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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I don't think I'm looking for advice here so much as commiseration. The solution is, as always, keep calm, heels down, eyes up. And probably work on core strength some more. (Though if anyone has additional advise I'll hardly say no.)

So a couple weeks back, Stryder spooked. It was at least partially my fault, I didn't realize I was tense but apparently I was, and he picked up on it. So he spooked, and somehow this wound up with me falling onto his neck, I'm not even sure how. I also lost a stirrup. I clamped on around his neck with my arms because if I didn't, I would've fallen right then and there. Fortunately, Stryder naturally carries his head up high. It gave me a second to breathe, realize I would never gather the reins up properly lying down like that, kick my other foot free of the stirrup, sit up, gather those reins, and stop the horse. Then I took a few deep cleansing breaths, we both relaxed, and we went on our merry way.

The problem is, since grabbing onto his neck "worked," my subconscious has apparently decided that it's a good idea!

Twice more now, both times on Bee (who is not spooky, they were both my fault, one was at the canter and the other landing from a jump, and I'm not completely comfortable at either yet) I have panicked and instead of sitting deep, I hugged his neck. I was very lucky. Bee does not naturally keep his head up, and both times it happened, he intentionally lifted his head and came to a sedate stop so I could collect myself. (The first time it happened, my instructor shouted, "Oh! That means he likes you! He wouldn't do that for just anybody!" Which, aww, but also, still a problem I need to solve.)

The danger, of course, is that without the horse's neck to keep me upright, I'd have just flipped straight over his neck (landing right in front of the horse, so I think that's also a trampling risk, no?).

The first time, like I said, I did it on purpose because I had already fallen forward, grabbing on just steadied me and gave me a second to think. The other two times, I don't even remember what happened, just one moment feeling my balance not be quite right and the next suddenly I was hugging a somewhat baffled horse. And since I didn't do it on purpose, I'm not completely sure how to keep it from happening again, other than "don't panic."

Well, there's always something to work on.

Anyway, that's my latest riding tribulation, how are y'all?
 

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These things 'appen, @Danneq. And good on you staying on the horse in that situation - it's not easy and I like the combination of instinct and then conscious override you report from the Stryder spook.

How to stop an amygdala-mediated autopilot pattern from developing. Awareness is good and you have that. On a practical level - if you rode in a Western saddle with a big horn for a while, that might prevent you from going forward over the neck like this? I've never ridden in one but I imagine it might make that impossible and allow you to develop alternative autopilots! ;)
 

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These things 'appen, @Danneq. And good on you staying on the horse in that situation - it's not easy and I like the combination of instinct and then conscious override you report from the Stryder spook.

How to stop an amygdala-mediated autopilot pattern from developing. Awareness is good and you have that. On a practical level - if you rode in a Western saddle with a big horn for a while, that might prevent you from going forward over the neck like this? I've never ridden in one but I imagine it might make that impossible and allow you to develop alternative autopilots! ;)
The only thing with the western saddle is if you suddenly go forward (to try to grab your horses neck or are jolted forward) you may get a saddle horn to the crotch and it HURTS (ask me how I know)
 

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Yes, these things happen. I really doubt you let yourself fall just so that you can grab the horses’s neck. What most likely happened is that you lost your balance, fell forward and the horses neck was just in the way. You just need to ride more and develop your balance and you correct position more - no other way about it I’m afraid.
 

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Welp, there's a couple things going on here. It sounds like the first one, with Stryder, may have saved your bacon and that's not a bad thing but then it sort of turned into a panic crutch, which is not a good thing. So, the western saddle suggestion is actually a pretty good one, hook that horn in your belly button, under your ribs or between the boobs a few times and you'll quit it real quick. Also, realize that when the stuff hits the wind moving machine, sometimes anything you can grab on to as a life saver is the way it's got to be and until you develop the core, leg, and upper body balance to be able to sit back, deep and lock that belly down tight to hold you in place, that's going to happen. You mention you're not real comfortable at the canter and landing after jumping yet, so that tells me you're still pretty new to riding and still building and developing the muscles and strength you need to be able to ride stuff out with 'good equitation' and developing the knowlege of how to shut a horse down when things are starting to slide sideways on you. Be patient with yourself, give yourself some grace and time and know that you're going to go through a bunch of different developmental phases while you learn. It won't all be pretty and won't all be ugly.

