Tomorrow I'm going to a defensive riding / self-defense from horseback clinic given by Jerry Tindell. I trail ride a lot and 99% of the time I'm by myself, so I thought this would be a good clinic to sign up for. Will report back with some tidbits of information!
very interesting, I'd be looking forward to an update. I ride alone most of the time too. I do meet some odd people out there, but it seems like usually when I meet them is when my horse is been acting like a fire-breathing dragon, and I just keep moving!
"Do your best, and leave the rest, twill all come right, some day or night" -Black Beauty
I took one of these a few years ago.... the mounted clinic itself was beyond boring (note to self: Audit these things) but, some good information:
1) If a person approaches you, don't let them get near your horse's bridle.
2) Do not try to hit them with your whip or hands; it's easy for them to grab your whip or your hand and pull you off the horse.
3) If they reach up as if to grab you, grab their wrist, shove it down on the pommel of your saddle in front of you, and kick your horse on, so that the person's arm is trapped and you're dragging them. That puts them on the defensive.
4) Most horses are trained not to run over a person, and get confused when asked to do so. Instead, have your horse spin so that the horse's butt knocks the person off balance. You can also turn your horse around and have him "back over" the attacker.
5) If the attacker grabs your leg, let your leg go limp. If your leg is stiff, the attacker can use your own leg as a pole to shove you off the other side of the horse. If your leg is limp and floppy, it gives the attacker no purchase. Use your other leg to spin your horse's butt into the attacker.
6) Do not let folks in the middle of nowhere come up and "pet your nice horse." You can say things like, "You'll want to stay back a bit; he bites," or, if they ask if they can pet your horse, simply say, "Oh, it's better if you stay back; sorry" and ride quickly on.
7) Practice yelling aggressively. Seriously. Practice yelling, loudly, "Get the ____ away, you ____! Get away from me and my horse NOW! I will run your ass down and I will do it now!" If yelled convincingly, this will be enough to deter many would-be attackers.
The point is to keep yourself on your horse and able to get loose from the attacker and run like hell. Remember to run toward the parking lot/home, so you don't have to worry about passing the attacker again on your way home.
Still, though, remember that most of the time, trail riding, even alone, is awesome and usually relatively safe. Don't let the worry keep you home, IMO. Just be aware.
The yelling point makes me laugh because you are so right. Sometimes people need to be cussed at. I remember many years ago walking my dog-agressive dog on leash and watching this woman jog toward me with her off leash dog. I said, "My dog is dog-agressive, please get your dog". She ignored me. I said it again, and she ignored me.
"Get you F*&*ing Dog!" I yelled -that got her attention.
Sometimes people, well-meaning, just tune you out. So if someone is coming up to you and your horse and you don't know them, don't be polite.
He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).
I'm back! I had to spend all day yesterday catching up on chores so didn't have time to write.
My experience was very different from SharonA's in that I think this clinic would have been boring to watch and one wouldn't have gotten as much out of it as an auditor as compared to being a rider. It is one thing to watch and listen and think you can do the exercises, but it is quite another to actually do them (at least for me and my horse).
Some basic principles are (just as if you were not riding):
1) Be aware - know what is going on around you, pay attention to who is on the trail and what they are doing. Listen to your spidey-sense - do you get a bad vibe from someone? Pay attention to it! (For me it was also a confirmation to listen to my horse and what he notices. My horse is very alert and often will stop on a trail - head goes up, ears pricked. I have learned to pay attention to that instead of trying to just kick him on. He is always right and will hear someone coming around a corner that I couldn't have possibly heard. If we stand our ground, we can assess the situation vs. running into a bike blindly flying around the corner, for example.)
2) Posture. Both for not looking like a victim, but also for being secure in the saddle. Sit tall, don't slouch in the fetal position. If you are coming across something that requires your attention, sitting confidently and securely in the saddle will help to prevent someone or something from unseating you. If you get scared and curl up into a ball, you're screwed. ;-)
3) LOOK at the target (bad guy). Look him squarely in the eye and ride with purpose. You may put someone off by just looking at them as if saying "I see you, I know you're there, I am not someone to be messed with."
