Reno is my BLM mustang who was captured by the government during the horrendous Calico round-up in Northern Nevada. In fact, his HMA (herd management area) Granite Range is the setting for my current work in progress.

Over time I’ll tell you Reno’s whole story starting with his capture, but for now I’ll tell you about yesterday, because today yesterday is hard to forget.

Mmm, Reno is a Little Chubby

One thing Reno has difficulty with is saddle fit. He’s a large chested horse with a round back that is shorter than most horses.  Reno has a special gel infused saddle pad for his western saddle. For those of you who are unfamiliar with saddle types, a western saddle is the kind cowboys use and an English saddle is the kind used in the Olympics, or by Queen Elizabeth.

I’m always working toward making Reno more comfortable and  yesterday I  decided to give the English saddle a try because it’s smaller and lighter than the western. I don’t like to use the English saddle on a green (less than trained) horse because there is more chance of being hung up in a stirrup iron if you have a problem. Hung up meaning everything but your foot disconnects from the horse.

Okay, maybe you haven’t picked up on the trend yet—special saddle pads, concern about his comfort. You already know from the post Morning in the Barn  he has a “hungry foot.” And there’s more I won’t divulge today. Suffice it to say Reno’s a tad spoiled. I figured it was my prerogative.

Special Consideration

I’ve always ridden Reno the horse whisperer way with a rope halter and cotton rope reins, no bit or bridle.

I use a mounting block to get on the horses because I’ve found that as I’ve aged is not as easy to heft this body from ground level to horse level. Reno has learned to stand by the box like a gentleman and wait for me to mount. Lately he’s taken to standing over the box (which is a really difficult way to mount because if he’s over the box I can’t stand on it) and other times he takes 1 step back just as go to put my foot in the stirrup, which messes with my senior citizen balance. We’ve always worked it out, but now that I think back it has escalated the tiniest bit over the past few rides.

When Reno did his mounting box avoidance maneuvers yesterday, I worked with him as normal, realizing with its shorter stirrups, mounting with the English saddle would not be as easy as  stepping into the western stirrup. But I managed a smooth mount, sinking gently into the saddle. 


Normally Reno stands until I tell him to walk. Yesterday wasn’t normal. He took two steps forward, buried his head between his front legs and began to buck like a rodeo bronc.

As Reno bucked his way around the corner and along the arena wall I realized four things.  He wasn’t going to quit, my left foot was too far into the stirrup, my right foot hadn’t had time to get into the stirrup, and we would part company…soon.

I’d like to tell you that my horsemanship skills made me able to make a miraculous save, but they didn’t. I didn’t even make 8 seconds, so no trophy buckle. About 60 feet later I hit the floor, first on the base of my neck then followed by my hip, as my foot released from the stirrup.

I’d forgotten the miserable feeling that accompanies having the wind knocked out of you and tried not to panic. Slowly the air came back into my lungs, and I did a mental body assessment. I had not hit my head ( I wear a helmet) but the pain in my neck back and hip was excruciating. Getting bucked off a horse at 69 years old isn’t so different than when you’re twenty, but it hurts a whole lot more …and you bounce a lot less.

Boy, is the arena floor hard. I sat there thinking, do you really want to do this anymore? The words that went through my mind are unprintable, but the answer was yes, so I got up, caught Reno and worked with him, all the while wondering if I was too injured to try again. As the pain sank in I realized it couldn’t be today. I was thankful to have the strength to unsaddle Reno and put his equipment away.

I learned a few things:

  • It takes longer than 20 minutes for 800 mg of ibuprofen to kick in.
  • 800 mg of ibuprofen does not last the full 4-6 hours. It barely makes 2 1/2 hours.
  • Soft rope reins still cause rope burns. I’ll wear gloves in the future.
  • A rope halter and gentle reins leave you at the mercy of the horse because you can’t pull his head up from buried between his knees. Reno will wear a bit and bridle in the future.
  • Sometimes the rules of riding, such as get right back on aren’t always possible.
  • Every horse can buck
  • If you ride much, you will fall off. The longer you ride the more you will fall off. I’ve ridden for just under 60 years and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hit the ground. It’s been a lot. Enough.
  • My horse is spoiled and that’s not okay. Be indulgent and you’ll pay the price.
  • Never over tighten an elastic girth.

Last evening I felt like a failure, disgusted and angry. After all, this is my life work and mustangs are a cause I champion. Sleep was miserable and getting out of bed this morning was comical. I can’t tell you how many parts of my body hurt with the kind of pain that makes you nauseous.  ARGH!!!  I spent most of the day reading a book with my mind rejecting the idea of writing a blog post. I was too sore to type and too fogged to think.

But Then I Realized Something

If my love of riding dies, it will kill my enthusiasm for the blogs and the stories I write.I have a lifetime’s worth of education and experience with horses. This isn’t the first time I’ve fallen. I’m in this untilI’m finished.

Thanks for reading what Reno Taught Me about Rodeo.

Barbara Ellin Fox 


Lifetime horsewoman, Barbara weaves her extensive background with horses and their people into exciting stories about happily ever after for men, women, and horses. Barbara also enjoys helping others with horses and writing.

  • Oh my, Barbara! Thank the Lord you’re okay! Praying for your pain to cease, mouth and body. It is important to get back up and do it again, it makea you stronger when you do. Beautiful post.

    • Hi Stacy

      Thank you so much. You’re right, of course. I think it won’t be for a little bit but I really want to enjoy my horse and he’s been so good up to this point. Thank you for your prayers. Blessings. Barbara

  • I feel your pain. My Arab mare launched me a few years ago (still in my 60’s) and getting back on her was really, really hard. These days I always wear an air vest along with the trusty helmet. Thankfully I’ve yet to deploy the air vest and hope I never do, but it gives me a bit of security knowing it will help cushion the fall.

