Horseback riding is a popular activity enjoyed by people of all ages. Riding can be a great way to get exercise, enjoy the outdoors, and bond with animals. However, it is important to be aware of the risks involved in horse riding before you start.
Horses are large, powerful animals that can be unpredictable. They can startle easily and kick or bite if they are scared or feel threatened.
Riders can be badly injured if they fall from a horse or are thrown from the saddle. Horses can also cause injury when not riding with kicks and bites.
Charles Owen collects rider accident reports to better our understanding of injuries and research ever-safer products.
How dangerous is horse riding?
According to the National Safety Council, horseback riding is the 10th most dangerous sport in the United States.
About 81% of riders will experience an injury at some point, and 21% will experience a serious injury.
The most common horse riding injuries are head injuries, broken bones, and bruises.
Traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of serious horse riding injuries. Wearing a riding helmet reduces the risk of fatality from a horse riding accident by 80%.
4 common causes of horse riding injuries
- Falls: A fall can lead to injuries ranging from minor bruises to more serious issues like fractures, concussions, and spinal injuries.
- Kicks and bites: Horses are strong and have powerful hooves and jaws. A kick or bite from a horse can result in severe injuries, including broken bones and tissue damage.
- Startling reactions: Horses can be easily startled by sudden movements, loud noises, or unfamiliar objects. An unexpected reaction from a horse can lead to loss of control and potential accidents.
- Equipment malfunctions: Faulty equipment, such as a poorly fitted saddle or a bridle that comes loose, can compromise rider safety and control.
4 factors that can increase the risk of a horse riding injury
- Rider’s experience level. Riders who are inexperienced are more likely to make mistakes that can lead to injury.
- The horse’s temperament. Some horses are more skittish than others and are more likely to spook or react unexpectedly.
- The environment. Riding on busy roads or in unfamiliar or challenging terrain can increase the risk of falls and other accidents.
- The type of riding activity. Some activities, such as jumping and racing, are more dangerous than others, like dressage.
How to make horse riding safer
- Always wear a helmet that meets multiple safety standards. A riding helmet can help protect your head from serious injury in the event of a fall. See riding helmet safety tips.
- Also wear a body protector, riding boots and gloves.
- Check your equipment before every ride. Properly fitting saddles and bridles are also crucial to maintaining control.
- Be aware of your surroundings and avoid riding in areas where there are hazards, such as traffic or livestock.
- Be patient and gentle with your horse. Don’t force them to do anything they don’t want to do.
- Take lessons from a qualified instructor before you start riding on your own. An instructor can teach you the basics of horsemanship and help you develop safe riding habits.
- Ride with a trainer, friend or family member. This will give you someone to help you if you get into trouble.
- Be aware of the weather conditions and don’t ride in extreme heat or cold.
- Don’t ride if you are tired or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Check your horse for injuries before you ride.
- Be aware of the horse’s body language and respond to their cues.
- Stop riding if the horse is acting up or seems uncomfortable.
If you are considering taking up horseback riding, it is important to weigh the risks and benefits carefully. With proper safety precautions, you can enjoy this horse riding safely and have a lot of fun.