Why Is Falling Off A Horse So Dangerous?

The most obvious reason is that the fall – any type of fall – can cause a horrific injury. The area that is potentially at risk is the skull, which houses the brain. When a rider falls off a horse, they are at risk of developing a concussion that could lead them to paralysis.

Each fall – each situation – differs in terms of severity. On one end, there is a possibility of getting a severe injury, and on the other, you could get tiny or no injuries at all. The risks of a fatality get high if the faller (whoever fell) was not wearing the proper safety gear – boots, a helmet, and the like.

The danger behind falling off is that hitting the ground could happen at a high impact. If the floor is something rigid, like stones or cement, the fall will not get comfortable cushioning.

Without wearing a helmet, the head of the faller could hit hard on the ground, which is not good news. Without boots, a rider who falls exposes his legs unwisely.

If a rider’s foot is stuck in the stirrups during a fall, they will remain tied to the horse. Then, the horse will keep running around and dragging the rider along. Also, the horse could panic and bite or kick the rider.

Think about falling off a horse like any other fall-off situation – all of them have the potential of rendering someone handicapped for the rest of their lives.  

Horse-Related Injuries

From the least experienced riders to the more acquainted equestrians (expert horseback riders), getting involved in a fall-off accident with a horse can happen to anyone. However, studies have put it out that around 50 percent of horse-related accidents could have been prevented if the ones involved were prepared and educated.

A study done in 2007 explored horse-related accidents. John Mayberry and his colleagues did the research, and it acted upon 679 horseback riders. Here are the tabulated findings:

The Experience Level Of The EquestrianExperience Time (Average, In Years)The Risk Of Getting Injury (Percentage)The Risk Of Getting A Severe Injury (Percentage)The Use Of A Helmet (Percentage)
Professional/ Instructor34943759

Looking at the table, you can infer that the more a rider becomes experienced, the higher the risk of getting injured (falling off the horse). This can be attributed to the lack of caution and letting their guard down (see the use of helmet). While dropping off a horse is dangerous, having fitted the right gear reduced the risk of severe injury. The lesson to take away from the research is that you shouldn’t climb onto the saddle without your protective attire regardless of your experience level. 

In the sections here, you will explore the specifics on how to stay away from being injured. In the end, you will know to avoid getting hurt, and interestingly, how to fall safely and reduce risks that come with horseback riding.  

Horseback Riding 101:  How To Avoid Getting Injured

As mentioned, falling is almost inevitable. It doesn’t matter if you have been doing it for long – things can go wrong, and you can come crashing down. Worse still, a Humpty Dumpty moment could come, and you wouldn’t want that. Here, you will learn how to fall gracefully and prevent incurring a severe injury. If you feel worried or anxious about falling off your horse, get to an equestrian expert and let them guide you with the issue.

Reading each of the following sections is like going through a help-by-help process.  

Safe Falling

1. Decide And Choose To Fall Off When You Feel Like You Need To.

When you are riding your horse, the idea is to stay on the saddle all the time. Sometimes, you may feel like you and your horse is not on the same page. You may have slapped the horse’s body too hard, and now it wants to go down with you or throw you off. When a similar situation comes up, you have to decide to fall off, and importantly, commit to it. You will need to drop the reins and get ready to tuck and roll. This will help initiate a safe fall.

a) As you reconcile your mind to falling off, ensure that your feet are kicked out of the stirrups. This will prevent you from having a mid-fall crisis – getting stuck to a moving horse.

b) When you decide to go for the fall, let go of the reins. This will help you avoid getting dragged along the surface and getting injured on your shoulder.

2. From The Direction Which Your Horse Is Falling, Push Out Away.

Your horse will fall on one side if it is falling. You, on the other hand, should move in the opposite direction. Once you decide to jump, move upwards, and ensure that your knee and heel are up on the side. Then, get your heel pulled up to prevent it from going under the horse. When the horse reaches or nears the ground, employ your tuck-and-roll technique to push yourself away from the horse. Ensure that you move as fast and as far as possible from the horse.   

3. Try As Much As Hard To Land On Your Feet

You are going to tuck and roll. But, your initial landing should be made using feet – that is the goal. Once you do, you can proceed and go into a forward roll. This call is easy to make but tough to execute. Regardless, it would help if you tried to make it work. If you can, take the opportunity. 

4. Ensure That Your Muscles Are Relaxed

The thing you want last is to get your muscles tense. The nature of the decision can make you uneasy but work on suppressing that feeling. With tight muscles, your body will get limited in terms of impact absorption.

This tensing-up thing isn’t something to learn quickly – it may take a couple of falls. The point is that your fall will be less painful if your fall relaxingly.

