What to Do After Falling Off a Horse? (Safety Tips to Know)

As a rider, you will want to know what to do after falling off a horse.

Coming off a horse is often a scary experience but taking a closure look at it can help you prepare, reduce risks, and get your confidence back.

So, let’s take a look at my guide about what to do if you have a horse riding accident.

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Why Do People Fall off a Horse?

a person falling from a horse

You can fall off a horse for many reasons, some in the height of action, some are more embarrassing. Regardless of when or why every fall has the potential for serious injury.

Here are the most common ways I’ve seen people fall off a horse.

  • The horse spooks suddenly. It goes one way, the rider another
  • The horse spins around quickly without warning, leaving its rider in the dirt
  • The horse trips and falls itself. This can happen even in the walk, and even with the quietest horse
  • The horse is fresh, in pain, or for another reason throws a buck or takes off bucking
  • The rider gets jumped out of the saddle over a fence
  • The horse refused a fence, sending the rider out over their head
  • The horse catches a leg on a fence and falls or even flips over a jump. (a very dangerous type of fall)
  • The rider ‘falls asleep’ and plops off. I’ve seen this happen when riders are so delighted they completing their jumping course successfully, they forget to slow down the horse, get distracted by their joy, and just fall off the side.
  • The horse drops its shoulder, causing the rider to lose balance
  • A novice rider with poor balance can fall off more easily

How Often Do Riders Fall Off Horses?

a person just fell off from a horse

There is no exact figure as to how often riders fall off horses. It will depend on a lot of factors, such as their ability, how often they ride, the riding activity, and the type of horse they are on.

For example, riders of young, lively horses probably fall off more than someone riding a bombproof happy hacker. Some riders could go a year between falls, while others might fall off every month.

However, there are some statistics if you want figures on falls and injuries. According to the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), “the risk of a fall resulting in an injury ranges from 1 in every 250 starts for low-impact falls to 1 in every 520 starts for serious injuries.” [3]

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What to Do If I Fall Off Riding Horses?

Falling off riding a horse is inevitable. It happens to everyone at some point regardless of is they are amateur riders or professional riders.

Access Your Surroundings

When you fall off a horse, quickly access your surroundings. Where is the horse? Are you in danger of getting stepped on?

Stay Where You Are

Stay where you are for a second or minute. Evaluate your body. You might be winded, so slowly take breathes through your nose to help recover. 

Do you have any pain? Sometimes this is glaringly obvious. If so don’t get up immediately, it can make the injury worse! If you feel pain in your neck or back, or can’t feel your legs, then it is best if you lie still. 

In that case, you need to contact emergency services. Hopefully, someone else is around to do this. One safety rule I was always taught was to never ride alone. It is good advice for a reason, especially if you are seriously injured.

Get Up Slowly

cowboy getting up slowly

If you feel pretty ok, get up slowly. You might be a bit dizzy or unstable on your feet. First, check for any signs of shock. Sometimes a fall can give you a bit of a shock, so it’s better not to jump up.

Ask yourself if you think you hit your head. Looking at your helmet can help, as it might show dirt.

Have Your Hit Your Head

You need to take any hit to the head very seriously, even if you feel fine initially. It is better to be safe than sorry. Go to the hospital emergency service. Tell them you hit your head in a fall from a horse, so you can get checked quickly.

Signs of concussion include confusion, dizziness, a headache, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, vomiting, and nausea.

Take a closer look at the signs of concussion and the risks in this video.

If You Feel Fine

If you are fine, with maybe just a bruise, you can get up pretty quickly. Make sure to catch your horse. Hopefully, it didn’t go far. Check your horse over for any injuries.

If you have no injury except your pride, hope back on, even if you just walk around. This will help you hold on to some confidence for your next rides.

What Injuries Can You Get From Falling off a Horse?

a person being injured

Horse riding is a risky sport. That means that you are a high risk of injury when taking part in this activity.

Studies have concluded that “horse riding continues to be found more dangerous than motorcycling, skiing, football, and rugby” [1] 

This is because when riding you are moving at speed and fall from a height.

The injuries you can sustain range from mild to severe. And unfortunately, fatalities occur every year. Here is a list of the common injuries you can get from falling off a horse.

  • Bruises
  • Broken wrist
  • Broken ankle
  • Fractured leg
  • Broken collar bone
  • Dislocated elbow or shoulder
  • Knee ligament tears
  • Broken vertebrae
  • Traumatic brain injury or other head injuries
  • Sprains
  • Paralysis
  • Broken pelvis
  • Abdominal trauma
  • Neck injury

“More than 48,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for horseback riding injuries in 2017” according to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). [2]

How To Be Safe From Injuries When you Fall Off a Horse?

a person thinking on how to be safe from falling off a horse

Years ago riders did not have much in the way of safety equipment. While there is still a lot of room for improvement, riders today have access to equipment that can help protect them when they fall off a horse.

