I got dumped into a fence and in the departure, hung my leg behind the high cantle of a western saddle- the snatching on my left leg severely strained my hamstring. That's the only wreck I've been in where the saddle had any effect/involvement in the wreck.
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Falling is falling. Getting hung up or landed on is another matter. I've come off riding both, but can honestly say one way wasn't worse than another. And that horn has come in handy more often than not. I think inexperienced western riders in the wrong saddle can cause a concern for me. I keep reading about stiff and immovable fenders. They shouldn't be! Good quality leather should be pretty supple, and you can twist and train those fenders so your stirrup falls into alignment with your foot. Also, they do make break-away stirrups for western saddles. If I were to get back into barrel racing, I would totally get them! Having the proper seat size, saddle type, and stirrup length also helps.
That said, I wish more people were trained to "help themselves" when it comes to the old involuntary dismount. For example, I was raised not only showing pleasure horses but also rodeo-ing and riding young stock. Coming off a given! From day one my parents instilled in us the instinct to kick free of your stirrups when things feel like they're going bad. They made us ride our show horses and barrel horses without stirrups often, and practice dropping and picking them up over and over (not really a common thing with the western crowd). To this day I get my feet out the second I feel a horse get unsteady (a big stumble will do it) or if a colt starts to come unglued. This past summer, my green filly lost her footing just loping around the arena and fell on top of me, pinning my left leg underneath her. Had I NOT kicked my stirrups before she went down, there's a pretty good chance I would have been drug after she got up.
Also, has anyone practiced bailing off? It's always the last resort, but I'd rather bail before I lose total control of the situation.
I have hit the dirt more times than I care to remember, but usually the saddle had nothing to do with injuries. Most of the time, my injuries came in the form of what I landed on/against...such as a metal gate, fence, gravel, old railroad tracks (that was the worst one).
That being said, there was a time where my belt got hooked over the horn, and that was the weirdest feeling ever until the belt broke.
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Wow, thanks for all of the responses! I do feel better having read them, and think I'll invest in a pair of Western safety stirrups if I plan on doing any considerable riding Western. (I'm 26 and still use my peacock stirrups on my English saddle - I just don't feel safe without them!)
I agree that the ground feels the same. What I have seen with a Western saddle was the time a woman was getting off (a planned dismount)and her fly was unzipped. Hooked that sucker right over the horn.
Popped the button off the jeans, hooked her shirt and yanked it up. That was quite the traumatic get off.
I ride both disciplines and like both, although I do prefer Western on the trails.
...again, English rider here with the inner cowboy - I cannot get out of the jump seat position when jumping in a Western saddle - say a tempting log - and have several times winded myself badly on that darned horn (without getting my bra hooked, luckily.)
This is why I have gotten into the habit of holding onto the top of the horn when jumping in my western saddle. I don't need the support, but it certainly keeps me from getting hit or hooked by it!
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My Western saddle saved me from going off behind last week when my horse attemped an inpromptu airs above the ground move - I think he was trying to do a Capriole. The backs of my upper thighs hit the cantle and kept me in my seat. Interestingly enough, no bruising there, either.
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I have heard of some pretty horrific injuries caused by a saddle horn....
Guy I know was training a young horse, horse bucked a couple of times, trainer came out of seat, landed on horn, broke his pelvis and ruptured his bladder among other things.
Another trainer I know had a horse flip on him, horn pierced his thigh...yowza!
For myself I have had horses go into unexpected bucking fits and I have had some pretty impressive bruising or hematomas from landing all over the horn, swell and high cantle. The ground actually felt good after the beating I was taking in the saddle.
I now ride in a Sensation Hybrid treeless saddle that while it has enough structure to keep it secure on the horse and me secure in the saddle it doesn't have any pointy or grabby parts....the ground is just as hard when I hit it though.
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I'm pretty sure the young guy that took a beating to his groin area today during lessons would say it sucks to fall off in a Western saddle. It even happened in slow motion, sort of. Of course he got little sympathy from the trainer, who made some comment about him breaking the saddle horn. And then my friend commented that she hoped he didn't have a hot date tonight.
Coming off, English or western, nah, I'm not concerned about hangups either way. Last time I came off was in fact western and I incurred significant thigh bruising actually trying to stay aboard by trying to leverage the base of the pommel. It almost worked, but the mare didn't get the memo about quitting bucking after the 8 seconds required for a qualified NFR ride, so I gave up. As has been noted, ground didn't hurt any more than coming off English, and I did remount and do another hour and a half. No malice on the mare's part, she was green and her first time stung by a bee. My bad, if I hadn't had her reins 'on the buckle' she'd have quit after the first leap or two.
As for the horn- I will say that the worst it hurt was when I didn't actually come off, breaking a pony in my youth that we had used routinely for bareback bronc riding (unauthorized) and the barn manager was on to our shenanigans. I drew the short straw. Landing on a tiny little metal horn on a pony saddle is indeed painful. But long story short, the pony turned out very well.
I rode both western and english when I was young (do they still have the Arab versatility classes, where you do the western pleasure, romal rein, and then scramble to change tack and dress to come back saddle seat)? I rode for a lady very much into Arabians, she taught me a lot and was a NO nonsense horsewoman(quite the dragon really) with valuable horses.
Hunt seat on TBs and QHs.
I was never tossed while riding western,even hacking out, which we did often.
It seemed fairly easy to stay on, even with a good buck. I suppose if it was a rodeo buck, I would probably have been launched clear anyway. I was also taught to kick free when things were going south.
Have gone off several times hunt seat. Never in the ring ,thankfully. Haven't shown for eons though so odds are if I'd kept on, it would have happened.
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I can see that if you weren't launched clear, a western saddle would present more chance of injury if only because of the protrusion of the horn and the cantle.
I rode western for years before I switched to English. I also felt more secure riding English, but managed to make spectacular unintentional dismounts with both, and bareback, too, for that matter. And while I didn't catch my bra on a western saddle, I did manage to catch a shirt or two --- let me tell you, it's embarrassing enough to get dumped in a QH show warm-up ring much less when your shirt is ripped open stem to stern and you are displaying your foundation garments! With a western saddle, there are more things to hit and bruise on the way off (horn, cantle, big honking stirrups), and of course, getting hung up in the stirrups. English I usually tended to fall free (except for the time the horse fell over on top of me).
I have fallen out of both seats, multiple times in my life. I would have to say it's not the saddle that makes the difference. It's what else is going on around me, like falling into a jump or a bush or a tree... Or the pavement!
I've had spectacular falls from both - on trails, in show rings, in arenas. I don't remember any that were tack related. The worst was not spectacular at all; my horse reared and I slid off (and somehow smashed my head in, had 30 stiches right over my eye, guess you could see the optic nerve). The event was totally unphotoworthy (unlike one, of several times, Icame off in a show ring when my pony shied and stopped suddenly - went sailing over his head, and landed on my feet, still holding the reins!) I completely agree with whoever wrote about western saddle size. Particularly saddles that are too small are both total misery and likely more likely to hang one up.
And I also agree about learning an emergency dismount when you need to get down NOW! Involuntary dismounts are must not so muchfun!