View Full Version : Rotational fall

26th February 2010, 05:13 PM
Rotational falls are a big issue. With the number of riders death in the past few years, what can we do to mawimise safety? I believe that on of the ways to achieve this is for riders to take part in "fall trainig", something which I have specialised in as a stunt rider.
Here's a quick overview.

Preparation: mental & physical.
Mental preparation: you must not be afraid to fall. The way to teach people is not to emphasise fall-related serious injuries. That’s negative not positive. We all know the worst that can happen. Educate them in how personal fitness, mental & physical relaxation and technique will minimise the potential for injury. This encourages a positive mental attitude and promotes confidence, both of which are required for safe falls.
Physical preparation: riders know about the benefits of fitness and the importance of warming-up, but most rarely do enough. Athletic people will have greater suppleness and faster response times, and will have far more awareness and control of their body. Physical preparation includes being taught how to fall (see training).

Response: Fear causes tension, and tension increases the risk of injury. Tense people do not move or respond well. Relaxing and allowing the fall to happen frees the rider to control the body. A good method for teaching control of the body whilst in the air is the trampoline. Tucking for ground contact can be taught using gymnastic exercises. Riders need to learn to let the horse go when falling and to understand the importance of not only rolling after the tuck to disperse force but to use it to clear the horse (see training).

Protection: Personally, I will not do a fall in a BHS body protector. Nor, to my knowledge, will anybody else in my industry. There is no way these body protectors were designed by people who know what it’s like to fall! This is an area which seriously needs to be addressed. Definitely time for a review on design. I wear a motorcross body protector.

Fall Training: I was fortunate enough to be trained using a high wire for practise (I still hit the ground but with less impact). There are different techniques to different falls, but the most important factor in them all is relaxation. Like the drunk who doesn’t injure himself falling over, relaxation makes you softer, suppler, instinctive. Left/right brain orientation etc.
Some of the following might be useful to you:
I learnt to tuck in my head, tuck my body into a fold, and - depending on the fall - either: hit the ground with the back of my shoulder and into a sideways roll to clear (lateral fall); hit the ground with the back of both shoulders (back fall); hit the ground on the top of my back straight into a roll - for this, the forward fall, it is imperative to tuck in for a half somersault otherwise you will land flat on your back or front; the chute arriere (back somersault off rear of horse) requires landing on knees (using lower body protection) and allowing the impulsion to send you into a forward roll on the ground.
Besides relaxation, it is vital to really be able to control your body because you have to hit the ground with the right part of your body, you have be able to continue the movement and to stop it.
There are two methods to fall with a (trained) falling horse: the horse will either (a) fall on its side or (b) fall forwards onto its shoulder (its pretty much up to the horse, how its been trained and how it behaves on the day). For horse falls I have the toe in the stirrup - that’s toe, not right up to the ball of the feet, important for immediate release. Falling involves the exact same manoeuvre as lying a horse down at a standstill: left leg forward and up to keep it from being caught under the horse, letting the horses impulsion throw you clear into a roll. It depends, sometimes it involves having the right stirrup shorter for kick-off (most horses are trained to fall to the left as it’s more natural) or no stirrups.
Speed of the horse is important. A fast horse helps you clear (meaning projection: like skimming a stone across a pond) and the horse gets away - and that’s the safest thing I need. A slow horse or one that stops when you fall off puts you in danger of not clearing and risks you getting caught under the horse.
Falling at speed is safer!
It is paramount to get clear from the horse. This is where a riders “stick-ability” can put them in danger. The riders instinct is to stick in the saddle and with the horse at all costs as that’s where they feel it is safest (preferably keeping hold of the reins so the horse doesn’t run off). Highly dangerous. This is an area in which I feel people need to be re-educated. It is safer to hit the ground solo than to come down with/under the horse. If the horse is in serious trouble and in danger of falling, then the rider must instinctively get ready to let go, clear and roll safely away. Learn it, make it a habit, and it will become instinct.

