Q&A Questions and Answers:
The other day, I was riding my horse in the indoor arena with two other horses. One horse was being long-lined and the other ridden. The two ladies and their horses are well known to me and my horse. The horse being long-lined (a BIG young chestnut warmblood) somehow got loose and started running around the arena. The lady on the other horse (a merely LARGE young warmblood) immediately got off her horse and held him until the loose horse was restrained again. I stayed on Reno (a 12 year old feisty little Morgan) because I always feel I have better control of him from ON him than beside him. That large warmblood is a well trained jumper/dressage horse and his rider is MUCH more experienced than I am (I'm a 55 year old man and have only been riding for about 4 years) and I respect her judgment in regards to horses, but I still feel better on Reno than beside him when things are getting dicey. And, yes, Reno was a little nervous for a second or two but settled down quite nicely to watch the goings on. Oh, I ride Western and they both, of course, ride English.
Once, on the mountain, a horse that was in a group of riders about a half mile away bucked his rider off and came racing down the trail (about two horses wide) towards us. Again that time (and then I had been riding only about a year) I stayed on Reno and as the horse came closer Reno got pretty nervous but stood his ground; and once the horse slowed down we went over to him and I grabbed his reins and led him back to his rider.
Is staying on in these situations the right thing to do? Reno is really a handful sometimes (mostly because he is so full of energy he just wants to GO) but he is never mean spirited and has never offered to get rid of me. I really just feel safer and more in control in the saddle.
I'd say you have very good instincts. People tend to want to be on solid ground when thing get dicey because they're afraid of being bucked off.
Did you notice the key word in that last sentence? "Afraid." As I've said over and over, "A horse will tend to behave toward you like you behave toward it." Put another way, "A horse will tend to reflect the rider's attitudes and emotions." By staying mounted, you tell your horse, "I'm in firm command of the situation, and nothing will happen to either of us as long as you stay under my control." The rider who dismounts, on the other hand, communicates to the horse that there is good reason for them to both panic.
In addition, as long as you ride correctly, you are safer in the saddle than on the ground. You won't get stepped on; are less likely to get kicked; if you keep his head up, your mount isn't likely to buck; falling off can be prevented by bracing your leg in the direction of the potential fall. If you should need to move quickly, you can do so much better on a horse than on foot. In the case of the loose horse, a mounted rider is in a better position to catch the runaway -- and thus prevent further harm.
You also have an advantage in your horse's bloodline. A breed trait of the Morgan is steadiness and willingness to please the rider. That's one reason most police horses over the years have been Morgans.
Finally, you are safer with a Western saddle than an English. The Western saddle was designed to provide a secure seat in a wide variety of rough riding situations.
Keep up the good work! From what I can tell, you're a better rider after four years than some folks are after forty!
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