In 2009, I wrote this for my English I class in college. It’s about when I fell off Snip. (He didn’t intentionally throw me or anything like that–he never has, and after this I trust him with my life). I love that little horse so much. (This photo is taken by my “sister”, Audy, a few years ago).
It’s been nearly five years since I fell off of a friend’s horse, Snip, but it’s so vivid, it’s like it happened yesterday. The fall happened in the autumn of 2005, on a warm, slightly breezy day at the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Posse Arena, in Edinburg, Texas. My mom, sister Lauren, Snip’s owners the Bakers, and a friend of theirs, Frank Garza were around when it happened. The horse I was riding that day, Snip, is a shaggy, black-and-white, stocky little horse, almost pony-size, with a white crescent moon on his forehead, a white snip on his nose (the origin of his name), and two white socks on his feet. He has an overly friendly personality with a curiosity that gets him into trouble sometimes. He’s snuggly and reminds me of a teddy bear, but with an orneriness and stubbornness that are to be reckoned with. I re-trained him for his owners, getting rid of his problems with riding. He bucked when he loped, wouldn’t back up, didn’t keep his head up at the proper height, and didn’t turn well. Through his training, we forged a close bond. I love that little horse, and would do anything for him, and I found out that he would also do anything for me.
When my mom, sister and I arrived at the arena that day, I made a beeline for Snip’s stall. He heard my footsteps and poked his shaggy little head out of his stall to greet me with a happy nicker and a toss of his head. He pushed at the latched door, eager to get out. I smiled and went over to him and rubbed his cheek. He nuzzled me, searching me for his usual horsey treat—Oats ‘n’ Honey Granola Bar. I unlatched his door and went inside, him backing up as I did so. In his storage closet, which contained his lead ropes, his hay, his feed, and several of his other horsey things, I found his rope, clipped it to his halter right below his chin, and led him out. His stall door closed and latched, he followed me to the saddle barn. He stood still for me, as I got out the currycomb and started to brush him down, turning his head every now and then to look around at me and nicker. I talked to him as I brushed him, and once done, got out his bridle and slipped it over his head. Unclipping his lead rope, I put his reins over his head, and swung easily up on to his bare back. I usually prefer to ride bareback because it’s more comfortable and makes me feel closer to my horse. I rearranged my seat, bringing my legs up slightly to wrap around his sides, and scooted forward closer to his neck. My heels pointed down and inward towards his sides, the toe of my boots pointing up and outward, away from his sides, as I had been taught. I took hold of his reins more securely with my right hand, and took a chunk of his mane in my left. I sat up straight, my posture relaying the fact that I was calm, relaxed, and at ease on his back.
Settled on Snip’s back, I squeezed my legs and he responded instantly, walking over to the gate where I directed him. Managing a gate on horseback is a tricky thing. It requires cooperation from the horse and patience from the rider to get close enough to the gate to open it and close it again after yourself. Snip and I had worked on this many times before, and today he did it perfectly. Once past the gate, we walked out into the paddock. The smells of the stable yard, grass, and dirt—all familiar smells—along with the sound of my voice, which was relaxed, helped him respond willingly to my cues. I continued to talk to him, my voice gentle and encouraging, stroking his neck, as I started to warm him up. My legs were wrapped around his sides tightly as I walked him for a few minutes, and then trotted him for a few more after that. Going back and forth between walking and trotting for about thirty minutes or so, I had him plenty warmed up. My confidence and his responsiveness strengthened as we continued riding. I tightened my legs some more, nudged him twice with my heels, and smooched him, making kissing noises, and then said, “Come on, Snip, let’s go!” And with that, his gait quickened and we were off, galloping like the wind, and I felt free—as if I were able to do anything.
We were galloping, and my breathing, started coming faster my heart pounding in my ears in rhythm with the pounding of his hooves on the paddock’s hard-packed dirt. Snip’s breathing was also coming fast, but he was still calm, his ears were pointed forward and he was responding well to my cues. As we galloped, I saw things going by in a blur—the stable yard, the trees, the other horses. I felt in sync with his rhythm, as if we were one entity, and I rolled along with his gallop. His reins were relaxed in my right hand, and I held a chunk of his coarse mane in my left. The warm wind, with a force all its own, whipped my brown hair out behind me—a tail to match Snip’s.
The sky had changed from the late afternoon blue to the darkness of early evening, and I had just looked down and seen his hooves pounding into the ground, eating it up. Without warning, I suddenly felt him falter, and glanced down to see his right front hoof “catch” in a rut. And then everything was in slow motion. I felt him start to go down in a sort of bow with his left front leg straight out in front and his right front leg tucked underneath him hind legs scrabbling for balance. His head went down and with that I felt myself flying over his head. In the distance I heard voices of alarm as everyone saw what was happening. Trying to protect myself, I tucked and rolled, and as I did so, my head and then my body hit the dirt and there was blackness.
When I came to, I was lying on the hard ground, Snip looking down at me. I suddenly thought, Wow, he didn’t gallop off in fright, I thought he would have. He lowered his head nuzzling me as he stood there, and neighed softly. The reins were still in my hand, and a dull aching pain filled my body; the taste of grit was in my mouth, and the pain of dirt was in my eye. Pushing myself up, I leaned against Snip, then slipped the reins back over his head. I heard shouting and running footsteps, and Mr. Garza skidded to my side. I hardly noticed him because I was worried that Snip had hurt himself. He seemed to be okay, so I started walking back to the saddle barn with him and Mr. Garza as Mom, Lauren, Coach Baker, and Tom ran toward us. I sat down on a log, and Tom led Snip off to be walked and examined for any injuries. I was crying, full of pain, and scared for Snip. “Is he okay?” They answered me with worry in their eyes, “We’re more worried about you.”
Coach Baker, Mom, and Lauren led me up to the Baker’s mobile home, a few minutes walk away. Tom and Mr. Garza stayed with Snip to un-tack him, put him back into his stall and feed him. At their trailer, Mom took me into their tiny bathroom, and washed my eye out. To my slight shock, I found that I had scratched up my face pretty badly and that it was bleeding and had dirt and bits of grass in it. I had felt practically no pain from it other than a slight stinging. Mom washed it with soap and water, dried it, and then put medicine on it. I also found that my left arm would not straighten out fully without giving me pain. (For the next month practically, I was unable to straighten it completely).
Once I had been taken care of, I went back to the barn, filled with worry for Snip that he could have been injured. He was in his stall eating his hay, and when he saw me, he once again nickered happily, tossing his head, and pushed at the door wanting to get out and see me. I let myself in and hugged him. He put his head over my shoulder, and we stayed like that: my arms wrapped around his neck tightly and his head over my shoulder. I let him go, and we looked at each other. I talked to him for the next several minutes, taking comfort in his presence and in the fact that he was uninjured. Incredibly glad that he was uninjured, I gave him a kiss on the nose, told him goodnight and that I loved him, and left him eating happily.
From that evening’s fall almost five years ago, I learned if you fall off a horse, you get back on. And so I did the next day. I think that if it had been any horse other than Snip, it probably would have taken me longer to get back on, maybe even not at all. The fall had really shaken me up. But with the bond that we have, and the fact that he was still there when I came to, and was watching over me, instead of running off in fright like I thought he would, gave me the strength and courage I needed to get back on and continue riding him. He taught me to get back on, even if you come off, that it is okay to be scared, but no matter what, you do get back on.