A few weeks ago, a man from Somerset, Kentucky lost his life when he apparently fell off his horse and was found, hours later, at the bottom of a steep incline less than a mile from his home. This tragedy brings to mind that horse back riding is inherently dangerous.
Even the most skilled rider can be subject to a fall, such as the one Donna Brothers (legendary female jockey-turned-TV correspondent) took during a live interview with Al Roker on The Today Show, just prior to the Kentucky Derby this year. Take a look at the video where Ms. Brothers bounced back up and laughed it off. Chances are, she is attune with split second maneuvers to best prevent injury in case of a fall and she was wearing a helmet.
What to do if you fall from your horse
- Let go of the reins.
- Avoid the instinct to thrust your hands outward to “break” your fall. Instead, tuck into a ball to avoid breaking your extremeties and roll away from the horse to avoid being stepped on.
- Get up quickly to take hold of the horse unless you feel dizzy or otherwise hurt.
- If you are riding alone, always carry your cell phone with you in case of emergency. There are nifty cell phone holders just for riders.
- Check out the book by Karen and David O’Connor called Life in the Galloping Lane which reviews this topic more thoroughly.
Wear a helmet
- It’s a shame that only Florida and New York have passed legislation requiring all youths to wear helmets at all times when riding. It’s a further shame that jockeys riding in Kentucky aren’t required to wear helmets that meet stringent national safety standards, as jockeys complain about slippage and uncomfortable fits.
- The good news is the USEF (United States Equestrian Federation) requires the use of certified helmets at USEF recognized horse shows and the FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale) has done the same for international competitions. Plus, many barns require riders to wear helmets as part of their stabling contracts.
- Required or not, no one should get on a horse without putting on an ASTM/SEI certified helmet. Check the inside labels of helmets for this certification and ensure the fit is correct. Some of the best helmets include those from Charles Owen and GPA, but even the less expensive brands will offer protection.
- And, for you western riders, no more excuses as there are manufacturers like Troxel who offer a line of western style riding helmets.
Wear closed toe shoes
- Most of us who’ve spent a lot of time around horses have been stepped on. Avoid breaking your foot by insisting your horse not crowd your personal space and always be vigilant of where they’re stepping.
- Resist the temptation to wear your casual shoes at the barn or you may be wearing a cast instead!
Wear a safety vest
- When engaging in more extreme horse riding activities, wear a safety vest.
- New technological strides have been made in this area such as the inflatable vests that inflate immediately once the rider is disconnected from the horse. Testimonials have been significant.
- The Safety and Welfare Committee of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has ruled the usage of vests when riding at the track mandatory but is getting some flack from the Jockeys’ Guild. Not sure, but this may stem more from the demand to know how much a rider is getting paid to advertise on their riding pants than about safety, as the rulings went down at the same time. It has now been decided that jockeys do not have to disclose their financial windfalls from advertising, just wear the vest, at least for now!
Use safety stirrups
- Safety stirrups are devised to keep your foot from being lodged in the stirrups in case of a fall so the rider won’t get dragged by a running horse. There are several styles to chose from, even western saddle break-away stirrups.
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