As for getting trampled, most horses are absolutely amazing at being able to avoid landing on humans. I have no idea how they manage it, but they really do. Of all the gawd awful, horrible falls and injuries I got when learning to ride and jump, not one was caused by a horse landing on me or trampling me.
 

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Perhaps your stirrups are too long, and this is causing you to 'fish' for them. i.e. have your toe pointed downward and your pelvis ends up rolled forward onto your 'fork'. That puts you in a vulnerable position to being projected forward.
I've had a few spooks that caused me to land on the horse's neck. Some I was able to get back into the saddle, and some I ended up rolling off onto my back on the ground.

One thing that I try to remember is that when I feel myself starting to go off, commit to staying on, mentally. Many times we start to feel we are going off, and we mentally commit to going off, actually. we curl up or roll or lean forward, and we actually look down toward where we are going. Result is that we complete that thought and fall off.
If we mentally commit to staying on, we often will grab the saddle or mane or push off a stirrup or lean back and will ride through the spook.

Next time that you feel you are going off, say to yourself, "Oh no you don't!!!"
 

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with me falling onto his neck, I'm not even sure how. I also lost a stirrup.
You are probably gripping with the knee, so your weight doesn't flow all the way down into your stirrups. The knee becomes a pivot point as you slide forward, rotating your torso up and over the neck. I recommend buying and following "Common Sense Horsemanship" (online is free) by VS Littauer. Two-point, ridden as "standing in the stirrups" will teach you to balance above your stirrups - AND to let your weight flow INTO them. That will keep them on your feet.
 

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Welp, there's a couple things going on here. It sounds like the first one, with Stryder, may have saved your bacon and that's not a bad thing but then it sort of turned into a panic crutch, which is not a good thing. So, the western saddle suggestion is actually a pretty good one, hook that horn in your belly button, under your ribs or between the boobs a few times and you'll quit it real quick. Also, realize that when the stuff hits the wind moving machine, sometimes anything you can grab on to as a life saver is the way it's got to be and until you develop the core, leg, and upper body balance to be able to sit back, deep and lock that belly down tight to hold you in place, that's going to happen.
On that note - there are "Jesus handles" you can get for English saddles - round leather straps that buckle into the front dees that usually attach saddle bags etc (if your saddle has them - the AP is more likely than the dressage because for some reason people don't tend to go camping in the dressage arena or want to take supplies though God knows a hip flask would be a good idea to settle nerves and deal with some of the judges). They are often used with beginners as something they can grab onto when nervous or moving in unexpected directions, to counter the tendency for beginners to use the reins for this purpose, and just as a psychological prop really - but so much riding and learning is psychology...
 

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The only thing with the western saddle is if you suddenly go forward (to try to grab your horses neck or are jolted forward) you may get a saddle horn to the crotch and it HURTS (ask me how I know)
I wasn't laughing at your misfortune, @Ringo-Slater - just at the "ask me how I know" - we should start a thread...:poop:
 

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On that note - there are "Jesus handles" you can get for English saddles - round leather straps that buckle into the front dees that usually attach saddle bags etc (if your saddle has them - the AP is more likely than the dressage because for some reason people don't tend to go camping in the dressage arena or want to take supplies though God knows a hip flask would be a good idea to settle nerves and deal with some of the judges). They are often used with beginners as something they can grab onto when nervous or moving in unexpected directions, to counter the tendency for beginners to use the reins for this purpose, and just as a psychological prop really - but so much riding and learning is psychology...
I've seen your 'Jesus handle', wish they'd had them in this country when I was learning! But we didn't, heck I was lucky to find a used English saddle. So we fell off a lot! Then I took up Western and had a few run ins with the horn and it reinforced sitting up nice and straight. A horn bruise right up under the rib cage hurts on inhale for quite a while and of course, one around the belly button makes it hard to do up your belt. Let's don't talk about how difficult it is to sit back up if you get your bra hooked over it.......... ROFL! Yeah, I've had a few interesting lessons over the years!
 