4) Movement. Being able to control your horse's movement is (obviously) key. Leg yielding either away from something (which is easy if your horse is nervous) or into something (which is harder because like it was said above, horses are generally trained to not get into people's space). Moving the shoulders, moving the haunches, going forward, backing up. You may need to move your horse's haunch into someone to get them to move away from you, or you may need to go forward and mow someone over. Your horse has to do what you want him to do, when you want him to do it.
So of course these sound like simple and easy things, but if the energy is up and you are nervous, or your horse is nervous, it is going to be harder. We did a lot of exercises to work in/through the nervous state:
1) Jerry walked around the arena, but with big, menacing, scary, purposeful energy. He didn't even have to wave his arms or shout or "do anything" that looked scary, but the horses definitely got the vibe and all shied away from him, so we had to practice control in trying to walk over/through someone.
2) Jerry was mounted on his big mule and worked with each of us on trying to get to us to unseat us. We basically went around in a small circle, each of us taking up half the circle, so to speak (his mule's head was at my horse's butt and vice versa, while I was bent away from him as he was trying to reach out and get me). Again here - look the target in the eye and sit tall. Have your reins short enough that you can control your horse's movement. Be solid in your position so that you can stay with the horse and not be unseated.
3) We each picked a partner and then rode stirrup-to-stirrup leg yielding into and away from each other.
4) We weaved through cones and a small space between him and the fence, again leg yielding toward him to push him away from us.
5) We again moved between him and the fence while he tried to grab us/the horse and we did whatever we needed to do to get him off of us. He tried to grab my leg and I kicked him!
6) Jerry has trained many horses for various police departments and he put us in some formations so we could work together to move a crowd (him and some helpers). We worked in "columns of two" and walked in various patterns (kind of like Simon Says - it was fun!), and then we'd line up to form a barricade line and move him and his group back, or have them walk at us and we would either hold them or move them back. He did this both with and without props (plastic water bottles being crinkled).
Some other tidbits of information.
1) This sounds contrary to what SharonA said before but he said if someone grabs your body and tries to either pull you or push you to the side, straighten the leg of the direction you are being moved and use your foot in the stirrup to push off and keep you in the saddle (like if someone is pulling at me to come off the near side, I would straighten that leg to keep me upright - use it to push into the stirrup to counter-balance the pull, if that makes sense).
2) Do whatever you have to do to get someone away from you, so if that means kicking them or hitting them with your split reins, or hitting them with a whip then go for it.
3) Most people who would go after you don't understand the nature of horses, so you can yell and say "my horse bites/kicks/strikes" or whatever, and move into them to get them to back off of you. Just the verbal threat of something like that could/should warn someone off of you.
4) Yes, use your voice. And don't get engaged with the lost person who asks you to help them read their map (that was another exercise). If you don't get a bad/threatening feeling from them, you can tell them to stand away from you so that they don't spook your horse. If they follow your direction, they are probably not a bad guy. If they ignore you and continue to move in, they probably are and you may need to escalate by moving your horse toward them (depending on terrain, of course).
5) If you are on a single-track and someone has to pass you, have them pass you on the downhill slope.
6) If you are on a single-track on the side of a hill and you need to move for whatever reason, point your horse downhill so that if he backs up you're not going to back off a cliff (duh!)
I'm sure there are other things that I can't remember right now, but that was most of it. Jerry had really interesting exercises for us to work on, and his background in training police officers/horses was very useful. He was all about building confidence and bravery in the horse/rider pairs so that we have more tools at our disposal.
I confess I'm always a little puzzled when I see articles and stuff about this. I'm riding a 16.2 racehorse -- I'm gonna get the f@#$ out of there. I sure as heck am not going to be practicing my leg yielding. You are welcome to try and hold on to my 1500 lbs of muscle that leapt out of a starting gate many times.