There are several ways to keep yourself safer:

  • Always wear horseback riding helmets when mounted. Ensure it is not damaged or too old. If it is replace it.
  • Use safety stirrups. There are tons of these now, not just the old-fashioned peacock stirrups kids used to use. These will help release your foot if you fall.
  • Wear appropriate footwear. This means boots designed specifically for horse riding with the right shape and heel height. Never wear other types of shoes.
  • Consider wearing a body protector. These can lessen the damage if the horse steps on you when you fall.
  • Always check your gear to make sure it is still secure and not about to break
  • Use a saddle that fits you and your horse correctly
  • Train yourself to fall, such as learning how to roll. This is harder said than done, as a fall can happen so fast.
  • Never attempt a riding activity or riding a horse beyond your current skill level
  • Tuck your head to the side and make sure to keep your chin down
  • Try to roll onto your shoulder so it takes the impact
  • Wrap arms around you

Unfortunately learning how to fall is still absent from more horse riding disciplines. However, there is progress in racing. 

Check out this video from the British Racing Horse, where jockey’s learn falling techniques.

What To Do if a Horse Steps on You?

If a horse steps on you in a fall it can cause some pretty nasty injuries. Injuries include bruises, cuts, scrapes, and even broken bones.

Sometimes you might not know if the horse actually stepped on you as a fall happens so quickly. The only sign might be pain. If someone witnesses your fall, they can usually tell you.

If a horse steps on a more exposed area of your body or dangerous areas such as your ribs, spine, fingers, or wrist. It is a good idea to go to the hospital to get checked in case there is a fracture or any internal injury.

For scraps and cuts, clean the wound and if necessary bandage it to keep it clean. If you have a deep cut, get medical attention in case you need stitches.

If you have a bruise, it is likely you will be pretty sore. Icing a bruise can help with pain and swelling.

How Do You Regain Confidence After Falling off a Horse?

Here’s some key pointers from Amelia Newcomb Dressage on Youtube.

One of the worst effects of falling off a horse is losing your confidence. This can affect riders of all levels and it is hard to overcome. Physical injuries often heal quicker than mental fear.

Some riders can develop anxiety due to not knowing what the horse will do when they are riding. Since horses have a mind of their own, it is impossible to control every situation.

You can develop a fear of doing a certain activity or riding a particular horse. There are some ways that equations can regain their confidence.

Dealing With Fear

Fear is the route of any confidence issues you might have after a fall. Our brain goes into warning overdrive.

While it can help to get right back on your horse after a fall if you are not hurt, don’t feel pressured to do this. The cause of the fall could be a pain issue for the horse, so evaluate why the fall happened first.

First, take some time out to look at why the fall happened objectively taking emotion out of the equation. Breaking it down can help you realize that it was something simple that you can correct easily.

Start off slowly. Maybe you realized that you over faced yourself or your horse. So take baby steps. If you get on and just quietly walk around make that good enough for that ride and see it as an accomplishment.

Decide What You Need To Work On

cowboy being determined

If your balance or riding position leads to your fall. Make it a priority to improve. Perhaps take some riding lessons with an instructor that has a reputation for helping nervous riders.

This video has some great tips on evaluating your falls and regaining confidence.

Use A Equestrian Mind Coach

Sports psychology is very common now. If you are struggling, an equestrian mind coach who knows the specific issues riders face can help you overcome your fears.

Ride a Quiet Horse

girl riding a quiet horse

If you have access to a really quiet horse, ride that horse for a while. These horses can help you build your confidence. Taking a few lessons on a reliable school horse is a good option.

Whatever path you take, do things at your own pace. Some people can gain their confidence back quickly, while others might take months. It doesn’t matter how long it takes and don’t let others pressure you.

FAQs

Is it normal to be sore after falling off a horse?

Yes, it is normal to be sore after falling off a horse. Even if you don’t have a bad fall, you can have bruises or pulled muscles.

Do horses feel bad when you fall off?

a horse walking away

It is unlikely that horses feel bad when you fall off as they don’t see the situation in that way. They might stop and look at you, in a ‘how did you get there’ look as it is unexpected for them to see you on the ground.

Conclusion

I hope my tips have helped you know what to do after falling off a horse. It is an unavoidable risk for all equestrian sports.

However, there are some ways you can lessen your chances of injury and get your confidence back. If you love horses, don’t let it deter you from enjoying this wonderful activity.

Getting Back Up After Falling Off Your Horse

Have you experienced falling off a horse? Please share with us what you did!

References

  • 1. Thompson K, McGreevy P, McManus P. A Critical Review of Horse-Related Risk: A Research Agenda for Safer Mounts, Riders and Equestrian Cultures. Animals [Internet]. 2015;5:561–75. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4598694/
  • 2. Horseback Riding Injury Prevention – OrthoInfo – AAOS [Internet]. www.orthoinfo.org. Available from: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/horseback-riding-injury-prevention#:~:text=Horseback%20riding%20injuries%20often%20occur
  • 3. Agriculture U of KC of, Food, May 24 E |, Article 2019 |, Safety, Welfare, et al. The “Right Way” to Fall Off a Horse [Internet]. The Horse. 2019 [cited 2022 Apr 28]. Available from: https://thehorse.com/172483/the-right-way-to-fall-off-a-horse/#:~:text=F%C3%A9d%C3%A9ration%20Equestre%20Internationale%20(FEI%2C%20the
Siun L
Siun L

Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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