Canter departs

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Thirteen years ago, my horse somersaulted and landed on me when we were cantering during a riding lesson. I don’t remember what happened exactly. We were canter down the long side at the end of the lesson and she felt magnificent: strong impulsion, light in my hands, and then something. The world spun and I slammed into the dirt face down between her legs. She kicked once with her back legs and hit my helmet on the temple. She looked around at me like “What are you doing there?” My right leg was underneath her body below the girth and still in the stirrup on the other side.

Isis’ canter had huge impulsion: every push-off with her back legs in a canter stride felt like someone shoving me. My core muscles would burn after riding that stride one time around the ring. It wasn’t a rocking chair, more like a rocket chair. All of her gaits were like that: splendid to look at but challenging to sit.

Except when she started tripping. She would fall to her knees sometimes, or other times it was like she couldn’t recover her movement and her legs wouldn’t cooperate. I never saw her trip because I was usually riding her when it happened. We would be trotting, and I’d feel her back leg give out like she had missed a step or her foot had landed in a hole. Dip, step, and keep moving.

After that accident, every ride on Isis was slightly terrifying. The once-desired feeling of cantering now posed a block, like a shut door locked by a traumatic event. Isis shifted her weight when I mounted, planting her feet to stabilize herself. We walked, her gait felt steady, until it wasn’t. The ground suddenly got closer as she fell to her knees then pulled herself back up and started walking again. Even footfalls most of the way around the ring, except in the back corner where one step on her back left missed a beat. My hips dipped to the right with her misstep and recovery. We resumed walking.

Do you ride a horse that trips? What if that horse has a metabolic disorder and has to be ridden or exercised in order to keep her medical issues under control? My hands shook after every ride. I was anxious before I would get on and anxious afterwards.

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