up and over

Before heading off to work, my daughter always tells me if she has a jumping lesson scheduled for that day and what time it will be. She’s forever hopeful that I will come watch.

Days she is at work, I hold in the back of my mind an awareness that she’s working with horses and accidents might happen. When she’s jumping, my awareness is heightened. I’m not fretting and worrying, and most of the time I’m not even aware of my awareness, but when the phone rings, I get a slight ping of what-if panic, a little kick of adrenaline.

A couple weeks ago the phone rang. It was my daughter. She was supposed to be in the middle of a jumping lesson. Cue the adrenaline rush.

Her (at least it was my daughter and not the instructor, whew): Hi, Mom. It finally happened.

Me: Yes…?

Her: I fell off.

Me: Are you okay?

Her: Yeah, I’m fine. My mouth still has sand in it, but I’m going to go get another drink of water.

Then she filled me in about how the horse was going over the jump and did some weird wiggle thing mid-air and she went flying, landing ten feet away. Her shoulder and hip were sore, but otherwise she was just fine.

Her: I’m going to finish the lesson now. I just wanted to tell you.

She called again after the lesson was over. “It was the best lesson ever!” she said. “Now I know what falling off is like!” She made it sound like such fun that I wished I’d been there to see the drama firsthand.

Last week, at her behest, I showed up for a jumping lesson, camera in hand. I find her lessons super confusing because horse-speak is a completely different language. But it’s interesting, too. I always learn bunches.

For example:

*My daughter is doing “gymnastic jumping.” It’s called this because the horse is doing two consecutive jumps—he goes over, down, and over again. Voilà, gymnastic jumping.
*It seems like the lesson is as much for the horse as it is for my daughter. The horse is like a second person, opinionated and moody with a mind of his own. The instructor is forever asking, Did you start that canter or was that the horse? And the entire lesson centers around warming the horse up and then getting him in a good frame of mind for listening. It’s fascinating.
*The instructor can tell when the horse “has a poop in him” and whether or not he can wait to go. (!)

First jump.

Between jumps.

Coming off the second jump.

No mishaps occurred while I was there, though there was one point where the horse nearly went down.

It was over in a second and no big to-do was made, except for the instructor scolding the horse for being “sloppy.”

The barn is dark and there’s lots to watch, so it wasn’t till I got home and had a chance to study my photos that I saw even more of what is happening. Like how my daughter always chews her lip before taking the horse over the jump.

Also, I got to admire her makeshift riding boots: my old ankle boots with the mismatched laces. Classy.

This same time, years previous: clouds and apple pie.


  • Aleksandra

    I appreciate how this post follows one in which you urge in the comments section to "Do everything wrong intentionally so you get a feeling for what Wrong feels like."

    Love the pictures! And the experience for your daughter.

    • Jennifer Jo

      I'm impressed that you put two and two together! I didn't, until after the fact, but I've been mulling it over ever since. Mistakes are crucial to learning.

  • Rebecca

    I have really fretted about the day my son takes his first fall. And those kick-y hooves…! One of my husband's co-workers had his horse-riding daughter wear a suit that inflated on impact – kind of like a body air bag, I guess. Husband and I snickered to each other and then looked speculative.

  • LJS

    My daughter just learned to jump this week. I told her when she started we would go slow with purchasing things like fancy boots and breeches, but I went right out and got a very good helmet. I hold my breath too when she jumps but the look of pure joy on her face every time she goes up and over is worth the moment of mothering anxiety. Great pictures!

  • Mama Pea

    You captured some great shots! What a truly cool thing for your daughter.

    Years ago we met a young man who was very involved in steeple chasing. I (showing my ignorance) asked if he ever fell off his horse. He replied, "A good rider never falls off. He only gets thrown off." O-kay, then. So you can tell your dear daughter that she did not fall off her horse.

    • Jennifer Jo

      Back when this happened, I used the words "you got thrown" to my daughter, and she corrected me. She seemed committed to assuming full responsibility. Which makes me wonder: is she concerned that I'll think less of the horse if she admits that she was thrown? I should ask her…

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