Falling off is part of riding horses. Knowing how to fall can mean the difference between an injury and a reason to joke about taking a header.
Learning how to do an emergency dismount is the first step in learning how to fall off a horse. If you think you are going to fall, drop the reins, learn back slightly, and swing your right leg forward over the pommel or horn of the saddle, take your foot out of the left stirrup, and land on your feet on the left side of the horse. Every rider should practice this dismount with a knowledgeable person showing them how to do it..
Many times, riders keep their balance for a few seconds before they know the fall is inevitable. In cases like this, you have choices. You can do an emergency dismount. If you are in a position where an emergency dismount is not possible, you may be able to slide off and land on your feet.
Think about letting yourself fall to the ground, even when you land feet first because this will lessen the impact and may help you to avoid an injury.
Relax and Let Yourself Go
If neither of these dismounts is possible, then let yourself go. Do not fight it. A relaxed body is much less likely to get hurt than a tense one. Wrist injuries are common because riders try to brace the fall. Do not stretch out your arms, but relax them. If you are landing toward your back and hips, relax and allow your body to roll as soon as you hit the ground. Rolling lessens the impact of a fall.
Sometimes, the horse bucks, spooks, or stops short so suddenly that riders fly off. They have no opportunity to try to keep their balance. Some lucky rider land on their feet, especially if they fly over the horse’s head, but going with the flow and letting your body fall to the ground can prevent injuries, especially if you are falling at a fast clip.
Other riders may land on their heads, backs, and hips. In these cases, accepting the inevitability of the fall is paramount. This can create a relaxation response that may lessen the impact.
Dismounting a Runaway
Some riders fall when their horses run away with them. This is frightening to many riders, but the best way to prevent a fall is to use the reins to pull the horse’s head toward you slowly. As you pull, think “circle.” You want to get the horse to move in a circle. As the horse does, the horse will slow down, and you can get it to stop.
If you can’t get the horse to stop, this maneuver will get it to slow down. As the horse slows, do an emergency dismount or slide off.
Prevention is important when preparing yourself to fall off a horse. The first line of prevention is to be the best rider you can be. Take lessons. Know how to stay in rhythm with your horse. Make sure the ride is enjoyable for you and your horse. A relaxed horse is much less likely to spook or make sudden movements that lead to falls.
Do not jerk and yank on the reins. Do not whip or hit the horse. Do not yell at the horse. Do not kick but nudge the horse into the gait you want. If you behave badly, the horse will become anxious and is more likely to spook or buck.
Horses are smart. Many will do whatever they have to do in order to get rid of riders who irritate them.
Make sure your skills match the training level of the horse. A green rider on a green and spooky horse is an invitation for a fall. A green rider on a schoolmaster is much safer than on a green horse.
An experienced rider on a well-trained horse is an ideal combination. An experienced rider on a horse in training knows that horses do best when they are introduced gradually to new situations. Doing this decreases the likelihood of a fall.
Have good riding equipment. Ride with a helmet. It is better to break a helmet than a head. Wear sturdy boots that can keep your feet well-positioned in the stirrups and that can help protect your feet and ankles in case of a fall. If you are doing jumping, wear a body protector. Older body protectors were uncomfortable but in recent years, the design is much improved.
Make sure the bit, bridle, and saddle fit the horse. If the horse is in pain, the horse will be anxious and more likely to make sudden movements. A rustle in the brush may lead to horse panic, but the same horse may not react if the bit, saddle, and bridle fit correctly.
De-spook the horse. Horses respond well to de-sensitizing exercises that help them to say calm no matter what obstacles, smells, colors, sounds, and movements spring up in their path. Police horses, for example, go through extensive training to keep them safe and calm.
Make sure the cinch or girth is tight. Some riders fall because the saddle slips and they can’t keep their balance. Some riders manage to hang on for a while, but the slipped saddle could spook a horse, and the horse could take off. A fall under these conditions is inevitable.
Falling is unavoidable. Falling well requires acceptance of the inevitable and skill in emergency dismounts. Prevention requires a well matched horse and rider, adequate horse and rider equipment, and a tightened cinch or girth.
Riding a horse is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Being on a horse who wants you there is magic.