We Ask The Industry: What is the Most Memorable Time You Fell Off a Horse?
It would be safe to say that most equestrians have fallen off a horse at some point in their lives. Maybe it was when they were young and first starting and had that one-of-a-kind pony that would dump you any chance he could and run back to the barn. Or maybe, it was equipment failure where you forgot to tighten your girth.
There have been quite a few falls during photo shoots as all the distractions sometimes make for some unsettling circumstances. One classic photo is Lucy Lewis falling off her horse Axle during a photoshoot with Mallory Beinborn (main image). Mallory captured the moment perfectly and, like all good equestrians, the unphased Lucy got right back on and got the perfect picture for her senior photos.
We compiled some great stories from top trainers and exhibitors in the industry. Do you have a memorable story of a time you fell off? Share it in the comments.
Lucy Lewis – That picture was taken for my senior pictures. I wanted some taken riding my horse with my senior prom dress on. Mallory Beinborn has been a family friend since I started showing open shows when I was eight years old, so it was only fitting she was the one to take my senior pictures too. I believe Megan was at a show with all our help and nearly all our horses, so Axle (my horse pictured) had just been waiting patiently in his stall for picture day.
The wind that day wasn’t helping the fact he was already slightly “fired up.” And by that, I mean he was ready to run some barrels. Mallory had asked if he starts acting crazy or I get thrown if she should stop shooting, to which I said, “of course not! Those are the best pictures!”
My long dress had tickled his belly (I can’t say I wouldn’t react the same), which all worked out fine because that picture is a gem. She captured the whole series of pictures, although that one looks pretty intense, I (and everyone but my mom) was laughing after, and I got right back on for this shot. Besides getting my dress dry cleaned four times, no one was harmed in making the photo. Haha! (Pictured here is the one taken after the fall)
Leonard Berryhill – One morning in August in Oklahoma City, I rode in my arena with others. It was probably over 100 degrees. A big sorrel hunter-jumper gelding was sent to us to put a lead change on. My assistant at the time was riding him and trying to get him to change leads, but she was rather timid, and it wasn’t working out. I was getting frustrated, so I decided I wanted to get on him. My assistant was 5 feet tall, but I decided to leave the stirrups at her length.
So, I get on and put my feet in the stirrups. I felt like a jockey at this point, and as soon as I put my leg on him, he took off and started bucking down to the other end of the arena. He wasn’t bucking that hard, but I had no control due to the length of the stirrups. I barely had my reins gathered up, so I decided to bail and hit the ejection button. I landed on my belly with my chin in the dirt.
I’m lying there trying to get my bearings when the first thing I hear is, “My baby!” My wife, Leigh was screaming that she needed to help her baby at the other end of the arena, so she tried to jump down off her horse, but her bra got hung up on the saddle horn, and she couldn’t move. It was one of the ranch saddles with the big horns. Her feet were dangling, yelling, “Get me down, get me down.”
Luckily, the horse she was on was calm. I was on the ground on the other side of the arena laughing so hard that the dirt on my face turned to mud. Leigh finally made it down to me and was so mad that I was laughing at her. The moral to the story is horses are faster than us – ride the horse down to the other end and then get off. The second moral to the story is high-dollar bras don’t break.
Nancy Sue Ryan – When I was working for Dave Page back in the 70s, I had my most memorable taste of the dirt. Dave had gone to the Gold Coast and left me at home. We had a 4-H gelding who was sent in for a tune-up. It had snowed in Texas, so the horses were left inside during the inclement weather. The first day when the snow had melted, I decided I better ride Dusty. I foolishly saddled and walked him to the very, very muddy arena. I clearly remember mounting him and walking him forward. He stopped to peruse the muddy arena. I kicked him forward, his head went between his front legs, his nose touched his belly button, and I went flying heels over my head flat into the cold, muddy arena. I never told Dave Page or anyone else until now.
Alyse Roberts – Back in the day, my sister and I were out riding our ponies in the field, and she fell off hers and was a little scared to get back on…so, I thought I could pretend to get bucked off my pony and fall off to show her it’s no big deal. Of course, when I fell off I ended up hurting my arm. I guess I didn’t know how to fall off gracefully. My sister, of course, laughed at me, and all was well after that.
