When my peers and I hit the dirt growing up, adult riders and trainers would tell us that we had to “fall of five times” before we could become good riders. Let’s be honest — if that were the case, I would have been an Olympian with a gold medal by my teens.
Clearly, the fifth fall was not the last for me. I didn’t (and I still don’t know) where adults got this number or why they felt the need to perpetuate the silly idea that a rider will magically become great after their fifth fall.
What about the sixth fall? Would we keep getting better? Or would our status of great riders be lessened with each additional fall after the fifth? When I was older and had fallen off more than double the recommended number of times on the path to greatness, I heard the expression: “If you haven’t fallen off a lot, you haven’t ridden enough horses.”
This I found to be much more accurate — or, at least, much more relatable in my experience.
But no rider — student or trainer — is perfect, so why is it such a taboo for trainers to fall from horses?
But now, as I continue my riding career into professional status, I have become paranoid about falling off.
We can all agree that great trainers have a whole lot of experience under their belts, which understandably makes them less likely to fall off. They have more experience with various naughty horse behaviors and rider-ejection maneuvers. But no rider — student or trainer — is perfect, so why is it such a taboo for trainers to fall from horses? I could accept the assumption that experienced trainers might be able to fall with more grace than those of us younger professionals, but we all fall.
A trainer should not be judged or looked at with less professionalism or seen as an inferior horse trainer for falling — so long as they handle the situation with professionalism. I believe it is what we do afterward that separate the true horsemen and horsewomen (the true trainers) from those who are just there to ride.
A real trainer acknowledges their part and doesn’t even consider blaming the horse for taking a bad step or bucking at a horse fly. A real trainer does not get off the ground with vengeance and handle the horse roughly and with malice. A real trainer looks at the students who witnessed her fall and says, “it happens.” A real trainer sets an example for the next generation of horsemen and horsewomen and is not afraid to fall.