Friday, March 12, 2010
It's always harder when you're not in the irons...
As a rider, I spend a larger majority of my time on the back of 1000+lb animal who can't communicate through speech. There are some major risks with this activity, especially since my sport involves traveling at high rates of speed at obstacles that do no move. I calculate those risks every time I put my foot in the stirrup, and try to counter-balance them as much as I humanly can. I wear a helmet every ride (not a practice that I always had, but now, I do), I do XC in a safety vest, I make sure my horses are schooled to the absolute best of their ability (which includes letting them know that I'm ok with a stop, here in there, if they think we may not make it over to the other side on all fours), I "know how to fall" (meaning I spent a lot of time as a kid catapulting off my pony, on purpose, and tend to usually land close to my feet) and I have a very healthy fear for what I do.
I think people (eventers included) are made to believe that to be in this sport, you have to be a fearless individual, willing to risk life and limb to make it across the finish line. I can tell you that is NOT the case. I am afraid of heights, afraid of speed, afraid of a lot of things, but I am not afraid when I'm on a horse -- BUT again, I have enough FEAR to respect what it is I do everyday.
Recently, two good friends of mine were seriously injured on the same day in Georgia. Rebecca Howard and Jan Bynny are two riders that I have been lucky enough to know on a personal level for a while now (worked for Rebecca and trained with Jan), and I have a lot of respect for how they do what they do. To have them both injured on the same day, I think, put a lot of things in perspective for a lot of riders (that, in addition to the injury to Courtney King-Dye), including myself.
However, what I did not calculate, was the effect that those falls had on the people around me --the people who don't feel comfortable slinging a leg over a horse everyday and taking off through the field.
Believe it or not, horse people have non-horsey friends, and those non-horsey friends quite frequently don't really 'get' what it is we do, and how we do it. Yes, it's a 1000+lb animal, who thinks and acts for itself, and yes, they seem big and scary, and yes, my friends have been seriously injured doing exactly what I do everyday... BUT it's what.I.do.
My SO, who once had no problem slinging a leg over a BULL (I think horses seem way nicer), is really on the fence about my sport. He worked with Rebecca and knows her very well, and I think to see someone that HE knows personally effected like this hit him very hard.
I have tried to remind him that in his former sport, even when you did well (rode out the 8 seconds) you still had to fall off a bull who was trying its darnedest to injure you... that argument isn't working. :)
But, you know, as I'm sure any coach or parent who rides will tell you, it's so much easier when it's your feet in the irons. I watch my students do 18" cross rail courses and no one likes to stand by me cause I get very nervous when they are in the rings (I've even been known to leave nail markets when someone throws in a chip stride). The kids are fine, I have confidence in what I've taught them to do, BUT I also know that you can't control everything, and sometimes accidents just happen.
I do know those accidents are just so much easier to deal with when it's you in the irons.
P-Diddy and I head this weekend to Southern Pines Horse Trials for a last jaunt around the XC course before teh 3-Day (which is just 3 short weeks away!). I'll be updating via the CHorseEventing Twitter/Facebook (found on the left hand column). Here's to having safe rides for everyone this weekend!!!!!