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How to stay safe and avoid common riding injuries

Horse riders risk several potential injuries, including head trauma. Here's how to stay safe.

Horse riders risk several potential injuries, including head trauma. Here's how to stay safe.

 

As with any sport, horse riding carries the risk of serious injury and death. In fact, because you’re several feet above the ground, a fall from a horse can be more dangerous than one from a motorcycle. Falls aren’t the only injuries to look out for, however. Riders put themselves at risk for bites, kicks and even muscle strains. Here’s now to stay safe when handling your horse.

Riding injuries

If you’re not careful or don’t seek treatment, even a minor injury can progressively worsen and end your riding career. This almost happened to competitive horseback rider Linda Jones. During a conversation with Horse Illustrated, Jones detailed how a former injury she didn’t even associate with her riding ability almost stopped her in her tracks.

“I had a torn patellar tendon from a fall I’d taken in college, and I didn’t think it had anything to do with my performance with my horses,” Jones explained. “But during a halter class, I was running in the ring with my Saddlebred yearling and I blew my knee out.”

“Ignoring an injury will only exacerbate the problem.”

Jones explained that she had felt pain in the knee when riding but was determined to continue competing rather than take a break and heal. Although she had been exercising to stay in shape for riding, she hadn’t been building the muscles that supported her knee, which lead to the injury. Jones’s story is not unusual – many riders also choose to ignore pain or injuries in favor of competing. This will only exacerbate the problem, so consult with your doctor if you feel any pain while riding or suffered an injury previously. If necessary, take time off to heal or attend physical therapy before getting back on your horse.

Bites

Horse bites are a relatively uncommon injury, especially when compared to riding ailments. Still, if a horse clamps down hard enough, it can break human skin or crush bones. Most bites come from stallions and are the result of redirected aggression, fear or pain and can be discouraged with proper training.

If you suffer a horse bite, clean the affected area with soap and warm water. If the skin is broken – whether as a result of the bite or a prior injury – seek medical attention. Bacteria from the equine’s mouth could transfer to your body and cause an infection.

Kicks

Horse’s legs are strong, and a kick can do serious damage. According to Equus Magazine, the kick of a horse can do the same amount of damage as a car driving at 20 miles per hour. Injuries from equine kicks range from simple bruising to broken bones to cardiac arrest.

“A horse will only kick if it continues to feel threatened.”

Kicks are a defense mechanism, but they’re also a last resort. A horse feeling threatened will try to move away or pin its ears in intimidation first. If these actions don’t remove the threat, the horse will raise its leg in anticipation, but not kick just yet. It will only do so if the threat continues to stand.

The only way to avoid a fear-fuelled kick is to calm your equine down. Remove it from frightening situations if possible, or use gentle training to get it used to new situations. Never surprise your horse, as it may kick you on instinct. If your animal refuses to calm down, you can give it some of Finish Line’s Quia-Cal or Thia-Cal support healthy nerves.

Falls

Falling off a horse can lead to serious injuries, including head trauma and broken bones.

To avoid a fall, start by making sure your equipment fits both you and your animal companion. Adjust the stirrups to the right length, and make sure the girth is tightened. Loose, poorly secured tack shifts easily when the horse is in motion and throws off your balance. Wear protective clothing, including gloves for a better grip, boots with a 1-inch heel and a helmet approved by the American Society for Testing and Materials. When riding, always keep an eye out for anything that might spook your horse. You want to spot the danger before it does so you can direct its attention away.