Charlie Cole – Back in the late 90s, Jason and I had the opportunity to buy an incredible horse named Majestic Stardom through our great friend Mark Stevens. Majestic Stardom had won the three-year-old Hunter Under Saddle Futurity at the Congress and was crowned World Champion in Junior Hunter Saddle a year before we bought him. Unfortunately, his World Champion title was taken away, and he couldn’t show for a year, but it gave Jason and me the chance to buy him. We had to scrape the money together to buy him, and it was the most we had ever spent at the time, but we both knew he was a great horse and was breathtaking in the arena.
He was delivered to us at the Congress, and we were so excited we saddled him right up and took him to The Beef Barn arena to ride. The horse was very popular, and several friends went with us to watch me ride him. I trotted and cantered him around while Jason, Wayne Holt, and a couple of others watched. One of them suggested I try to change leads on him. I obliged because I am usually the lead change tester.
The arena was very small and full of horses. I galloped a lap, came across the diagonal and prepared to change leads. I gave “Reggie” a big ole kick when I got to the middle. He bucked so hard, I was launched over his head. Jason says I was trying to grab the saddle horn while I was already over his head.
I landed in a heap under Susan Scott’s horse’s neck. I had a rein in my hand and wasn’t letting go, so Reggie dragged me to the middle of the arena. I look over for my not so helpful crew watching me, and they are all doubled over laughing hysterically. We laughed about that story for years. Reggie went on to win another Congress title and numerous AQHA World Show Top 10s in many events. And yes, he ended up having a very nice lead change.
Beth Clemons – Probably the funniest and most memorable time I fell off a horse was my old palomino mare when I was a youth kid. I had just won the youth equitation. We had been required to do our rail work with no irons. I came out of the arena after they announced I was the winner, and as I was handed my prize, my mare Breezy Town decided she didn’t like it. She took off sideways, I dropped it, and she ran toward the announcer stand. I was sure she wasn’t stopping, so I bailed off the side right before she got to the steps. The show was at the Del Mar Fairgrounds/racetrack, and she ended up jumping the track fence before returning to her stall. I was embarrassed, and I remember apologizing to Sandy Arledge, who was in the announcer’s booth. However, I remember laughing about it fairly quickly after the event. Luckily I was young and just sore the next day.
Miranda Mitten – After getting settled back at home after the World Show and coming off John and Rooster’s big win, I went to the barn where I ride in Chino Hills, CA. I went to get one of Kerri McKay’s very broke lesson horses to work on some of the stuff I had learned at the World Show. I put my left foot in the stirrup and went to swing over my right leg, and before I knew it, I was trying to hold on while the horse took off bucking. I found my mouth filled with dirt, and my starched jeans were filthy. There isn’t quite anything like coming off of one of your highest moments to being reminded quickly that you can be back in square one in a heartbeat – a humbling experience. Luckily, nothing major came of it, and it became a good laugh for everyone that was there with me that day.
Beckie Peskin – Oh my….the falling off story that sticks in my memory the most was that my first 4-H pony used to toss me once EVERY spring. I only had a pasture to ride/practice in back then, so at least it was a soft landing each time. She was generally a wonder-pony. We always laughed that it was her way of reminding me each year that she could choose to be naughty if she wanted to.
Ashley Dunbar-Clock – So, it was years ago at the Temecula show in California that was always in July, so you could try to get any points you still needed to qualify for the world show. I rode a fellow trainer’s horse to fill the pole bending, and when I went in the pen, I got to the end to come back up the poles, and no one informed me that he would throw his butt around and not move his shoulder…so, I went one way, and his butt went another. I laughed a little, but it was really comical for everyone else. It was one of the most memorable falls, and I think the only time I have fallen off at a horse show.
Scott Reinartz – I was going out to get a photo for an ad. A herd of deer jumped out and spooked my horse. The photographer happens to have her camera ready. I did not fall off, but it was a close one.
Olivia Tordoff – My most memorable story of falling off a horse would be when I was thrown off a pony a few summers ago. It was my last year in youth, and I thought it would be a fun idea to trail ride Buster, the pony, with my friend Elliott. Unfortunately, we had a little mishap, and one of us grabbed the electric fence, which then shocked not only us, but also the pony. We both got dumped, and Buster the pony ran right back to the barn.
