Courtesy of University of Kentucky
Anytime someone falls from a horse, it is a serious matter. The added height and velocity can lead to serious injury even if the fall seems mild. While remounting may be foremost in
the rider’s mind, it should be determined if this is indeed safe. It is also important to note that horse-related accidents other than falls may lead to injury and should be given the same consideration. The victim should remain immobile while being evaluated for injuries. Even if it is determined that the rider can get up, remounting or resuming immediate activities may not be advised.
In certain circumstances, medical care should be sought and remounting should not be considered.
- Any back or neck pain, numbness or tingling that lasts beyond a few minutes, inability to move ¬fingers or toes or decreased ability to move an otherwise uninjured extremity may indicate an unseen injury. In this case especially, it is important to not move the patient unless the rider is in immediate danger of further injury– such as being in water or a roadway.
- Any loss of consciousness – no matter how brief – should be addressed immediately. This may indicate a serious injury even if the person returns to consciousness and seems ¬fine.
- Any vision changes, altering of mental status, slurred speech, unequal pupils or change in balance indicates a need for medical evaluation.
- Bleeding, other than from a superficial wound, should be controlled and addressed as soon as possible.
- If there is any difficulty breathing that persists beyond the immediate recovery period, emergency medical attention is necessary.
Prior to the resumption of riding or related activity, the emotional state of both the human and horse should be evaluated. If either party is unsettled, a delay in remounting or further activity should be considered.
People with certain underlying medical conditions are at a higher risk for injury if they incur a fall. They may need to seek medical attention even if the fall seems inconsequential. These conditions could include, but not necessarily be limited to: people with any condition requiring blood thinners; those at high risk for broken bones; bleeding disorders or diabetes; or pregnant women. Individuals who have suffered a recent concussion should consult a medical professional before any further riding is attempted.
Even if a fall seems mild, symptoms may not appear immediately. If drowsiness or sleeping for longer periods of time than usual occur, a medical evaluation may be necessary.
Conversely, the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep, decreased ability to concentrate, sensitivity to bright lights and sounds, nausea, vomiting or headaches may be indicative of a neurological injury and should be addressed. Abdominal discomfort, blood in the urine or stool, low back pain or vomiting may point to an internal injury and should be evaluated by a medical professional. Any swelling or pain that persists past the time expected for simple injuries to heal may also require medical attention.
Could this happen to you: Back in 1999, I fell from a horse while riding on a trail. We were at a walk and then decided to go from a walk to a canter. And that is when I fell. I don’t remember much about the fall itself.I didn’t have any broken bones from the fall. But because I was unable to recall the fall itself and I hadn’t been wearing a helmet, I believe I hit my head and sustained a concussion. I was hospitalized as a result.
Advice: When riding, always wear a helmet. Our understanding of concussions has advanced tremendously since 1999. If symptoms persist or worsen, ask your doctor if a referral to an appropriate medical professional would be right for you.
Preparing for an injury
√ Always prepare for a worst-case scenario and have a plan for what you will need and where you would take an injured equestrian. This means both you as an individual
and the organization you ride with.
√ If you have a medical condition(s), known allergic reactions or take a blood thinner, insulin or other medications, be sure to note any of these on a medical alert bracelet and
wear it on your wrist while riding.
√ When on a trail ride or at an event, know where the nearest hospital is located and the address of the trail ride/event.
√ Alert 9-1-1 to ask ¬rst responders to avoid scaring horses that might be present, and possibly cause additional injuries.
√ Injured riders often will not recognize that medical care needs to be summoned and others need to intervene.
√ It is not advisable to ride alone, but if you do, take your cell phone and let others know when and where you are riding. it also may be a good idea to check in with your contact
person when you are ¬nished with your ride so they know you are safe.
Horse activities are risky. That risk may increase after an injury or an extended absence from the sport. Taking the time to regain your physical strength, emotional well-being and riding skills will help ensure a safer return to your activities.