I guess I'm not sure why there has to be more to it than, "Run, run away."
I totally understand what you are saying. I actually tend to be on the paranoid side and am always on the lookout for the 51-50, as Jerry called them (crazy people), so wouldn't necessarily engage anyone. But this was a sort of "what-if" scenario clinic, and it was good practice nonetheless. Yes, of course, you don't want to engage if you don't have to, but if you come upon a situation that you can't easily get out of (on singletrack surrounded by trees or downhill cliff or fence with nowhere to go), it is a good thing to practice or have in the back of your mind.
As a kid at camp we were on a trail ride with 12 of us & adult male trainer. Nutter who lived in the woods drove up to us on ATV, parked it to block our path, got off & went after trainer. Weird things happen
Thanks SharonA and Pocket Pony for posting your info!!
I make sure all my horses will move very very well off my leg just in case of somebody trying to get me off the horse. I prefer a horse who is a bit on the hotter side, and pays attention. I had a QH and he was so slow to react on everything. I sold him just for that reason. Somebody got a great horse though, just not spicey enough for me to feel safe on in case somebody tried to grab me. Heaven help us if we had to get away fast.
My current horse is a sensitive one, and she moves quick. She is super forward. Bad guy beware!
I have trouble believing that attacks by people on people riding horses happen with such frequency that one would feel the need to develop skills to deal with the situation. Predatory types look for vulnerable people, which the horseback rider is not. Predatory types also look for victims in places where victims are more likely to be found, not miles out on a lonely trail. And practically all violent assaults of women are committed by persons well-known to the woman, not by random strangers.
The only report of any real attack on a horseback rider that I can find, the horse went after the attacker and knocked the guy down.
It's much more common to see reports of dogs or bears going after ridden horses; did your clinic cover what to do in that kind of situation?
No one asked about bears, but yes, the dog question came up. Of course every situation is different, but the advice was to go after the dog if the dog was coming for you - if you turn and run, the dog will give chase and the situation likely won't end well. I had a friend who did this with a coyote and it worked well - scared the coyote off!
The point in all of this is to create confidence in your horse so that he'll listen to you if/when the shit hits the fan. Of course we want that at all times and in all circumstances, but I think a lot of people treat a trail ride differently than, say, a schooling ride in the arena where you have a specific task you want to work on. On the trails, and I'm guilty of this, we just off into la-la land in our heads and can more easily be caught by surprise if we're not paying attention.
Anyway, it was a good clinic for me for more reasons than just the topic covered. Since I almost always ride alone (and have never been afraid on the trail, nor have I been bothered by anyone), my horse isn't used to working around other horses who are at a high energy / stress level and to put him in this situation was good practice for a bigger clinic we're doing later this month.
My first thought when I started this thread was defensive riding as in defensive driving, or how to avoid accidents and stay safe.
I think the info was somewhat valuable but I have to agree that being accosted while on a horse is pretty remote. I was hoping you were going to give tips about things like how to avoid getting hurt if your horse bolts in certain dangerous terrain, or how to recognize certain dangerous trail conditions, how to fall off a horse, how to do things safely like tie your horse if you have to pee in the woods, or how to cross water safely, or avoid/deal with dangerous wildlife, that sort of thing.
It would have been valuable to have a list of the most common types of accidents which occur while trail riding, and then address ways to avoid them. For example, I have heard several times (in fact it seems like every year) of people whose horses get stuck in mud. Or falling off cliffs. Or how about instruction on riding defensively when encountering hikers, dogs, or off-road vehicles.
How about a discussion of things to desensitize your horse to. I'll bet seasoned trail riders have a few things on that list that would be surprising to us greenies.
There may be some very good tips about interacting with vehicular traffic which can make it much safer. Is it safer to ride your horse across a slippery paved intersection or lead it? What if the intersection is several lanes wide?
What gear should you never be without if you are on a trail? How about a discussion of safety gear, especially items which would not be obvious (like helmets)?
All these things involve riding defensively. The trick is to impart information that is not already common knowledge.