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Abby Hansen

Back in the Saddle

The crisp, winter air wrapped around, cooling me as the chestnut mare, named Cinnamon,
cantered along at an aggressive speed. As she turned, dirt flew from her large hooves that kicked it up
from the ground. Julie, my trainer, instructed me to take a straight line of fences angled to face the
corner of the arena. Seeing the fences, Cinnamon perked her ears and quickened her pace in
excitement. I relaxed and let her go by taking the pressure off of the reins that connected to her mouth.
Weve got this, I thought with full confidence in the mare. First fence, shes off, flying even faster.
Second fence, she leaps and stretches over it. She had to jump as far as she could because she had
jumped too soon. Now, she was faster than ever before, and there was almost no room for us to move.
The corner of the arena was coming up, but she had the wrong lead in her stride. She needed to stop or
change leads. If she didnt, she would lose her balance, causing her to fall on top of me.
Though, I should have known something horrible would happen. Horses arent as dumb as
people always think. I have never asked Cinnamon to change leads while cantering, but she wasnt going
to run into that corner. With the best agility Ive ever known, she turned on a dime. Whered she go? I
no longer felt anything below me. What I felt instead was my back on the wall and then the ground. I sat
up, and Cinnamon was a few feet away, staring behind her with a look of curiosity.
Shaking as I stood, I walked up to her and grabbed the reins. Julie began talking, saying
Cinnamon took the lead change but my upper body wasnt turned with her. Nodding, I stepped up to
the mounting block and sat back in the saddle. I took her back to same line of fences again, but my mind
was screaming, No. I tensed tight and pulled back on Cinnamons mouth. She stopped before the fence,
and I almost flew out of the saddle again. But, it wasnt her fault I almost fell again. I had told her to
stop. I knew I needed to relax so she could have the freedom to move, but I just couldnt. All trust for
Cinnamon was gone. Turning and coming back around to the same fence, we miraculously made it over.

Inside I was still begging to be done. There were no more accidents for the rest of the course; however,
there were many refusals. Once my feet had hit the ground, I felt a wave of relief wash over me. I
decided I was done riding for at least a while.
Later that day, I was working in the back of the barn. A dull headache throbbed in my head.
Diane, an instructor, stood by the white board that was marked with work that still needed to be done.
Can you ride Lance today? she asked as she scribbled other horses names that needed exercise onto
the board.
Sure thing, I replied. I couldnt refuse work, and I didnt want to look frightened and weak. If I
refuse to ride Lance, Julie will find out. She might set me back to lower fences, and I cant go backwards.
Ive just got to get over these stupid nerves. Walking over to another exhausted worker I said, Hey
Anna, Diane asked me to ride Lance. I think Ill hop on him now. Anna peered at her watch and nodded.
After grabbing all the equipment I needed I quickly brushed off his golden red coat. Throwing
pads and the saddle on, I got him ready and headed into the arena. After the incident earlier, I planned
on a short ride.
Christmas had passed a few days ago, and a large dark-green wreath was in the corner of the
viewing area right by the front of the arena. I hardly noticed it, but the world was so frightening to Lance
that he would shy away from anything, including that wreath that some idiot decided to place there.
Every time I rode past it, Lance would jump to the side. Alright, well just turn early so he wont have to
see it, I decided, believing it was the best solution. Soon enough, he was warmed up and we could start
going faster. As we cantered at a quick pace, I turned Lance early before reaching the wreath. However,
now he was running towards a large mirror glued to the side of the ring. Upon seeing himself in the
mirror he believed it was another horse coming at him. He quickly turned around to face the opposite
direction, but I didnt. Crashing into the ground for the second time that day, I couldnt stop shaking, and

my headache grew even worse. I stood up and Lance stopped a few feet away. I grabbed the reins to
regain control as Diane entered the arena with her students and their horses tailing behind.
Are you okay? Diane asked.
Ya, Im fine, my voice was shaking. But why? I asked myself. I am fine. Everything is fine.
Falling off is OK. Im not hurt, I reassured myself. Mounting Lance once again, I finished my ride knowing
I had to even though I didnt want to. I had to show myself I was OK. But, it was the worst way to start
winter break.
Cinnamons owner had left for the whole holiday which meant I had to ride Cinnamon every day
for the next two weeks. I regretted ever agreeing to ride Cinnamon so much. I wanted a break from
riding so horribly. No matter who was underneath me, whether it was Cinnamon, or lazy lesson horses
that were ridden for work, I was petrified on top of a horse. All I could think during every ride was
getting off. Even Patty, whos a short, fat pony and could never run off or pull something on you, was
still a nightmare to ride.
However, the next week came by, and my parents had already paid for lessons that month,
which meant one lesson a week. So Monday I bumped up and down the gravel road in my dads car as I
tried to prepare myself to jump Cinnamon again. While I was getting Cinnamon ready, my stomach
churned, and my hands wouldnt stop shaking. Then, once I was on her back, I couldnt focus on
anything but the worst possible scenarios. At one point, as we trotted around, I could hear a thud in a
room above as someone dropped the lid on their trunk. Here we go; I worried about Cinnamons jumpy
nature. Her head popped up while she took off for a couple of strides. As I yanked on the reins she came
back down to a brisk trot. I looked over and could see Julies back was turned towards me. Why didnt
she see? Shes needs to see. She needs to tell me what to do. I dont want to ride! Cinnamons going to
kill me! Doubt galloped through my mind, as there was nothing else to do on top of the horse.
Julie began to set up a single fence near the outer edge of the ring.

Lets start with this vertical, her voice echoed through the arena.
Oh God. Oh God. Oh God. Maybe I can ask Julie to not let me jump today. No Ive got to do this.
Ive got to get over this. But I dont have to get over this today. I could try again some other day. No just
do it. Trust Julie. Youll be fine. Line her up straight to the fence. Cinnamon perked her ears at the fence
now straight ahead of her. Just keep your calves pressed against her. Tell her to go and she wont be able
to refuse. The fence was a stride ahead of us, and I stood in position. Cinnamon rocked up and I gasped
while gripping tightly onto her mane. She came crashing down and I pushed back on her neck.
Im gonna throw up. My head began to spin and the arena seemed to grow brighter and brighter
making me feel even worse. We took the same fence a few more times. Thankfully they were all
successful with no refusals. But, I still didnt feel any better as Julie set up a course with different lines of
After explaining the course, Julie declared, Canter in, Abby. Every fence felt like a disaster just
around the corner. All I could do was keep my legs wrapped tightly around Cinnamons barrel and pray
that everything would turn out OK. Throughout the course I felt like I wasnt breathing. I could hear my
breath but my lungs felt empty. Finally, we made it over the last fence. It was done. My head started to
clear, but my stomach was still twisted. Even walking didnt feel safe. The others cleared the course and
I begged for the words, Ok were done for today, to escape Julies mouth. But that would have been
too easy. Julie said I had to take the course one more time. Since we were almost done with the lesson, I
guess there was no point in quitting now. I asked Cinnamon to canter and we began our course. I could
finally feel myself breathing again, and a little bit of nausea had left my stomach. We cleared the course
with no refusals and no falling. It turned out so much better than I had hoped.
Once I was off and putting Cinnamon away, I found a little bit of trust had been restored into the
chestnut mare. With many more weeks and months of no accidents, I grew comfortable in the saddle
again. Even when changing weather made Cinnamon extra frisky, I wasnt afraid. Eventually, we were

able to take on bigger fences and she listened to more and more with each ride. We practically became
one. Though eventually the leasing came to an end, I still give her pat whenever I pass her by.