I have had accidents where the horse I’m riding has fallen unexpectedly. My training is now my instinct - to free the leg on the side the horse is falling and to use the horses impulsion to help eject myself as far as I can, then to land in a tuck and roll. I have also had a frontal rotational fall where I cleared out forwards and, out of habit, sideways. In that particular situation it is like Russian roulette as it is unpredictable where the horse is going to come down.

When learning a new technique I will do the movements first on the ground, then on a horse at a standstill, then at a walk, fast canter, finally a gallop - for all falls and horse falls.

I hope some of the above may help.

26th February 2010, 06:23 PM
No i am not "Barry G"
The idea is not to avoid rotational falls but to teach people how to respond in order to lower the risks of terrible injuries. Horses will fall, that is innevitable, even without jumps, so the only way to avoid falls is to not ride at all, but with the right mental and physical preparations, we can minimise the risks of injuries. Having an in-depth knowledge of falling (due to my job), i will have less risk of injuries than most people. When I or the horse falls accidently, I never consider myself lucky to not have been injured, I know that my knowledge has saved me many times.

26th February 2010, 07:06 PM
Very interesting. I often think that riders should have training in 'how to fall'. I was watching some vaulting which was part of the finale at Olympia this Christmas and saw one very small girl fall from the horse. I held my breath, but she tucked into a perfect forward roll and sprung straight up. Of course these vaulters wear neither hat, shoes or body protector.

I think that in a big rotational fall XC, there is going to be at least some element of luck, however much you have trained in how to fall. Here's a point - I read a very long debate on another forum about the new Point Two air jackets and some safety issues which were bothering a few people. The owner of Point Two came online to speak about his jackets, but I don't think that the people who had worries were completely convinced. Amongst other things, they thought that the connecting lanyard may, even just for a split second, hold the rider closer to the horse than would be if they were unnattached - in certain types of slow falls. It was all very interesting, but I don't pretend to know much about the technicalities.

I do think that eventing should (and does) still continue with work on how they can reduce the possibilities of rotational falls, I see this as being over and above the fall training. I was just reading about an eventing safety forum that was held at Hartpury last month - looked very interesting, loads of stuff going on. Amongst the normal talk of frangible pins etc, there was talk about letting the horse 'own' the fence and not trying so hard to place it in an exact take off point, that type of thing.

All good food for thought!

26th February 2010, 07:19 PM
[QUOTE=black crow;109219] however, in some cases, 'luck' in whatever sense of the word, does play a part in some cases where the rider is almost unable to react or respond, and a 'freak accident' can easily happen, no matter how experienced at falling the rider is.

I couldn't agree more as i do admit that in some situations luck has played it's part, but in the same time, knowledge has always allowed me to put more chances on my side. I deal everyday with dangerous, unbroken, problem horses and everyday I hope that everything will go right.
As an experienced rider yourself, you will know that the more knowledge, the less risk of injuries. Yes freak accidents do happen and they can happen very fast, but a very experienced rider will, most of the time, be one small step ahead and avoid as much as possible terrible injuries.
Horses will always be unpredictable so educating people can only be a good thing .

26th February 2010, 07:41 PM
Surely the whole point about a rotational fall is the speed of it? A fast fall will throw the rider clear, a slow fall will drop the rider into the path of the falling horse. I agree fall training is a good thing but however well you tuck and roll in a slow rotational fall the horse will still land on you, which is what kills you rather than the fall itself. As Susan pointed out training the horse to take on the fence rather than placing it to the fence (as advocated by Lucinda Green among others) seems more effective in this particular instance.

26th February 2010, 09:06 PM
I agree with Partner, where fall training may help with many everyday falls, it will not help with a rotational. If you look at the statistics surrounding rotational falls, and the type of fence they usually occur at, speed is the deciding factor. Most rotational falls occur at combination fences, or fences that are ridden on a line which makes the rider want to sit and wait for a stride. The horse is then travelling at a slower speed and looses momentum, which, as the front legs hit the fence causes te horse to somersault, but as the speed is low the rider generally stays with the horse as there is not nough power for them to be thrown clear. If a horse catches a front leg on a normal fence, on an open part of the course, they will be travelling at greater speed, and where the horse will slow down suddenly and flip, the rider will generally carry on and be thrown clear.
Training at lower levels will help minimise the risk of poor and dangerous riding, which will help minimise the risk of rotational falls.