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I've seen your 'Jesus handle', wish they'd had them in this country when I was learning! But we didn't, heck I was lucky to find a used English saddle. So we fell off a lot! Then I took up Western and had a few run ins with the horn and it reinforced sitting up nice and straight. A horn bruise right up under the rib cage hurts on inhale for quite a while and of course, one around the belly button makes it hard to do up your belt. Let's don't talk about how difficult it is to sit back up if you get your bra hooked over it.......... ROFL! Yeah, I've had a few interesting lessons over the years!
You know, falling off a lot when you're beginning, preferably at an age when you still bounce, is a good thing in many ways. You learn how to fall, aren't so worried you might fall that it makes you more likely to fall, and ahem, it builds character and develops black humour.

That horn sounds painful and it's not even a Texas Longhorn. You've made me laugh with your writing half a dozen times this Antipodean morning, cheers! 😎
 

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You know, falling off a lot when you're beginning, preferably at an age when you still bounce, is a good thing in many ways. You learn how to fall, aren't so worried you might fall that it makes you more likely to fall, and ahem, it builds character and develops black humour.

That horn sounds painful and it's not even a Texas Longhorn. You've made me laugh with your writing half a dozen times this Antipodean morning, cheers! 😎
OMG, it's morning there? It's almost bedtime here. Funny how you never even think of such things unless someone brings them up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
These things 'appen, @Danneq. And good on you staying on the horse in that situation - it's not easy and I like the combination of instinct and then conscious override you report from the Stryder spook.
Thanks, I was pretty chuffed with myself about that recovery, not gonna lie.


You mention you're not real comfortable at the canter and landing after jumping yet, so that tells me you're still pretty new to riding and still building and developing the muscles and strength you need to be able to ride stuff out with 'good equitation' and developing the knowlege of how to shut a horse down when things are starting to slide sideways on you. Be patient with yourself, give yourself some grace and time and know that you're going to go through a bunch of different developmental phases while you learn. It won't all be pretty and won't all be ugly.

As for getting trampled, most horses are absolutely amazing at being able to avoid landing on humans. I have no idea how they manage it, but they really do. Of all the gawd awful, horrible falls and injuries I got when learning to ride and jump, not one was caused by a horse landing on me or trampling me.
I mean, it depends on what you mean by "new." I'm an adult re-rider who's been taking lessons for the past two-and-a-half years. I am extremely comfortable at the walk and trot. So not new new, just not an old hat, either. I never learned to canter as a kid, so that is completely new, and I'm very aware that I don't bounce as well as I did when I was eight or fourteen. A lot of it's in my head. Cantering scares me, which means progress is very, very slow. I don't want it to scare me, I want to enjoy cantering, I just need a lot more practice to get there.

Perhaps your stirrups are too long, and this is causing you to 'fish' for them. i.e. have your toe pointed downward and your pelvis ends up rolled forward onto your 'fork'. That puts you in a vulnerable position to being projected forward.
I've had a few spooks that caused me to land on the horse's neck. Some I was able to get back into the saddle, and some I ended up rolling off onto my back on the ground.

One thing that I try to remember is that when I feel myself starting to go off, commit to staying on, mentally. Many times we start to feel we are going off, and we mentally commit to going off, actually. we curl up or roll or lean forward, and we actually look down toward where we are going. Result is that we complete that thought and fall off.
If we mentally commit to staying on, we often will grab the saddle or mane or push off a stirrup or lean back and will ride through the spook.

Next time that you feel you are going off, say to yourself, "Oh no you don't!!!"
These are some great points! My usual saddle was just recently switched to new stirrup leathers, so a) we're still breaking them in and b) they're a little different from the old ones, so I have to relearn what the right length is. I can try a bit shorter, it's something I've contemplated before.

