when i was little, i used to eat sand, and many other yummy, crunchy, outdoor mineral-based things.  (and it hasn't done me any lasting damage at all, twitch twitch).  i thought i was over the habit, having had no sand-cravings whatsoever in the intervening 20-odd years, and even joked about it a couple days ago with some friends.  little did i know.

yesterday some friends and i went to check out a horse trekking place about an hour south of auckland.  we were booked in for a three-hour ride, and were joined by a fourth rider plus the guide.  the first stages of the ride took us down through beautiful farmland and valleys to the beach, on the west coast of the manukau harbor's south head.  the cliffs were misty and green, and the sea was pounding blue and brown, making for a spectacular landscape.  ours were the only hoofprints on the beach.  the horses knew as soon as we got to the sand that the best part of the ride was coming up, so although we kept them at a walk partway up the beach and back, they were dancing at the bits and raring for a run.

my horse, a dun mare named kahlua,  turned out to be a speed demon.  as soon as i gave her her head, we were off up the beach like a shot, although to my surprise she preferred to run up in the driftwood line, and nearly unseated me jumping a log.  i guided her back down to the water's edge, where the real excitement started. we had a fantastic gallop for a few hundred meters, until kahlua aimed to overtake the horse in front of us, but instead of passing politely, headed right up her tail.  i guided her off to the left, but she immediately shied at a rock, this time tossing me out of the saddle for real.  i slid down her right side (lightly clunking my head on the way down, probably against saddle or hoof) and into the deep black sand… with my right foot still stuck in the stirrup.

well, if kahlua was spooked by a stationary rock, she really didn't know what to do with a flailing body trailing off her right side.  so she kept running.  i was dragged for probably a few dozen meters, in which time i flipped myself over from back to stomach a few times to try to free myself and to see if any other rocks were approaching that i might get dragged over.  in the end i opted for stomach – fewer pounding hooves in front of my face, and i probably didn't want to know about oncoming rocks anyway.  and did i mention eating sand?  yeah, lots of that. 

in seconds, or minutes, or years, i came free and came to rest on my side.  at this point i knew i was fine – not dead and pretty sure nothing was broken, so the next few minutes were probably the worst for the onlookers, as i lay in the sand unmoving.  shortly i was able to take stock of my limbs and found that although my left leg, which had been flapping around under the horse, was very sore, nothing else seemed painful, including the foot and knee that had been snagged in the stirrup.  i was too dizzy to sit or stand for a while, but was otherwise completely fine, to my own and everyone else's amazement.  i did catch a ride back up the hill in a truck instead of on horseback, but other than the developing bruises on my leg nothing seemed amiss.  i spent the rest of the day with a light headache, icing and elevating my leg, and sleeping, and today can confirm that i actually i did get off with only bruises.  they even cover the normal day-after discomfort of sore infrequently used muscles. 

the most lasting effect, in fact, seems to be the sand, which i expect will gradually dislodge itself from my ears and eyebrows over the course of some months.  maybe i'll even be sandless again by the time i next go riding.  :)

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