I guess I already know the answer...it's my balance or lack of balance I should say. I've searched the internet and I know it is my balance, but I don't know how to improve it. Basically, I am new to riding. I rode as a kid and teenager, but never took lessons. I recently got two horses and just trail ride around my farm. I am having problems where I fall off if the horse spooks and jumps sideways. I guess I need to take a few lessons, but in the meantime is there anything else I should do?
The article is aimed at english riders and I know nothing about western... but I would assume it's the same theory for either discipline when it comes to your body position and maintaining balance on the horse although I suppose the western saddle might be a bit limiting in your position.
Well, if you've got a QH with a good spin then it's going to be hard to sit a random spook. Riding bareback or with out your stirrups will help develop your balance. The best way to stop it though is by not letting the situation happen in the 1st place. Most horses will give you a warning, but it may only be a subtle one. Experience and time will help you learn to read those signs.
Also, check your stirrup length. If you knees hurt when you ride, then they are too short and will pitch you forward. If your ankles hurt when you ride then they are too long and they won't give you good support when you need it.
Buck Brannaman compares the riding position to a good defensive basketball position. Your slightly bent at the knee and you can shift your weight back forth on the balls of your feet as needed.
In my experience, it's just something that happens. I used to be horrible about falling off at the slightest thing. Now, after riding almost daily for 5 weeks on a horse I trust and in a saddle I am completely comfortable in, I haven't fallen off once. I can sit shies, crow hops, and can canter without shifting at all.
I've helped myself a lot by walking around with my feet out of the stirrups, and I suggest you give it a try. Keep the stirrups on the saddle though, and practice getting your feet into them without looking as fast as possible. That way, if you feel your horse tense, you can get your feet back in them ASAP to minimize the risk of falling off.
You will find that your balance and seat will naturally improve the more often you ride, and the more you get to know the way horses move.
First you need to assess your position when out on the trail. You shouldn't ride like an equitation class with your upper body straight. Riding cutters, you carry your weight in your feet, sounds ridiculous but once you have done it you can feel the difference. In order to do this make sure your stirrups are adjusted and turned properly to support your foot evenly. Then make sure the ball of your foot is supported.
The next thing you should do is sit more on your butt/ pants pockets. When you sit in good equitation position on your seat bones, you have excellent feel, but I think less stability. (Except for those amazing English riders who gallop over jumps. I feel more secure bareback than in an English saddle.)
Learn to let your upper body fold down a bit with the horse's movement. When they spook, you should bend a little closer to his neck rather than sit up and get stiff. This reduces the centrifugal force that is trying to throw you off while your horse spins away in a tight circle.
Push with your feet. If you try to wrap your legs around, all you're doing is playing catch-up to the horse who I guarantee is faster than you. So if the horse spooks left, your right foot should push down and out to send your body the same direction as the horse.
Now probably the most important, relax a little and always watch your horse's ears. Keeping your focus on the ears will help your body stay with him. If you look at the ground where you're afraid of falling, that is where you will go.
Ride holding the horn. There is no shame in that. It would be good to address why your horse is spooking, but at some will always get past a little startle if a deer or bird jumps out really close to them. It takes time and exposure. The best some horses can do in open terrain situations is that they choose to just stop, think, and listen to you rather than spinning for the hills or flying sideways.
The other thing you may want to consider is your saddle. Does it have the correct seat size for you? Do the seat and fenders have the right shape and hang for what you want to do? This can make a difference, so it is always good to try a few different styles if you can for comparison. Posted via Mobile Device
Actually, what you are looking for goes beyond balance - you are looking for stability in the saddle and a stable seat. This comes first of all just from shear core strength and secondly from positioning in the saddle.
I highly recommend for riders to cross train and have personally seen the difference. As soon as a rider with the same issue as you started to cross train once a week, and then to twice a week once conditioned, she no longer falls off during spooks and is far more confident in her riding.
Weight training, Vinyassa or Power style yoga (especially hot yoga) and pilates are all great ways to increase core strength, and thus your stability. Then adjusting your position in the saddle will be far more effective.
If your horse spins really hard, the poleys (Mickey Mouse ears) in the front will slam into your thighs, twisting your torso around with the horse. They are also kind of nice when your horse stops without warning. I mean, if your horse stops without warning. Although riding Mia, it is when she stops without warning...
"Weight training, Vinyassa or Power style yoga (especially hot yoga) and pilates are all great ways to increase core strength, and thus your stability. Then adjusting your position in the saddle will be far more effective." -anebel
Strengthening your core will definitely help. I noticed a difference in my balance in general when I started doing yoga.