Have you all seen this video that's making the rounds on Facebook? If not, it shows a rider doing a pretty tough jump course, and the horse stumbles and falls, trapping her beneath him. The horse remains motionless as other riders and grounds crew rush to the rider's aid by flipping him over, freeing the trapped rider.
Fortunately for me, Austin's owner was sitting on a bench watching me ride. Everything was going well. I was working on my h/j position (still enormously funny) while I put Austin through his paces. We had finished up with some canter work and were doing some trot circles and serpentines. He was getting a bit heavy in the turns and wasn't really listening to my half halts.
As we came through the corner at a slow trot, I felt Austin lose his balance behind. He stumbled in the front, but I hoped he would catch himself. Suddenly, all I could see was the dirt fast approaching, and I knew he was going down. Initially, I worried that he was going to summersault on top of me, but he managed to gain a little bit of control.
Instead of flipping over, he fell to the side with me still sitting on him. I hit the dirt softly, but my left leg was underneath him. He didn't move a muscle. I let go of the reins and dragged my leg out from underneath him. Once I was completely out of the way and standing up, he slowly heaved himself back to his feet. By the time he was back on all four legs, his owner was beside him checking to see if we were both alright. When Austin went down, I went out of sight, which worried her greatly. She thought I was completely underneath him.
I've heard people talk about horses taking care of their riders, and I can now say it has definitely happened to me. I could have been seriously injured, but I know that horse was completely aware of where I was, and he did everything he could to avoid hurting me. Even though he was trotting, he tried so hard to keep his balance. I've mentioned before that he's a skyscraper. The dude is a solid 17 hands with a body to match his height. He's huge.
Even so, he went down as softly as he could. And when he hit the ground with me underneath him, he held himself up so that he didn't put all of his weight on my leg. I was able to drag myself free and and stand up without a single smudge of dirt on any part of my body other than on my hip and leg.
We walked Austin around and he looked okay. He does have a bit of a stifle issue on his left side which we think caused his fall. We think the stifle may have locked up a bit, causing him to lose his balance in the hind end. His toe probably caught the dirt which caused him to stumble in the front. He's closer to having his AARP card than he is to being carded so these things happen occasionally. The farrier is scheduled for today so we know his toes were at their longest which might have made it a bit more difficult for him to break over with that inside hind foot.
When it was all said and done, we were both okay (me probably more than him). And like I said, I am SO grateful his owner was there to see the fall. I felt terrible as it was even though I know I didn't cause him to fall, but explaining that to her would have been horrible. His owner took the whole thing in stride though and encouraged me to keep riding him.
I am not sure I could have handled watching my horse go down with as much grace and understanding as she showed. Have you ever watched your horse fall with another rider aboard? Have you ever fallen with someone else's horse? What did you do, or what would you do? I'd love to hear your story.