26th February 2010, 09:45 PM
"quote" I agree fall training is a good thing but however well you tuck and roll in a slow rotational fall the horse will still land on you "quote"

I will not entirely agree with this as i have experienced it not long ago and wasn't the first time. Traveling at a slow canter, the horse cliped a small trunk I had to jump and went into a rotational fall, to make the matter worst another 10 horses were coming behind me. All my experience of falling has allowed me to very quickly tuck and roll away very fast avoiding getting my horse on top of me and the other ones. Now I will not say that it can be achieved everytime,but all my training has made me develop the natural instinct of getting out of the way.
Where we can get in the most trouble, is not to much with the speed, or lack of it, but with the hight that the horse falls from. This is the most dificult one to deal with. The higher the horse come from, the less distance forward he and the rider will travel.

26th February 2010, 10:07 PM
Do you mean that your own fall was rotational, (ie you somersaulted) or the horse had a rotational fall? I'm not sure from your most recent answer?

26th February 2010, 10:10 PM
The horse had a rotational fall

27th February 2010, 12:20 PM
Like this? Too much stickability though it's not classed as a rotational fall as there was no fence involved, I was not thrown clear, it was a fall on the flat in canter, just pecked and went. Rolled directly ontop of me.

It hurt, but nothing was broken, Tia split her lip and damaged a hoof, I was just very bruised, damaged my wrist and had very bruised ribs. Went to A&E a week after it happened as I had to retire XC on Oscar as I just could not breathe, I showed them the pictures above, I've never been seen to soooo fast!

27th February 2010, 06:11 PM
I have personally witnessed several rotational falls, one of which was fatal. The rider tucked and rolled on landing but the horse still landed upside down on the rider who "died" in the ambulance, but everyone who saw it was in no doubt that the rider had no chance. You were lucky Fjeanguillaume, that rider was not.

As an ex-gymnast I know how to fall and heartily disagree with the insurance/liability dictated methods of teaching currently employed in this country. Learning to fall should be as much a part of riding as learning to eskimo roll is part of learning canoeing, and in the old days the saying was that you were not a proper rider until your 7th fall. I was just pointing out that both from my research and from my personal experience a rotational fall is the least able to be influenced by a rider's actions. I am not disagreeing with the purpose of you post, just the example you chose to illustrate it.

27th February 2010, 06:51 PM
I am not avocating that fall training will save your life. I have lost a very good friend when he had a bad fall and not a rotational one but surely by providing training and awareness we can have a chance of reducing the risks. Of course there will always be fatalities in the horse world and it is a very sad fact so my aim is to educate people in order to limit the chances. My fall training program has prooved to be very useful to many riders already and some have told me that it has saved them from injuries as they developed natural responses.

27th February 2010, 08:50 PM
I really am not trying to argue with you on your central point. I had fall training in my gymnastic career and that coupled with my bone strength from the same has saved me much more injury than I could otherwise have had.

It is great that you have posted your thoughts and tips for us and you have a laudable aim that has already proved successful. Fantastic! more power to you! and as I said I wish the Courts, insurance companies etc would come to their senses and allow an environment where we could get back to some old style common sense and recognition that teaching fall techniques and not wrapping riding pupils in cotton wool will make safer more secure riders.

It is just that a few of us have questioned the fact that you picked rotational falls - to the extent of making it the title of your post - when that is probably the type of fall in which the outcome is least influenced by the techniques you describe, though any attempt is better than none. I agree that rider training is part of it - not just in learning to fall (which we all should), and learning to balance so as not to further unbalance the horse but also in correctly assessing the horse's fitness and capabilities, allowing the horse time to find his jumping feet and rhythm, allowing the horse to learn to get himself out of trouble (developing the so called 5th leg), adapting riding/approach according to ground conditions and finally taking the time to develop the horse and rider partnership over time and experience so when things go wrong there is some hope of the pair working together. Despite all this, the best can be caught out by an accident in the true sense of the word as has been proved time and again.