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Ascend on Your Pony

Butch Hendrick and Andrea Zaferes

How is it possible that divers drown because their main cylinders are empty, yet, they are found wearing untouched, full pony bottles? Switching to your pony mouthpiece in an out-of-air emergency is one of the most important self-rescue skills you could ever learn. All self-rescue skills should be reflexive enough so that you can, and will, perform them even if you are stressed, panicked, or in the process of drowning. To achieve this reflexivity, we must program the physical motions into a memory path that will be stimulated when the skill is called for. Hitting the brake and clutch to avoid hitting a deer in the road is a good example of memory-pathing and reflexivity.

So how did you train yourself to reach for your pony mouthpiece, place it in your mouth, clear it, and breath from it when you need a redundant air source to make it back to the surface unharmed? Most of you will honestly answer that you have not trained yourself. An effective training method is to implement the procedure during all drills, or perhaps all dives, that you should switch to your pony air source to make the ascent. By doing this you are training your arm and body to reflexively find and use the pony mouthpiece. You are also creating a memory path in the brain that when it is time to go to the surface, as during an out of air or low-on air emergency, you will reflexively reach for your pony air source.

Also, when engaged in entry-level or full face mask training sessions in the shallow-end of a pool, public safety divers should be taught to reach for their pony mouthpieces instead of being allowed to stand up to solve out-of-air problems such as not being able to retrieve a primary regulator quickly enough. Give yourself and your team members the best shot possible for going home when the job is done.

Stay safe.

For a related article, see this issues "Lessons Learned."

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