I have also taken a couple of minor tumbles that shouldn't have been a problem, except that my brain really did give up. I think to myself, "Oh, I guess I'm falling now," rather than fighting to stay on.
You are probably gripping with the knee, so your weight doesn't flow all the way down into your stirrups. The knee becomes a pivot point as you slide forward, rotating your torso up and over the neck. I recommend buying and following "Common Sense Horsemanship" (online is free) by VS Littauer. Two-point, ridden as "standing in the stirrups" will teach you to balance above your stirrups - AND to let your weight flow INTO them. That will keep them on your feet.
Nopppe, no knee gripping here. In fact it was a big challenge for me to learn to ride with my knees in, instead of poking out like a pair of chicken wings or something. I am very aware that the way you stay on the horse is by balancing with your heels down. It doesn't make sense to me in my head, but I've felt it work more times than I can count. That's why I'm so unnerved that this is happening now, because I know the correct thing to do, I've felt it save me from falling many many times, and I just unintentionally stopped doing it for some reason.

I think what I need to do is get back to doing core exercises (especially this week, barn owner's on a vacation so no horses this week for me :() and try out shorter stirrups. And not panic.


On that note - there are "Jesus handles" you can get for English saddles - round leather straps that buckle into the front dees that usually attach saddle bags etc (if your saddle has them - the AP is more likely than the dressage because for some reason people don't tend to go camping in the dressage arena or want to take supplies though God knows a hip flask would be a good idea to settle nerves and deal with some of the judges). They are often used with beginners as something they can grab onto when nervous or moving in unexpected directions, to counter the tendency for beginners to use the reins for this purpose, and just as a psychological prop really - but so much riding and learning is psychology...
For those who don't have the option to get these for the saddle, you can also get them for saddle pads! Probably much cheaper than outfitting a saddle, or to ship to a place where they don't make them locally. Just make sure not to cover the strap with the saddle, elsewise if you go looking for it you won't be able to find them.

Thanks, all!
 

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To me, the "heels down" style puts your weight forward. I would say that's why you feel forward toward the horse's neck. You were already leaning in that direction. I'd say forget the heels down, the arched lower back and sit deep in the saddle, nice and relaxed.
 

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On the subject of heels down, people often get better results when they hear "raise your toes" than "heels down" - no jamming that way and a more relaxed leg, which is what you want! :)

And you are totally supposed to sit tall and deep in the saddle, and relaxed, which isn't incompatible with heels down as long as they aren't jammed down. ;)

Another trick for sitting closer to your horse is to take your thigh off the saddle, pull the inside muscles backwards slightly with your hand, then put your thigh back in contact with the saddle and do the other side. Sometimes they can wedge in a slightly bulky position just from how we land in the saddle. It seems weird but I have tried this tip and it can make a difference.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
"Heels down" I've got down pat, "toes up" always just makes my feet hurt. I am 100% confident in my heels down-ing. It's just that when these past couple of times, everything I know goes out the window. So that's really more brain training that body training. Though I do always, always need to work on my core.
 

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My above comment wasn't specifically to you, @Danneq, just to people who think having heels down is such a bad thing! ;)

It really is quite a feat to stay relatively attached to an animal who is changing directions unexpectedly. :LOL: Unless maybe you've copiously applied superglue (we had a thread about falling off years ago just for fun). So you're doing fine. :)
 

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My above comment wasn't specifically to you, @Danneq, just to people who think having heels down is such a bad thing! ;)

It really is quite a feat to stay relatively attached to an animal who is changing directions unexpectedly. :LOL: Unless maybe you've copiously applied superglue (we had a thread about falling off years ago just for fun). So you're doing fine. :)
Well, I guess that's me. I'm not going to get into an argument. People are free to ride they way they want. I ride the way it has worked for me. Coincidentally, I'm 72 and still riding. But here are some images of dressage riders. You can look at them and count how many have their heels down. Also, I saw the pics and video you recently posted of yourself riding; I don't see your heels down. :)
 
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