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We're not horsing around
My husband, Rex (names mentioned have been changed) and I took up riding in 2014, when once a month we would drive to Box Hill, north-west of Sydney in the rural outskirts. Our riding instructor, Sandy was an agile woman in her late sixties, with a  keen eye for detail, lots of patience and a no-nonsense approach to horses. “Be firm, but kind”, that was her motto.

Sandy was well-respected in the local equestrian community and stabled a few horses for other owners on her property. They would let her use their horses for lessons as it kept them exercised. We learnt the correct way to approach a horse, adjust the length of the stirrups and to check if the girth is secure on the saddle. Shoulders down, back straight, eyes front, heels down, toes pointed straight-and-forward in the stirrups.

Somehow I found it easier to keep my seat without stirrups. Sandy made us do that at the start of each lesson to ensure that we focused on our balance. I usually rode Jessie, a dainty red chestnut mare about fifteen hands high. She was easy to mount with the help of a tree stump. But I found her trotting rather choppy and it took a while before I could get into sync with her gait. I wasn’t very good at trotting.

Ellie was my husband’s regular mount and she was an Aussie draught (draft) horse. I think she had some Clydesdale (like the Budweiser ad) or Shire, crossbred with a bit of Thoroughbred thrown in. She was a big girl, with a dark glossy bay coat, about 19 hands and taller than his 6’ 2” build.

One day, while Jessie was away with her owner, Rex and I had to share Ellie for the day. After little Jessie, Ellie was HUGE to me. Since I’m only 5’1”, she towered above me. I needed to climb up the mounting block just to get into the saddle. It was scary at first sitting astride Ellie; I felt very far from the ground. Her back was broader than I was used to and my legs didn’t quite wrap around her sides. Still, I had to do my usual circuit around the paddock, hands on head, feet out of stirrups. Sandy held the lunge rope to lead the horse around – it was safe enough.

After a while, I felt really comfortable on Ellie and began to enjoy myself. Her stride was long, flowing and smooth. It was like sitting in an armchair, while being moved around. I closed my eyes and let myself settle into an easy rhythm, moving with the swaying gait of the horse.

Our riding instructor was pleased with me that day. My seat had improved and my back was nice and straight. I couldn't help preening a little. Sandy doled out praise with a sparing hand. When my lesson ended, Sandy asked Rex to stand next to Ellie and help me dismount. The usual practice is to dismount from the left, but for some reason, he stationed himself on the right side of the horse.

I didn’t realise that he was meant to be there for me. Before anyone could stop me, I swung my right leg over Ellie’s rump, took my left foot out from the stirrup iron and promptly released my hold from the pommel of the saddle –

And went a long, long way down.

Remember the expression: “Time seemed to stand still”? A strange calm settled over me. I heard a quiet voice in my head, reminding me how I used to do ‘tumbling’ exercises during martial arts practice as a teenager.

I breathed in deeply, exhaled again slowly and a curious melting sensation went over my limbs. It was as if my body suddenly went “boneless”. It took a long, loong, looong time to touch the ground. Time stretched for a while like a rubber band.

At length, I landed on the hard-packed sand of the riding paddock. My right shoulder took the main impact of my bone-jarring fall. Right in front of my eyes, were two pairs of dark hairy hooves as large as saucers. I distinctly heard an urgent command: “MOVE!”

I tucked my arms and legs into a ball and immediately rolled away from those great saucer-like, iron-shod hooves. A moment later, they stamped restlessly with a resounding THUD.

Rex and Sandy rushed up to me. Sandy quickly secured Ellie and kept her calm despite the huddled figure near her feet. I took my husband’s hand, got to my feet unsteadily and gingerly checked that all my movable parts were in one piece. Having a fall from that height, particularly when I was no longer a youngling, was no laughing matter. Sandy marvelled at how I hadn't even cracked a bone or sprained an ankle. All I suffered was a stiff shoulder for a few hours and the dent to my pride.

As the Good Book says: "Pride goeth before a fall". But I was fortunate that someone – perhaps my guardian angel? – was clearly watching out for me.
There's life...and then there's the afterlife.
Or perhaps simply the spirit of someone who cares about you?  A parent or sibling or maybe just a fellow equestrian who had taken a liking to you?  If you could go back in time, would you search the area for a bright, shiny dime?

; )
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You could be right about family members and friends being guardian spirits. Who knows? Don't we all have that impulse to take another route and find out we'd avoided being in a nasty traffic jam? What about people who somehow missed being on an ill-fated train, bus or plane journey? I've heard from people who said they were mysteriously pushed aside or jerked back from the kerb, narrowly escaping being run over. I just wish I had one of those lucky hunches to buy the winning Lotto ticket!

Haha - don't get dimes here. But I did go through a period when I kept finding 5-cent pieces. On the street, at home, even in my drawer at work. Hmmm, that was kinda weird too. Now you've got me thinking... Icontexto-emoticons-10-032x032
There's life...and then there's the afterlife.

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