Here are some tips from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) to prevent horseback riding injuries:
- All riders should always wear horseback riding helmets that meet proper safety standards.
- Wear properly-fitted, sturdy leather boots with a minimal heel. Your clothing should be comfortable and not too loose.
- Inspect all riding equipment to make sure it is not damaged.
- Be sure the saddle and stirrups are appropriate to your size and are properly adjusted.
- Secure all riding equipment properly.
- Children and novice riders should consider using safety stirrups that break away if a rider falls off the horse.
- Novice riders should take lessons from experienced instructors.
- Young horseback riders should always be supervised.
- Amateurs should ride on open, flat terrain or in monitored riding arenas.
- Jumps and stunts require a higher level of riding skill. Do not attempt these without supervision.
- If you feel yourself falling from a horse, try to roll to the side (away from the horse) when you hit the ground.
- Do not ride a horse when you are tired, taking medications, or under the influence of alcohol.
- Always remember that you are riding an animal that has its own reactions to the sights, sounds, and smells you are both experiencing.
- Horses are flight animals. They will run away from sudden noises and movements. Stay alert for anything that might startle your horse. Be prepared to respond quickly.
- When trail riding, do not go off trail, no matter how tempting. Heed warning signs.
- Never walk behind a horse. It is best to approach them at their shoulder. This is less threatening to them.
- To gauge a horse’s demeanor, watch the horse’s head, particularly its ears. The ear movements of a horse will provide you with information about how the horse is reacting to its environment, people, or other animals. A horse will direct one or both of its ears toward a sound. Ears held the side can indicate that a horse is sick, sedated, or sleeping. Ears that are pinned back indicate anger or a threat.
- If you are giving the horse a treat, be sure to keep your hand open and your fingers extended and flat. Horses can inadvertently bite and break fingers that are cupped around a treat.
Source: US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS, 2005-2009). For serious injuries needing immediate attention, please visit the nearest Emergency Room. For less acute injuries, Urgent Ortho a service of Northern Arizona Orthopaedics, is a convenient and cost-efficient alternative. No appointment necessary. For more information, click here.