5. Get Your Body Tucked As Much As You Possibly Can

When you push yourself off the horse, ensure that your limbs are folded towards the inside of your body. Exposing your arms may invite fractures in your arms and wrists. When you tuck, you protect vital organs. What you should hope for is for your muscle memory to take over and help you roll successfully.

6. Bear The Brunt In The Rolls’ Weight

Handle the worst part of the action by rolling onto your shoulder’s back. This should be done until you are back to the front (suck it in, take your time). If the horse is approaching you, you may be required to roll away from it.

If you miss landing on your feet, the brunt of the fall should be taken on your shoulder’s back or your thigh. Work extra hard to avoid landing straight on your back or your neck.

Falling Practice

1. First, Work On Something Like A Flat Ground

Practicing a fall may sound ridiculous, but if you love riding a horse, it is precautionary. This help step guides you to perfecting your fall technique not on a horse, but while you are on the ground.

You can choose to do the mock fall on a gym mat or the riding arena – that is your call to make.

The benefit of getting the practice done is toughening your muscle memory – you’re getting it in there. This way, when the fall comes, you will take it on safely.         

2. Ensure That You Stand Up Tall 

It will help if you fit a safety vest and a helmet while you practice. As you stand up tall, ensure that your arms are across your chest. This is the initial position for this falling practice.

The reason for your arms being across your chest is for your elbow not to take the fall’s force. If that happens, you may even end up with a broken elbow. Also, never stretch your arms out in front of your body in a bid to catch your fall.

The protective vest is an item of protection to your torso. You can find it online and at tack stores.      

3. As Your Fall, Get Down On A Knee And Do A Shoulder Roll

Once your knee meets the ground, draw into yourself (tucking). Then, roll on your back – on the same shoulder as the knee joint that hit the ground. Those are the places that will take the brunt of the fall. As your roll, ensure that your head and shoulder get brought up. Also, hit your shoulder’s correct point. During the rolling, ensure that you maintain the angle which you began with. That will help you to move away from the horse.

4. To Get On Your Back, Use The Rotation 

With a little motion forwards, you will mostly be rolling to the side. Ensure that your knees are tucked up to your chest as you come down. Make it possible by letting your stomach muscles contract. That particular position will help you maintain the roll. Also, ensure that your chin is tucked into your chest as you shift into the roll.

5. Maintain The Roll Until Your Feet And Knees Are Hit Again 

Since you have created a rollback force, use it to get onto your front. Eventually, you should end up in a knee position. Then, you can use the force momentum to get back on your feet. This move should be practiced over and over again until you get the hang of it.

Picture it this way – you are making a forward roll, but the movement is made at an angle. 

Risk-Reducing Measures While Riding

1. Get An Older And Gentler Horse If You Don’t Have A Lot Of Experience

If you lack the riding exposure, do not pick a spirited horse. It is easier to lose control of such kind of a horse. On top of that, ensure that you take on each ride with an instructor or a guide. If you haven’t ever taken a ride before, learn the ins and outs first.

2. When Riding With Others, Stay With Them As A Unit

If you lead a timid horse away from the group, they are likely to get upset. A horse remains happier if it sticks with the group.

As much as you stick with the group, avoid getting too close to other horses. This can cause a horse to start kicking.

3. Work On Balance Maintenance 

In all horse riding, this skill is essential. When your horse attempts a tricky maneuver or spooks, your balance on the saddle ensures that you remain safe. Your shoulders should be perpendicular to your toes, and your sitting posture should be a straight one. Also, ensure that on each foot (in your stirrups), there is even weight.     

4. Ensure That You Use The Reins In An Appropriate Way

The thing you should so-much avoid is using excessive force while jerking on your reins. A horse can get surprised by a sudden pull – this might push him to cause dangerous behavior.

Ensure that the pressure you use when pulling the reins is gentle and steady.    

5. Take A Go-Slow On Rough Terrain

It is safe for you to go slow in areas that lack a trail. The site may be hazardous, causing your horse to trip, fall, and bring you down with it. If you are unsure about the area, make your horse slow down by reining in it.

6. Take Charge Of The Horse

Your horse needs to listen to you. If it is not, you will find it difficult to control him, especially when he spooks. If you are on a ride and feel like the horse is not paying attention to you, try to stop it. If that proves difficult, prepare for a safe fall.

7. If You Lose Control Of The Horse, Stay With Its Motion

By staying with the horse’s motion, you can better plan how to slow and calm it down. Use the muscles in your thigh to hold on to the horse and your balance to keep up with the animal’s motion.

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