I always choose to ride the difficult horses because I love a good challenge. When I was about thirteen, I started riding Pony-Pony. He was a chestnut mustang gelding who stood about 14.2 hands tall. He was quick like a bullet. He was also an incredible jumper even though he was on the smaller side.

Let me explain what it was like to ride Pony-Pony. He was VERY hard to stop. As soon as I would get in the saddle, he would want to go. It was like he had two gears. FAST and FASTER! I would spend most of the time while I was riding him just trying to get him to slow down. And when I jumped him, it was wild!

I had been riding Pony-Pony for a couple of months when the opportunity came up for me to enter him into a local horse show and compete in the jumper division. The jumper classes in a horse show are judged on height and speed. This was really the only class that I could enter Pony-Pony in with any hopes of getting a ribbon. The other classes that are judged on the horses calm demeanor and peacefulness would be a complete waste of time.

I was so excited on the day of the horse show. I polished my black tall riding boots. I cleaned my saddle and bridle. I washed my white saddle pad. I gave Pony-Pony a bath and soaped him up until he was shiny. And then I put pretty blue braids in Pony Pony’s unruly red mane. I thought we looked like a winning team.

There was a tangible excitement in the warm up area as I was waiting my turn to enter into the ring and jump the course of fences for my round. There were about twenty riders entered into this class. My turn came and I entered the riding arena. All eyes were on me and Pony-Pony. The bell rang and we were off. Jump by jump we made it through the round. We went clean! Only three riders had made it around the course with no jumping faults. So the three of us now had a jump off to decide the champion.

In a jump off, the jumps are raised, the course is slightly shortened, and it is timed. It was my turn to go. Once again I entered the arena and waited for the bell. It went off and Pony-Pony shot forward like a cannon ball. We cut corners and galloped towards the fences full speed. I was riding to win. And oh man, Pony-Pony was fast. The last fence was an in-and-out which means it was two jumps with one canter step in between. We made a crazy tight turn before the jump in order to get the fastest time.

But I didn’t realize that the girth on my saddle was loose. I had forgot to re check it before my jump off round. (The girth goes from one side of the saddle, under the horses belly, to the other side of the saddle and keeps the saddle on the horse, kind of like a belt.). As I approached the first part of the in-and-out after that tight turn, my saddle slipped sideways on Pony. Oh No! I didn’t want to stop! I was winning! So I jumped the jump even though my saddle was sideways. In the middle of the two jumps my saddle was now extremely sideways and almost underneath Pony-Pony. Thump! I fell off.

I was embarrassed and mad at myself for making such a stupid mistake. But I got up, brushed the dirt off my hunt coat, gathered up Pony-Pony who was standing in the middle of the ring, trying to sort out what in the world just happened, and walked forward.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. Embarrassment teaches you to be humble.

Humility is an important ingredient to kindness. And forgiveness is not meant just for other people who have wronged you. We have to learn to forgive ourselves for our own mistakes as well.

By Dana Mase

 Dana Mase is the founder and executive director of Ride Kind Therapeutic Riding, and equestrian director for The Ranch at Bethel, a therapeutic boarding school for girls. Dana’s column, called “Horse Time,” teaches inspirational life lessons learned from working with horses and people.“Horse Time” is featured in numerous worldwide publications. Dana can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 845-356-1464.