One of the few lasting lessons from riding a few hundred bulls in my bulletproof youth, was this Mantra “You land where you look”. Also, things often look much worse than they actually are. As someone who has had innumerable unplanned dismounts, allow me to share with you a few tips to keep you safer, and avoid meeting terra firma.
Notice where he’s looking
First of all, in a wreck, many people get scared and look for an out. They stop looking where they want to go and look at some other spot, usually to one side. The spot that they look at inevitably becomes their own personal runway. One of the first bits of advice given to novice Roughstock riders is to tuck your chin to your chest and focus on the bull’s/bronc’s withers and neck, just in front of your hand hold. Why? Because that spot is where you want to land.
I’ve written many times about looking ahead and not staring at your horse’s ears. This tends to get your horse knowing where your attention lies and following your intentions. If he’s “with you”, he’ll follow your gaze and magically, you end up where you were looking. Several things, however, differ in this situation from those which will lead to terra firma. You generally don’t come off of a horse that is with you. You come off of a horse that has left you. A horse which has left you, and especially one who has gone into the reactive state of Fight of Flight is pretty much unaware of any suggestion you may have unless it is VERY VERY loud.
bending them around brings the mind back to the here and now
On such a horse, your intention should be to get things stopped. Shut ‘em down. No mas. Remember, the reason the horse goes between those two trees that you are looking at is because your body follows your intentions also and that is what the horse feels. If you horse is heading left, hard and fast, and you look right, your body is preparing to go right, while your horse is going left. See where this is headed? X marks the spot.
I’ve seen dozens of folks come off, and darn near every single one of them first looked right where they landed. I’ve seen dozens of folks successfully ride through a wreck and darn near every single one of them first looked back down at their horse’s withers and stayed in the saddle. This is why most equine professionals will agree that the majority of people who come off of a horse aren’t bucked off, as they invariably claim. Those people bailed off. They picked a spot and went to it. Don’t do this. It is extremely difficult to make a safe landing when you bail. Conversely, it is fairly unlikely that you will be hurt as long as you can stay on the horse.
I believe I can fly…
Thirdly, DO NOT LEAN FORWARD. A horse has a tendency to stop hard, using your forward momentum to rid himself of you. As a result, most people who do legitimately get bucked off go forward over one shoulder or the other. So, make sure you are prepared for this. When things get scary, lean backward. It doesn’t have to be to an extreme, but be dadgum sure that you aren’t on or in front of a vertical line drawn perpendicular to the ground. Keep your eyes on the withers and neck, but keep your weight back.
As someone who has had God Only Knows how many wrecks, I certainly advise you to ride through them as long as you possibly can. I’ve ridden wrecks through hot wires, across ditches, and even through a 5 strand barbed wire fence once. In my scarred, tattered, and bruised up opinion, avoid the ground at almost all costs. Ride the wreck as far and as long as you possibly can, all the while trying to shut it down. You are unlikely to get hurt as long as you stay in the saddle. You‘ll be amazed at the things that you would never have thought you could handle until you do and realize that it really wasn’t that bad. Stay on the horse as long as you can.
says it all…
The ONLY time that I bale on purpose is if I am pretty sure the horse is going to the ground. If one is rearing and goes past the tipping point, trust me, you don’t want one on top of you. Sometimes a horse will trip, if this happens, for goodness sake, pitch them some slack and let them work it out. If they can’t get up and you know y’all are going down, then by all means, bail. Other than that, look down at the horse, not to the side at the ground, lean back a little, and stick with it as long as you possibly can. You and your horse will fair far better.