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How to avoid unplanned dismounts

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We've all experienced at some point during our riding career when a horse spooks, the horse goes one direction and the rider goes the opposite direction or straight to the ground. How do we stay with our horse when s/he spooks? A lot of practice learning to anticipate and flow with your horse's movements will help you stay in the saddle.

Jonathan Field wrote an article in the January 2014 edition of Horse & Rider Magazine called, "Mirror-Ride for More Confidence." In this article he talked about learning how to feel a horse's subtle movements when s/he is about to change directions. By practicing with your horse, you learn to teach your body what these subtle movements feel like and how to anticipate your horse's movement and flow with him/her.

One exercise I like to teach my students is to close their eyes. This enables the rider to let go of his/her thoughts and expectations and allow the body awareness to take over and guide the rider. In a safe confined area (arena or round pen) practice closing your eyes at the walk to start. Let everything go and allow your body to flow with the movement of your horse. In other words let your horse's motion move your body, specifically your seat. Once you feel comfortable at the walk, try the exercise at faster gaits. Don't worry about where your horse goes, just follow your horse's movement.

Jonathan's exercise consisted of the rider keeping his/her eyes open, securing the reins on the saddle or around the horse's neck so they don't fall to ground, in an enclosed arena or round pen allowing the horse to go wherever the horse wants and the rider feels and follows the horse's movements at different speeds.

Once you are comfortable in the saddle with your eyes open and closed, try both exercises riding bareback or with a bareback pad. When you feel more confident and secure, try the exercises in a larger enclosure like a fenced pasture or field.

These exercises will help you develop a deeper seat, better balance, and a deeper connection with your horse. The next time your horse spooks, you will be able to follow your horse's movements and avoid an unplanned dismount.

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