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Learning to Bail or Hang On


thrown from a horseThere’s a ton of enjoyment to be had in the realm of horse riding, and it only gets better with experience. But no matter how much time you’ve spend with your horse and how good you are while mounted, you’re eventually going to encounter a moment when you need to make the decision to either hold on with everything you’ve got, or else jump clear to safety. Knowing which to do can be tough, and know how to do either is also a challenge, but it’s vital. Knowing how to bail could actually save your life, so take a moment here and learn when to bail and when to hang on.

Horses are pretty calm animals until something decides to spook them. There’s no warning before a sudden spooking, and really anything could be responsible. A snake could pop out of the grass or a dog runs up and starts barking or even just the wind starts blowing in a strange way and that’s it, your horse is off like a shot, bucking and panicking as if their life depended on them getting clear of this exact spot and leaving you behind. In this instance, it may be terrifying for you, but you need to decide right then and there whether you’re going to ride this out, or if you’d find it safer to hop off and let your horse do its thing.

The core decision here should come down to a handful of factors. First, how spooked is your horse? If it’s a mild case, hunkering down shouldn’t be too bad of a problem. If it’s bucking and rearing constantly, it’s much safer to get clear before you’re tossed off by sheer force. Second, you need to judge the area you’re in. If there are low-hanging trees or bushes and such that your horse seems to want to tear through, holding on may not be the best option. Best to get off when it’s still your idea and not after you’ve taken a walloping from some branches. Third, it all comes down to your experience level. It’s always better and safer to get off the horse in these instances, but a rider with a lot of skill and the ability to hold on can still be just as safe, so judge your experience level and the other factors before leaping.

Getting pitched from a horse is extremely dangerous and can be either paralyzing or fatal if you end up landing wrong, so you have extra reason to learn the proper way to deal with it. If you’re unable to leap clear off the side of the horse, be sure to tuck and roll before hitting the ground. You want to pull your head down to the point where it’s touching your chin. Then, try and hit the ground with your shoulder, which will naturally allow you to roll with the hit.

The next part is far more difficult, but it’s essential if you want to salvage anything from this incident. After getting thrown, your horse is very likely to book it away from you as fast as possible, so you want to try and remain holding at least one rein after being thrown. This can be incredibly difficult to do, especially if you weren’t expecting it, but you have to try. Even if you aren’t holding the reins by the time you hit the ground, force yourself to get up and go grab your horse, and if you can, pull yourself back into the saddle. This may calm your horse down a bit, or it may frustrate it further. Be prepared for either!

Horses are beautiful and wonderful animals, but they’re still just that: animals. They get freaked out just like any of us and they’re prone to irrational behavior, so be careful to learn how to deal with a bad throw. And wear a helmet while you’re at it!


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