There was a lot I was willing to overlook when it came to Maddie, the new ex-racehorse at the barn that I would be helping to train. She was a chestnut Quarter horse/ Thoroughbred mix who needed someone to help her adapt to her new life as a lesson horse, and I was thrilled to get back into the realm of training that I had been somewhat sidetracked from when we switched lesson barns.
I was so excited for this change of pace, that I was willing to overlook the fact that she had bit my instructor in the stall one time (and the fact that my instructor felt that it was okay to hide that information from me), I forgave Maddie for the times her flight instincts kicked in on a trail ride for no apparent reason as she took off at a gallop up a hill while I did everything I could to stay in the saddle (luckily I did not fall), and I pretended to be okay after she took off again on that same trail ride, racing straight for the trees. I was more than willing to overlook all of it. After all, it was part of her training process and I was always up for a challenge. However, there are just some things your mother will not let you overlook.
My mom didn’t always go to our lessons. Usually our dad took us as he would go to work earlier in the morning (and, therefore get off work earlier) and he didn’t mind being around horses the way my mother did (to this day she remains “not a horse person” …or dog person for that matter, but that’s a story for a different time). So already with my mother tucked into the corner of the ring (in reflection, I don’t know why my instructor thought that this was a good spot for a chair or for my mother), this day was already set up to be special.
That day there were five of us in the ring on horses, plus my instructor who stood in the middle of the ring and my mother seated in the corner with her back against the fence (whyyyy?). In the center of the ring, a small jump had been set up on the diagonal. The five of us formed a line in the corner next to my mother’s corner and took turns heading to the jump, sailing over it, and returning to the line to wait our next task. I was at the end of the line per my instructor’s request. While I had jumped Maddie before, she was still somewhat green when it came to jumping since, you know, racehorses don’t do much jumping.
When it was our turn, we headed towards the jump. I was calm and collected knowing we had done a similar jump before and we hadn’t really had problems in the ring. Sure, she had problems out on the trail and with my instructor in the stall, but in the ring we had been pretty solid. Maddie was always one to keep you on your toes though, and that day was not any different.
Her ears perked up as we headed to the jump. I could feel the cool air hit my face a little harder as she picked up speed. We were taking the jump at a trot but I could feel her eager for more as we grew closer to the jump. When we got to the jump, we flew well over it. Her hooves hit the ground on the other side and before anyone in the ring got too comfortable with their smiles over a job well done for us, Maddie’s racing instincts kicked in. She sped towards the other horses but she didn’t stop there. She was off at the races and no matter how many times I asked for her to stop she was there to win.
Then she spotted it—her path, her escape route.
Attached to the ring was the red, run in barn whose doors were wide open. People know to close the doors to the barn so animals won’t get out, but no one thinks to close the barn doors so the animals don’t get in. Maddie headed towards those open doors full speed ahead and there was just enough time for me to see that we were taller than the barn with me on her back but there wasn’t enough time for me to do an emergency dismount.
I could hear my mother’s gasp as we charged at the red barn. Then there was the clap of hooves on the barn aisle as they came to a sudden halt. The silence, the anticipation, the collection of thoughts, and the sigh of relief exhaled from everyone as we all realized (for I’m not even sure I quite knew what I had done) that I had managed to duck down before my upper body would have hit the barn at a force that was sure to cause damage.
My mother, though relieved that I had not been decapitated right before her eyes, was not impressed with what she now considered to be the most dangerous sport people claimed to do for fun. Even though I pointed out that nothing bad had happened, that I had ducked and managed to stay on Maddie, and that we had gone back out in the ring and continued on with the lesson (with the barn doors closed this time), she would not be convinced into letting my sisters and I continue lessons. She promptly had my sisters and I give up horseback riding, but she wouldn’t be able to keep me out of the saddle for long.