fear. Leon Cavallo was doing his job and had no plans of slowing down as I was pushing him forward without my knowledge. He transitioned from trot to canter. I was confused and sat back and cantered. He went faster, I could hear Sitar saying “sit back and relax” in the background. Relax was the last thing on my mind. I held the neck strap and went with the flow. I could feel my heart throbbing. I knew what was coming next. I was confused and so was he. I mentally prepared myself to fly out of the arena in the next few seconds. Next thing I knew I was airborne; gladly I didn’t go out of the arena. I crashed into the wall, my head first and the rest of my body followed. I felt my body vibrate from head to toe and back a few times like the loops of standing wave. My helmet reduced and converted the impact into vibration, as I understand. If it was some other body part striking the wall, I’m sure to have a bone or four popping out and hanging loose. I winced in pain. I kept an eye on Leon Cavallo to ensure he wasn’t coming close to me. From the corner of my eye I saw Sitar running toward me and I relaxed my focus on him. Something weird was going on inside my stomach. It was hurting. I made some weird sounds holding my stomach leaning forward unable to stand or breath. Leon Cavallo brought me to my metaphorical knees. After all he’s a stud. Now I saw Bindu my other instructor in the arena holding Leon Cavallo. She witnessed my action packed performance from another school at a distance. She came running, I suspect, for Leon Cavallo. Everybody loves him. I lied down for a few minutes on the sand until I could breath normally. I started feeling the sand inside my boots, gloves, breeches and my underpants and I felt alive. I looked at Leon Cavallo standing still, in the center. I wasn’t sure what was going through his mind. Rumor has it that, people who rode Leon Cavallo once will not ride any other horse but him, whereas, I lasted 15 perhaps 20min with greatest difficulty. Sitar took over and rode him and he was a perfect gentleman.
I realized all he needed was a gentle push. I have the habit of gripping the horse with my legs when I’m nervous. That was my first mistake. Second mistake was to lean forward and facilitate my fall. I should have relaxed while holding on to the saddle, leaning back.
I got back on him and walked but I was not confident so much as to walk this time. I did walk him back to the stable but my heart was in my mouth.
I got a taste of speed and my respect for Jockeys went up a notch.
With the accident my desire for improving my riding skills only became stronger. I would be lying if I said the thought of quitting didn’t cross my mind. However it lasted for as long as two minutes in my mind.
Next day I rode Royal Secret. Like a good old friend he helped me gain my confidence back.
I fell twice in the last two years of riding. And Tara my instructor told me she must’ve fallen over hundred times. It will take at least seven falls to become a good rider and I have a long way to go. Gulp! It felt much better knowing that everyone falls. After the accident, I kept asking every rider and groom I met how many times they fell. Every single time I got the same answer. They fell several times and every fall made them a better rider. Like any sport it’s all part and parcel of the game.