Elwood is the biggest chicken in the world, may be hard to believe from earlier pics, but he is. He is one that gets scared easily, and spins and runs, no spooking in place for him. That is of course how I came to own him in the first place 6 years ago (a couple of days before going to the Sugarcreek auction), after failing miserably as a 4-H possibility, and also failing as an everyday trail horse for his previous owner.
He has improved greatly since I've had him, along with growing 6 years older to the supposedly sensible age of 17. I have come off of him more than any other horse, however I've also ridden his spooks and bucks out more than any other horse. This is the first time since coming to this farm 3 years ago, but I came off today and of course recall every detail in slow motion right now. So does anyone have some tips on how to stay on a spinning bucking scared horse.
Overall he is upside down, insecure and unconfident. Needs to draw confidence from his rider/handler. He is NOT one who will 'save' a rider that is getting a little unbalanced, it seems to scare him if I get unbalanced and he moves faster scooting away from me, instead of steady and back underneath me. That is not the issue here though, it is just a little background on him. (maybe it IS the issue)
Here's how it went, several things just slightly out of the ordinary. My annual test of mounting from the ground, from the left, with the training stick in my hand, and out in the field instead of up by the barn/mounting stool. Also near the place we had been seeing the skunk. Weak excuses I know, just trying to understand his thinking.
Put my foot in the stirrup and started up, felt his head go up and knew he was going to spook, reached out over him far enough to drop the stick where it wouldn't touch him on the way down and continued up, felt a shudder run down his neck and past me, knew I missed my chance to get him over it before the spook got all the way down to his feet. Got my leg over and dropped the left stirrup so I wouldn't get hung up if I came off, ( knew I didn't have time to lean over and turn the right stirrup to get my foot in). He was bucking pretty good and high, and spinning to the left. After I thought I had my seat good enough to sit it out I looked down to even out the reins, see where the fenders were, and figure out what to do next. Suddenly he reversed and spun, bucking to the right, I didn't and fell straight down while he went on to the right out from under me.
So we started over, checked the tack, back to the same place in the field, leaned the stick on a barrel and got on from the usual right side this time, but from the ground. Was a little ansy for a few seconds but we went on to have a really good little ride. Nice round circles for once, calm, relaxed, no bad after effects.
So I never grabbed the horn, didn't balance or jerk on the reins, got to the middle as soon as I could, and didn't come off until I looked down. Where did I go wrong, looking down? Any tips from bronc riders on change of directions at a spin? I'm pushing 60 here, although I landed on my well padded rear, I'm thinking I better stop falling off before I get much older.
I always got told "dont look down, unless that's where you want to end up" lol If I were you, I wouldnt have got on him knowing he was going to spook, I would have walked him round or done something to calm/distract him before I got on, then tried again. I've ridden many buckers before so I've gotten pretty good at staying on lol basically just heels down, sit up, and try to pull him up, one rein stop & turn him in a circle to stop him from bucking. Horses can't buck while turning a tight circle. :)
When horse bucks you really want to sit straight and balanced (and relaxed!) with your heels down. Usually one can tell when they are about to explode and just before that I just disengage the hind end till I feel horse is relaxed (or at least gave up the idea), then I drive it forward.
BTW, if horse starts bucking right after you get in saddle (or in process) I'd use a helper to hold him till you balance yourself on back.
For a horse like this, I would agree with KV and use a header while getting on just to keep him a little more under control until you can get centered in the saddle. After you are on, like everyone else said, don't look at the ground. I have found that I have the best luck when I keep my eyes right on their mane just in front of the saddle. Since you are riding western, I greatly recommend a nightlatch for your saddle. They are much easier to hold on to and keep you much more secure than just grabbing the horn.
Also, once you know he's going to buck, if you have time, take one rein and bend his neck. That likely won't stop him but it should take away a lot of his power and keep him from switching directions suddenly on you. On a horse that is known to buck or a very green horse, I spend much of my time riding with one rein shorter than the other so that I don't have to re-adjust in the event of an emergency, I can just pull and it will bend them.
After they are stopped, if I manage to stay with them, I will keep them bent and push them into little tiny circles (very similar to a one-rein stop only I keep pushing them to disengage those hindquarters) as fast as I can get them to go without feeling out of control. I don't give them even a moment to stop and breathe between the fit and the circles unless I am almost falling off and need to re-center. If I begin to get dizzy before I feel like they've had enough, I'll switch reins and start them in the other direction without giving them a moment to rest.
Before I let them out of that circle, I expect them to be moving off my leg quickly (not frantically), and their face/neck should be soft and relaxed/lowered. Then, I take the leg off and keep them bent until their feet stop. Done correctly and often, 5 minutes of those little circles will suck more piss and vinegar out of a horse than loping them 5 miles in a straight line. Normally, a bucker will quickly figure out that bucking = work and they'll stop...normally.
ETA: This is also one method I use for teaching a young horse to spook in place instead of spinning and bolting. It works wonders on some horses.
Do you think if I had just stayed there on the one side and kind of leaned on the saddle while bending him into me, instead of going ahead and putting my leg over, I would have had a better chance of stopping it?
I know that a lot of big name trainers and clinicians do it that way but I am a firm believer that if you are going to put one foot in the stirrup, then you need to be ready to get on and get secure quickly.
Maybe it's just from my own personal experiences with some of the horses I've dealt with and seen, but it scares the bejeesus out of me whenever I see someone laying across the saddle on their belly, like thisVV, on a green horse or one that bucks. There is just not enough control there to safely take hold of the horse or get away should they blow up. If they do, you are just completely at their mercy and could end up going off the other side on your head, getting a saddle horn to the sternum/belly, breaking ribs from the swells or cantle, etc.
I like to always be in a position where I can either go ahead and get on or get the hell away should the need arise. Truthfully, I think he probably had already made up his mind about what he was going to do and there wouldn't have been much you could do to stop it at that point short of just completely dis-mounting and working on groundwork for a while before trying again.
LOL, it's a bit of both. Knowing what you need to do is half the battle, sometimes getting those messages across in the heat of the moment gets a little rough though . Believe me, I know. It took me years to get to the point where it's almost second nature and I still have moments where it's like "Oh....crap, he's bucking...I didn't see that coming....where's my handle...where are my reins.......Oh........crap...that's the ground coming awfully fast."