Nicole Barnes – My most memorable hit dirt story was at the Youth World, my last year of youth when I was showing Zippos Ace Of Spades. It was just a bit before the Horsemanship finals (picture: hair in a bun, makeup done, and black pants on), and I was working his turn around. He had a bit of a lazy streak and always performed best if we got him lighter for the class. I kicked once, and he scooted, and I got a bit off-center. And then I pulled and kicked again. I’m sure he had enough of that, and well, he zigged, and I zagged and landed right in the dirt. The most memorable part was him turning around and looking at me on the ground with an expression that said, “one point Ace, zero Nicole.” This incident was undoubtedly my fault, and he made sure I knew he was the one actually in charge.
Grant Mastin – The funniest moment I have had falling off a horse was in 2012 at the Congress. I had just gotten my new leather Congress jacket after getting Reserve in the Small-Fry Horsemanship. Unfortunately, my jacket got caught on the saddle’s horn while riding a horse. So, instead of just stopping the horse and fixing it, I decided that my best option would be to roll off the horse. I then walked back to the barn with dirt all over me, and my mom had asked me what happened, so I then had to explain how I was afraid to rip my new Congress jacket and thought my best option was to fall off.
Lauren Stanley – When I was little, I wanted to win an all-around with my western horse at one of the open shows. One of the last classes of the day was hunter hack over cross rails. It was doable for my western steed, but I was so nervous and tensed up over the “jump” and immediately fell off. It felt dramatic, and I swore I’d never jump again. Fast forward to 2020, and I found myself with extra time on my hands and the opportunity to try jumping for real. Unfortunately, I recalled my fall and almost didn’t do it. Thankfully, I overcame my fear and fell in love with jumping. I wish I had tried it again sooner.
Juliana Blackburn Baskin Arora – When I lived at home, I would come home from school and ride our horses that lived across the street. One of the horses, Cowboy, the best paint in the world, would tolerate my crazy requests. So one day, I went over to the barn, saddled him up, and started riding. The saddle was not tightened, and I slid off very gracefully. He just stood there and looked at me. People now sometimes tease me about my girth being too tight…guess they know why.
Paige Wacker – I’ve fallen off a handful of times. One time I was riding at Robin and Jenny’s when I was about 15 years old on one of their most broke, bomb-proof horses. This horse was a saint and super trustworthy. That day I was riding him, Robin was giving a lesson, the loudest crack of thunder went off, and the horse launched me forward off of him. I landed straight on my feet. Robin turned around (he didn’t see it happen) and was like, umm, why are you on the ground? He couldn’t believe it had happened.
Another time, I was riding a horse at Mark Baus’s when my boyfriend worked for him named “Wishbone.” I rode him a couple of times, and we got along super well, but I was warned of his alter ego…I didn’t longe him one day because I thought I could ride him through it. I gave him a relatively soft correction with my leg, and we took off across the arena like a bronco at the NFR. I held on for 8 seconds, but he did a dirty buck and bounced me off the saddle. My boyfriend came running over as soon as I hit the ground, asking if I was okay, and I said, “just go fix him, please.”
Carey Nowacek – One time, I fell off of my cousin Amanda Brightwell’s horse, Our Blue Moon. One of the kindest horses I have ever been around. She was in college, and I was still home. One day, I went out to the barn when Brad was out of town, and he had asked that I ride Fritz. I was young and naïve and didn’t consider that he had been on stall rest for a few weeks with an injury. I was playing around with a friend and was climbing all over Fritz. He broke in two, ran, and bucked around the arena a few laps before finally throwing me across the arena. I was fine, just a bruised knee and ego. You live and learn, I guess, haha.
Chelsea Carson – When it comes to falling off horses, I try to avoid it as much as any other trainer. Bailing is my first choice (if the opportunity arises)! I’ve taken quite a few tumbles, mainly as a young teen. Breaking out mini mules and donkeys for the neighbor (back when I was shorter in stature), deciding a hot summer day home alone was the perfect opportunity to break my mom’s 2yo bareback with nothing but a halter in the pasture (sticker bushes aren’t a great landing spot), or taking a quirky old mare and playing “racehorse” as she bolted out of a paddock stall. I would lead her and jump on quickly (note: listen to your mom when she tells you’re going to fall off and break something). More current events usually involve tack breaking and my mount becoming the ultimate opportunist. At that point, I reiterate my stance on bailing. Just make sure when you go right, they go left.
Do you have any funny stories to share? Tell us about the most memorable time you fell off in the comments.