Thursday, February 24, 2011

the beauty of flight

Do you believe that falling off is a decision that the rider makes right after they decide they're not capable of hanging on?

I've discovered that if Lucy is being stupid and I tell myself, "I WILL NOT FALL OFF", I typically manage to hang on.

If she's being stupid and I start doubting myself and think, "ok, I am going to eat it in three seconds," then I fall off in three seconds or less, guaranteed.

If you're riding with an instructor and your horse does something naughty that unseats you and may or may not carry on across the ring, your instructor is probably standing in the middle of the ring hollering at the top of his/her lungs at you:

  • "SIT UP!!!"
  • "PICK HER HEAD UP!!!!"

I have had enough instances of this kind of instruction (which is invaluable and half the battle is getting those demands ingrained into your brain and then starting to expect them from yourself) that I am able to silently yell at myself as Lucy is cavorting around.

This came in handy yesterday. The whole time she was going haywire across the ring I was chanting inside my head, "I will NOT fall off. I will NOT fall off. I will NOT fall off." I interjected this chant periodically with reminders to pick her #$*%&$ head up and get this beast under control.

Falling off hurts and it is embarrassing, and all it means is that I have to dig the dirt out of the back of my jeans and brush it off my face and catch my horse and drag her over to the mounting block and get back on and muster up the energy and courage to do it all again. Later that night I get to go home and admire my new bruises, and then I hobble around for the rest of the week like a 80 year old lady. If that's not bad enough, I have to go spend $70 on a new helmet before I can ride again.

The whole buying a new helmet thing is almost persuasion enough not to fall ever again.

So I am curious whether you think your falls are a result of g-forces beyond your control that literally propel you out of the saddle, or if you make a conscious decision to "bail". If you decide mid-buck that you are going to stick it out no matter what, are you able to stay aboard? Or does ponykins override your power and send you packing anyway?


  1. I think it definitely comes with experience. I seem to fall off no matter what I try- but I'm a relatively new rider. Thankfully my horses aren't stupid too often. I watched a very experienced rider get on a horse with issues on Sunday. He was perfect until he had his mental break down. She stayed on him awhile but bailed when she knew it was getting dangerous (he woulda fallen on top of her if she didn't get off). If you can learn to ride through the stupid then you will stay on. but I don't think g-forces are gonna keep you on when they are deliberately trying to get you off ;)

  2. I have a friend who has only ever fallen off about 3 times despite owning a horse and riding alone for most of her childhood. Why? Because she was more afraid of falling off than of anything the horse would do while she was on.

    Not saying it works for everyone, but it sure worked for her.

  3. I think falling off is something of determination and skill. If you tell yourself you can stick anything and won't fall off, then usually that works (it does for me) and you don't fall off. But, having a seat of steel (or glue) also comes with experience. The more you learn to use your legs and center of gravity, you'll fall off less and be able to sit more.

    Don't forget there are also things beyond your control - like slippery ground. One of my most recent falls was summer (wow that was a long time ago!) when the ground was really slippery. I was riding bareback. Cantering around a corner, my horse slipped and fell on his side. I totally wiped out but remembered to move my leg so it didn't get crushed. The EXACT same thing happened to my instructor's sister while she was riding her horse with a saddle. Some things you can't control!

  4. hey I just found your blog from Grey Brook Eventings blog and I wanted to let you know I am following you, especially since you have an OTTB. Mine is one too, and if you ever have any questions or wanna compare riding techniques that'd be pretty sweet :) I've trained a handful of them, as well as my own. Its hard to find other riders with OTTBs. So yay!

  5. While there certainly is some skill involved I agree with you that there is also a mental aspect to it.

    I don't think staying on a bucking horse when you are relatively still in the center of the tack is super difficult. Being able to keep yourself centered in the tack even when you loose stirrups is something that comes with skill and experience. You also have to be physically strong enough. Stuff that would unseat me a few years ago is no longer an issue.

    However, it's the times when you find yourself clinging to your horse's neck or sliding off their side that it's hard to stay on. I think those are the times in which your attitude comes more into play. I've been amazed the things I have been able to ride out by just telling myself "You are NOT falling off this horse right now!" So I totally agree with you on that one!

    I tend to be the type of rider who fights tooth and nail to stay on, and I'm always surprised when other people seem to give up so easily at times (I am not referring to people who bail from a dangerous horse, that's different and understandable).

    I've only willingly bailed off a horse once, so all the other times I've come off haven't been my choice. I learned to ride on two bratty ponies who LOVED bucking people off if they thought they could get away with it so I learned to ride it out as best as I could.

  6. Great points, everyone. Sometimes falling IS the best course of action. Sometimes things are just out of your control, whether it be a tack malfunction or your horse itself falling out from under you. One of the worst falls I've ever had was because my horse got rambunctious in the middle of a field while galloping and when I tried to pull him up, my new copper jointed snaffle physically broke in half and basically stabbed him in the roof of his mouth. He wasn't too happy about this and I ended up doing a back flip off the back of him and landing on my head. Clearly NOT what I wanted to do and if I had known it would go in that direction, I would have tucked and rolled off his side way before that. I'd rather have a broken clavicle than a broken head!

    My helmet cracked in half in that fall, btw. Another reason why I'm a helmet fanatic.

    Anyway I have fallen off more times than I can remember or count and in the end it just makes me appreciate the times when I can actually hold it together well enough to keep my hiney in the saddle ;)

  7. Surely it depends a bit on the horse. Some horses are more athletic at throwing fits than others.

  8. I've never really thought about it that way, but you are 100% correct! I normally bail if I know I have absolutely no chance of staying on (bareback bucking for instance) but if I know I can stick my butt to the horse, I do!

  9. Falling SUCKS! I seem to recall that most of my falls where when I got lazy and did something stupid which in turn caused the horse to do something stupid. Laz has dumped me once and he moved out from underneath me SO fast, I just remember riding and then picking sand out of my teeth.
    Im sure a chant to stay on, MUST help.

  10. I completely think it depends on your attitude.Haha. Ozzy has unseated me countless times with his jumping BS. On my birthday, he threw a sliding stop to end all sliding stops, then spun out from under me. I lost both stirrups and launched onto his neck. I gritted my teeth and yelled (OUT LOUD!) "NOT on my birthday!" and stayed on. Haha.


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