    • Hi Karen,
      I think this probably will be hard for me too, too. I had this picture of a bronc with the halter and lead rope coming out of the chute! Do you still have and ride your mare? I know you bought a lovely new horse a few years ago. I might have to look into an air vest. It’s a smart idea. You know that point when you know you’re coming off? I don’t like that feeling, at all.The best to you and your horses. Barbara

      • I no longer have the Arab mare. She had several health problems and eventually had to put her down. She never bucked with me again (after a few months of intensive training) and I even did a 50 mile Endurance ride on her with just a rope halter. I got the air vest after a friend I was riding with got suddenly launched and broke her collarbone. We don’t bounce as well as we once did. I still have two horses. My 22-year old 99% reliable Paso Fino gelding and the young Kentucky Mountain mare. She has proven to be pretty steady so far.

        • Hi Karen,
          Yes that’s the sad part of our horse life, having to put one down. This has been our year for it. I love that you did a 50 mile ride with your mare. I’m no longer interested in the show ring and just want my horse to love going places. I can’t get enough of the fresh air and the birds singing. I’ve looked for a younger/trainer to ride here but they seem to have an aversion to green horses especially if they are mustangs. Which do you like the gaits of best, the Paso or the Kentucky Mountain horse? Barbara

          • I haven’t ridden Lily (the Mountain Horse) enough to compare her gait to Widget’s (Paso). So far though, she’s been pretty comfortable. A few things I’ve been doing that have improved my riding is bicycling and joining a gym. The bicycling greatly improved my balance and stamina. Before I started bicycling, I was starting to feel unbalanced on the horse and thought it was just age related. I had a foot problem which made walking painful, so got a bicycle to exercise the dog and discovered what fun it was. Then I noticed how much more balanced I felt on the horse. I’m in much better shape but I still need to use a mounting block, or picnic table, or tree stump, or ditch to get back on the horse!! Luckily I have short horses.

          • Hi Karen,
            I’d love to go bicycling again and have a great bike in the garage but I can’t ride it here. Maybe it’s time for a carrier for the car. I can see where it would be a terrific idea for regaining balance and being outside. Thanks for the suggestion. I think I’ll always use a mounting block now. I have to laugh though, years ago am older student bought a contraption for mounting that extended from his stirrup and then after you got on you took it off. His horse was about 14.2 hands and the extender would make him swing under the belly. But then again he usually forgot to tighten his girth when he trail, too. He finally bough a 12.2 hand Icelandic. Barbara

  • Oh. Dear. Barbara. I can so relate! I’ve been flipped off my horses more times than I care to imagine. Once was nearly into a truck bed of metal. SO thankful you are okay, and I hope the pain’s lessened some? Not sure how you feel about chiropractors, but that neck pain…ouch! I hope you didn’t pull something worse.

    • Hi Tisha,
      Thanks! Now that the primary pain has eased, all the little lessor pains have come out to play but it’s progress. I’m so glad the trucks were not close. The ground was hard enough! Maybe a chiropractor once the bruises are gone. Blessings, Barbara

  • So many very close parallels Barbara that it is uncanny; I do feel for you.; the saddle , the bucking, the impact with mother earth and in my case mostly my own fault for being impatient to ride an, as yet, untrained horse with a saddle that I knew did not really fit. And yet it was this horse, a thoroughbred, who became in a short time more than a friend, more like my son or my brother and the most delicate ride ever. You know my dictum — If a horse not doing what you want or is doing what you do not want it is usually our fault; something we have done or have not done or have failed to notice. Stay well Barbara.

    • Roger,
      Thank you for your encouragement. And of course you are correct as always. Part of me knew Reno needed more ground work but I’ve listened to others and felt like I’d become too lunge line dependent and that I needed to toughen up. Reno is a wonderful horse but he is also very strong and full of energy and I could be a whole lot stronger myself- if I put the time in. So yes, I’m not blaming Reno for being a horse and yes it sounds like we are so much alike. But I think we’ve always known that. Blessings to you, friend. Barbara

    • Lara,
      Thank you. I’ve had to pick myself up more than a few times! But I think about others of God’s warriors and what they actually go through and I laugh at what a wimp I am. It is true if God be for us, who can be against us. Thank you for those excellent words. Barbara

  • Oh, Barbara! What a painful experience! I hope you had someone there with you, and I’m glad you didn’t get hurt any worse. I’d never trust a horse without a bridle and bit for control, and even then accidents happen.

    By the way, this isn’t a recommended method of finding material for your blog. 🙂

    • Hi Linda, you’re right. It hurt.I’m limping around and Reno’s grazing. The bum. Not having anyone there at least saved me from trying to answer questions when I couldn’t breathe.

      I may not be able to travel everywhere for actual experience in settings (I wish) but at least this was genuine! I’m hoping not to have many more of this type of hands on post.😉 Kristi and Rylie would have mastered the situation. Barbara

  • Reading that I think we must have had twin experiences. I did almost exactly the same as that but 13 years ago and at much the same age. It hurts ! I had just got Leader and was anxious to ride him He had very high withers and I knew that the borrowed saddle did not fit him, But I so wanted to ride him so with two padded saddle clothes I mounted. Before I had got my other foot into the stirrup iron he took off. He bucked and I knew, as one does, that I was taking the quick route down. It hurt and I spent the next few hours in bed. I am glad to see that you are still riding. I stopped at the age of about 78. Best wishes to you and Reno

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