There are times when being able to get off quickly can save you from serious injury, maybe even save your life. Here’s one:
I was on a trail ride with a couple of friends, on Pride, one of my students’ horses who had always been trouble free. We had had a good ride, and stopped at an intersection in the trail to decide whether we would go on a little further, or take the trail home. Pride was more or less facing down the home trail when, I suspect, he picked up sounds from the barn, about a mile away, indicating that feeding was starting. Anyway, one second I was sitting there with the reins loose, the next second he started to take off as though he were at the starting gate at the Cheltenham Festival.
A split second after that I was standing on the ground facing him, stopping him dead in his tracks. I said something along the lines of “Where the %^&* did you think you were going?” I then turned him around, remounted and we rode another ten or fifteen minutes at a sedate walk and jog before heading back.
The moral of this story is that there was no thought involved on my part. That is, I didn’t think to myself, “Oh dear, he’s going to bolt home, and if I don’t do something quick he might end up falling down when he hits the hard road, which would not be good.”
I didn’t think at all. Instead, my body recognized what was happening, realized he was geared up to bolt, and got me off safely.
And that, dear friends, is the result of learning the emergency dismount at the very beginning of your riding career, and then a lot of practice, practice, practice, so the reflex is there when you need it. (My practicing was playing jumping off games with my brothers and sisters when I was growing up.)
This is also the result of knowing that dismounting in difficult situations is not letting the horse win. Pride the horse lost. Gincy won.
Note: If you need to brush up on how to do your emergency dismount, you can find it in How Your Horse Wants You to Ride, Chapter 6, pp 119-125. Emergency dismounts will also be featured and illustrated in my new book, The Gentle Art of Horseback Riding, coming out in April.