Posted by: Realist | December 25, 2007

Got thrown today

I was cantering Montana through some fields today and he started bucking. After bouncing around for 4-5 bucks, I finally got thrown off. Fortunately, I wasn’t hurt, and Montana didn’t run off anywhere. I’m not sure exactly how I landed, but I recall near the end of my fall rolling backwards on my back and my head hit the ground lightly. Of course I was wearing a helmet so it didn’t even hurt, but I was aware that without a helmet and if the ground were rocky and hard, it could have been a different story.

Later, also while cantering, Montana spooked and jumped sideways several feet. I ended up leaned over to at least a 45 degree angle and almost came off. I think the thigh wings on the Australian saddle was the only reason I stayed in the saddle.

I’m fortunate I didn’t get hurt, and that shouldn’t let me downplay the significance of getting thrown. The reality is that getting thrown from a horse is a dangerous situation. I should try to learn from this experience and not just blindly accept it as something that happens when riding horses (even though that is also true).

One friend who was there said it’s better to lean backwards when a horse is bucking (kind of like a rodeo rider, I suppose), rather than lean forwards which is what I did instinctively. Of course, such a strategy has to be drilled into muscle memory, as there’s no way I’m going to calmly think of this in the middle of a bucking spree. And I’m not sure exactly how to drill such a response. Perhaps practice on a standing still horse? Perhaps mentally practice such a scenario?

I should also have immediately brought Montana to a halt, or at least circled him to slow him down, when the bucking started. I thought I’d ride through it and he’d settle out, but that didn’t happen. This reminds me of when I rode the neighbor’s horse, Paco, in our round pen and he was bucking the entire time. I hit him with a crop for each buck, and eventually he stopped bucking. But Paco is a small horse with a small movement, and the speed was controlled in the round pen.

As for the second instance, perhaps strengthening my inner thigh muscles might help. I wish someone made a fake horse that was mounted on wheels/rails which could be jerked sideways quickly as a training tool. I need to train my legs to clamp down when the horse jumps sideways.

When the three of us were cantering with Montana in the lead, I noticed that when Cedar tried to overtake us, Montana started speeding up into a gallop. It was as if he didn’t want to to give up the lead position. I wonder why that is. This means I may not be able to canter him if I’m not the one in the lead, which will probably be the case on any group ride.

I probably also need to do a lot of canter/halt/walk/stop transitions. I don’t think Montana is listening to me when he’s cantering, and I doubt I could stop him, especially if the other horses are racing ahead.

One interesting fact is that my wife lunged Montana for a solid 45 minutes before our ride.  He was puffing and sweating.  We thought he’d be too tired on the trail ride to spook or be bad.  I guess not.

I’m fortunate that I learned to fall/roll as a kid in Judo and young adult in Aikido. (It makes me think learning to fall should be required for equestrian sports.) I think that helps me from getting hurt from falling off a horse, as I instinctively roll out of it. But I also think that having some basic rodeo riding lessons might be beneficial. I sounds extreme, but the reality is that a horse which spooks suddenly in the middle of a gentle trail ride is dangerous, and I could use some training which can help in such a situation.

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