On day one of the LandSafe clinic, they said we would be a bit sore the next day, but that it was normal and we shouldn’t worry about it. Well “a bit” was a gross underestimate. By the time we got home from the clinic, the doing a saddle trial, cleaning stalls, and cleaning out the turkey pen, I was beat. When my husband asked me how I was feeling:
Seriously though, every part of my body hurt: my arms, my shoulders, my legs, and especially my core. I was surprised that my back wasn’t really bothering me, but it makes sense. The exercises they’re having you do aren’t designed to hurt you. However, I exercise
once in a never and have no strength so my muscles had all quit in protest. I took a lot of Advil, a bath, and applied some BenGay, but I was very stiff the next morning. Luckily, the second day was easier.
We started with the same stretches and did some basic tumbles to get warmed up. We also practiced falling backwards. The emphasis was on keeping your chin tucked to avoid hitting your head. Danny recounted a story of falling off a horse who was rearing at the start box. He told us his head didn’t hit for 2 reasons: his head was tucked and his air vest went off and wrapped around his neck. He said that after that he though everyone should have an air vest. Sadly, I got no video of this practice.
Then we did a new exercise where we bounced on the trampoline, swung our legs around the stand, landed and then did a tumble as practice for an emergency dismount. Or rather, that’s what my husband did.
I bounced around, and then slammed my legs into the stand. Multiple times. Because I am not coordinated enough for this sort of thing. I also really didn’t have the arm strength left to do it. I gave up even trying after the first few failures. We finished up by doing some running tumbles before moving on to the simulator.
On the first day we did about 3 hours of mat work to 1 hour of simulator. On the second day we only did 90 minutes of mat before moving on to the simulator. The mat work was a lot more intense so I was happy to rest more in between my simulator turns.
Once the simulator was set up, we started with rearing practice. The simulator isn’t designed to rear, so they put the saddle on backwards for this step. For rearing, Danny talked a lot about how to handle that situation. If you try to sit in the saddle too long your feet will eventually pull up from the stirrups and you’ll have to grab something. If you grab the reins, you’ll pull the horse over on to you. So you should stand in the saddle and lean forward until you have to jump off. If you stay in the saddle too long, your stirrups will fall off the stirrup bars (one of the participants unintentionally went ahead and demonstrated this for us) and you will fall. Danny actually welds his stirrup bars shut since he uses safety stirrups and isn’t worried about getting dragged. For rearing, you want to push off of the stirrups, jump back to the side, land on your feet and then fall backwards rolling.
I kept just falling on my butt because rolling and I don’t go together too well. One of the early times I somehow managed to cross my legs and land sitting cross legged. I don’t even know how. Or why. I certainly wasn’t trying to and couldn’t do it again if I tried. While I never got good at it, I did get better.
Next we did some practice with falling from the neck of the horse. Since a rotational fall isn’t that common for an amateur, it’s more likely that we’re going to fall off from bucking or a refusal or a spin where you’ll be clinging to the horse’s neck. For this one the emphasis was on pushing away from the horse. Danny also told the group something I hadn’t thought of before regarding holding on to the reins. I know I am supposed to drop the reins in a fall, but I have a bad habit of not doing it. My one finger didn’t bend for a year after holding on to the reins during a fall. It still doesn’t 100% bend, but it no longer sticks out when I bend all the other ones, which is especially nice since it’s my middle finger! Anyway, you’d think I’d know better than to hold on to the reins, but I guess I learn slowly. Anyway, Danny said that when you hold on to the reins during a fall, you’re not just risking hand/arm injuries, you’re literally pulling the horse towards you. You’re forcing the horse to trample you.
We practiced by getting on the simulator, awkwardly wiggling ourselves down its neck and then throwing the reins away, pushing off, tucking chin, bracing, and rolling. This one was actually really hard because they left the horse in the downward position and you had to mount and then shimmy down the neck without accidentally falling. It’s not like I frequently mount horses that are in the midst of bucking so it was hard to organize my legs around that. There’s also a little give in the horse so it wobbles as you’re leaning down.
They also took the big fluffy mat away so we were falling onto the green bouncy “ground” for this one.
Next up was the emergency dismount. They called the pony club dismount a “controlled dismount.” In a real emergency, they don’t want you to waste time kicking out of the stirrups and then hopping off. Instead, we were instructed to push off of the stirrups to come around the horse and land on your feet then roll. I didn’t do this one because they advised us that if we had a bad ankle it would probably roll on hitting the bouncy green mat. Since my ankle likes to give up functioning on me on solid ground, I decided to opt out. This was a cool exercise though because they finally moved the horse.
The horse can actually do a lot. Apparently if you take the clinic more than once you can do more advanced things with the horse. They’ll run the horse down the track at full speed and then slam it to a stop or twist it side to side. You can even do some falls with your airvest and helmet to see how that changes your landing. My husband already wants to do the class again.
After the emergency dismount practice we did rotational falls again. This time they removed the big fluffy mat and replaced it with one of the flat blue mats so we could experience a fall from higher up and with less padding.
At the end of the clinic, we watched did a slide show of pictures of top-level professionals in eventing and steeplechase jockeys falling and Danny and Keli discussed how the way those people fell helped to protect them. They also pointed out how the people in those pictures were using the techniques we had learned that weekend. It’s not just them.
We talked to Danny and Keli a bit after the clinic. They have a few more west coast clinics planned and then they’re heading back to the east coast where they’re headquartered and probably won’t be back to the west coast for at least a year. I would definitely do this clinic again and so would my husband. His comment was you should have to do this before you even start riding. We learned a lot and it was really enjoyable.We paid for this clinic and received nothing for this post. If they’re anywhere near you, I highly recommend signing up and attending a LandSafe clinic.