Originally Posted by Barry Godden
A Nasty Fall
My last big horse fall was off my cob gelding - Joe. We were out for a jaunt around the woods but Joe had been kept waiting and he was miffed and impatient. Having reached the top of a hilly local lane we had come to a tricky T junction. I had to bring him back to a stop from a trot in order to check if anything was coming up the road which we about to join.
At the very moment of stopping Joe whirled round to the left in revolt - as from time to time he was won’t to do. My usual counter was to pull him right through the whirl but this time that ploy did not work. Joe was now back on his hind quarters and about to take off back down the lane. As Joe lurched forwards, I shortened the left rein to direct him into the high earth bank but Joe could canter forwards even with his neck bent round to the left. He did manage to swerve around to avoid the bank and then we were off at full tilt back from whence we had come.
I shorted the reins with both hands and tried to shorten and bend his neck but he was too strong for me. Then I realised I had a real problem: - the saddle was slipping forwards. As I pulled back on the reins - so I was pulling myself forwards onto Joe’s neck. The saddle I was using was a flat topped dressage saddle with minimal knee rolls. There was nothing on the smooth saddle to make a grip for my knees even if the girth had been tight. Next minute I had slipped almost off the saddle and was sitting on Joe’s neck up by his wither. In the meantime Joe had reached full galloping pace - although he couldn’t have stopped on the downward slope of a steep hill even if he had wanted to. I felt myself slipping further and suddenly Joe gave a flip with his head and then I was falling off his neck.
As I fell so I let go of the reins and grabbed his neck with both hands By this time I was stretched out with my heels in the air back on his hind quarters and my arms around his neck - just as though I was giving him a cuddle. Then gravity won and I fell to the ground with my back hitting the tarmac real hard. How I eventually found myself flat out, looking down on the tarmac I am not sure.. There I was laying inert whilst listening to Joe cantering off towards home whilst I was wondering which bones I might have broken.
In the family album there are some indelicate photos of the serious bruising which I had suffered. The hump over my sacrum - the size of an American football - was already beginning to swell up. My shoulders were grazed by gravel; my upper thighs were to turn bloody blue from hitting the unforgiving surface of the lane at what must have been about 25 miles per hour. I banged my head so hard that the small gravel stones from the road surface became embedded in the plastic ring around the base of my riding helmet.
I was to be out of action for months and in truth I never properly recovered from the fall - perhaps the worst in my lifetime with horses.
In the process, Joe had torn a check ligament which also put him out of action for over six months and which would eventually became a key reason for him to be put down.
Back when I was falling to the ground, I did not ask myself whether I could think of an elegant way to dismount from, a horse galloping downhill on tarmac? No of course not. I was thinking: “I hope this does not hurt too much”. But it did hurt.
What I should have thought of was pushing my feet out straight in front of me and leaning back - hunter seat style. What I also didn’t think of was the possibility of a car coming up the lane? Otherwise I might have prayed.
Whatever my friend may say, there is no way to fall safely off a horse. Nowadays I have some strong ideas about which saddle to use for cross country riding;
I always wear a sturdy riding hat;
and I also wear a 6 inch wide elasticated belt around my lower back to protect my lower spine.
But , sorry, I cannot recommend a safe way to fall off a horse. B G
To add to this, my worst ever fall was one where I thought I was safely bailing!! I was riding my old Welsh D/Irish Draught, who was terrible when out hacking for spooking and taking off bucking. He got a lot better when he was fit and going, but he had been out of work and I was trying to get him fit. I was out with sister, who I'd put on one of the youngsters I'd broken that summer, when he decided to spook at a rabbit in the bushes and took off across an open field. He threw in a few huge bucks, which I managed to sit, but then he was across the field and into a boggy patch, where he suddenly skidded to a halt and threw another huge buck. I fell forward onto his neck, and knowing how he normally freaked out at me being out of balance I thought the best thing was to let myself come off.
However, unfortunately, there was a large granite rock directly where I let myself fall. I fell head first into it, at quite a speed, and cracked my skull cap, knocking myself unconscious. I remember nothing until waking up in the x-ray room at the hospital, where I was in a neck brace being x-rayed for a suspected broken neck. Thankfully, neither the broken neck nor the brain damage they suspected were the case: I was very lucky. But I had the worst concussion I've ever had, and after getting out of hospital a couple days later, I could barely do more than move around my house for several weeks without feeling sick and vomiting.
And that was me thinking the safest thing was to bail before he properly freaked out.