By Castle Leslie’s Jenny Richardson BHSAI
A confident rider is safer in the saddle, but riding inevitably leads to a loss of confidence at some stage, for most riders – whether that is a confidence crisis about their abilities, or a confidence ‘crash’ after a fall. Most falls will result in no more than a few bruises and dented pride for the rider, but the underlying psychological damage can cause ongoing problems.
“The rider’s center of gravity has become too high…”
The University of Vermont has this useful info about falling, which is worth considering: Before the rider falls, something else usually has happened: The rider’s centre of gravity has become too high. The rider’s centre of gravity should be at all times as close as possible to that of the horse. If the weight is solidly in the seat, or solidly down in the heels, it is not so easy to dislodge the rider. Being able to maintain the centre of gravity as low as possible goes a long way in maintaining the position of the leg. The reverse is also true: A correct position of the leg aids the rider in maintaining a low center of gravity. Stiffness in the body may also contribute to a fall. If the rider is reasonably in balance with the horse, stiffness in the body is required for a rider to be unloaded under normal circumstances. So try to relax!
What is the Main Cause of Rider Falls?
As the above info indicates, most falls are caused by rider imbalance, or in the crucial moment, the rider not being able to “stay with the horse”. It is important for all riders whatever the level to maintain correct position and depth of seat and by doing so it will keep riders safer.
Why not consider trying lunge lessons to achieve optimum security and stability in the saddle?
The other main reason for rider falls is bad decision making. Avoid situations which intimidate you or your horse and when hacking out choose friends with sensible, well behaved horses to accompany you to minimise the risk of accidents.
Make sensible decisions on safety – check that your hat fits well and wear a back protector, gloves and correct footwear.
Five Top Tips for Confidence Boosting!
Seek an instructor that you trust- both to make the right decisions for you and your horse and to boost your confidence when you’re riding
Watch a rider/instructor more experienced than yourself ride your horse. This can be encouraging for your positivity and confidence and illustrate to you that your horse can perform what is required i.e. jump a certain fence or perform a lateral movement
If your horse appears over-excited and fresh too often, try a lungeing session prior to being ridden to get the ‘fizz out’
Remember the more you ride the more confident you will feel in the saddle. If you do suffer with nerves going for a week or two without riding with only magnify your confidence issues
Sports psychology sessions can be beneficial to boosting rider confidence.
If a fall’s inevitable…
If you can feel yourself slipping out of the saddle and a fall is inevitable, attempt to perform an ‘Emergency Dismount’. Take your feet out of your stirrups and your hands off the rein, lean forward and wrap your arms around the horse’s neck, almost like a big hug. Next, slide off the horse by swinging your leg over, as though you were dismounting normally, landing as far from the horse as possible, but on your feet. You may still fall off the horse in the process, but this can give you greater control over the fall.