On one summerís day, having climbed up a winding country lane, we had reached the top of the hill at a junction with a minor road between two villages. My horse was well known to me but suddenly at the junction he unexpectedly whirled off his hind quarters to the left. I was unprepared for the move and at the time I had been looking around to check for traffic. I was caught completely off balance and left in the saddle tilting over to the right. I jerked the left rein and managed to pull the horse round to the right on his hind quarters but it was not enough. The horse was still facing down the hill. He took off. I pulled sharply on the left rein and I kicked him in the left side by the hind quarter and I brought in my right leg in an attempt to force him into the bank. But he was ready to resist and he worked his way off to the right and thereby evaded merely by an inch or two the side of the high earth bank. He was now free to gallop home which was back down the hill along a tarmacced surface. By now he couldnít stop even if he wanted to and he didnít want to. I lent forward and tried to shorten the reins to restrict his head movement but he had the thick neck of a cart horse. I looked for another bush in the bank to direct him into but he was settling into his stride and I did not have a hope to restrain him. The saddle was flat topped and had been engineered with neither cantle, nor a pommel nor knee rolls. It was a design for use in the dressage arena, to be fitted on a flat backed Icelandic horse and was not for use by my cobby mount when being ridden cross country.
At this point I made a fatal mistake. Instead of leaning back in the saddle and pushing my feet out forwards in the stirrups, I leant forwards in the style of forward riding. I was thinking to use my legs to steer the powerful devil between my thighs. Suddenly I realised that I was also fighting the forces of both gravity and motion. I was slipping forwards on the saddle and there was nothing to stop me. Gripping the flanks of the horse with my thighs just didnít help and sawing at the horseís mouth through the reins did not throw him off course. I did not have the leverage to restrict the movement of his head. If anything by pulling on the reins I was pulling myself off the horse. Plus the action of his front legs was vibrating me relentlessly up towards his neck until finally I slipped over the front edge of the saddle onto his wither Then he simply tossed me off. As I fell I made a grab for his neck with my arms. I even got a handful of mane but too much of my body weight was already out of the saddle. By this time horse and rider were motoring downhill fast. Finally I lost my grip on his neck and I fell and hit the road on my shoulder blades. Subsequently the base of my spine came down and slammed into the road surface. My head followed in a whiplash reaction and the rear of my riding helmet banged into the stones of the road surface. Those small stones remain embedded in the plastic rim of the helmet to this day. I seem to remember facing upwards towards the branches of the trees but later I discovered that all of the impact had been taken by my upper rear torso. There were even graze marks in my skin created under the various layers of clothing up by my shoulders. Unbeknown at the time, a football sized haematoma was beginning to form over my spine just above the sacrum. I was lucky the impact did not break my back.
The horse, ran on until the hill levelled out and it was physically possible for the horse to slow its frenzied gallop. Later I found it grazing peacefully on the grass down by the lake.
Put simply, I had been completely unaware that the horse was going to bolt. It had no reason to do so. Actually we both paid the price. I was to stay bruised for months but the horse had torn a check ligament which eventually led to his euthanasia. However if a car had been coming up that lane, we would both have died along with the occupants of the vehicle. Horse and rider would have collided head on with the car at a combined speed of at least 40 mph.
Moral : donít let your horse bolt - ever.