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In 2017, I’ll be bidding a bittersweet farewell to the lovely Barn 13 in Austin, TX to grow my teaching and riding career in North Carolina (Area 2).
The one thing you’re not thinking about after a fall.
You’ve fallen off a horse…now what?
A lot of people believe that one of the dangers of horse riding is falling off. But strangely enough, the reality is that getting back on can potentially pose an even larger risk.
If you ride long enough you will fall off a horse – period.
It’s just one of those risks we take when riding a horse, but with the right equipment, knowing how to fall, and knowledge of what goes on in your body after a fall you can reduce the amount of injuries that happen.
Let’s start before the fall; having the right safety equipment can prevent a lot of injuries. First and foremost, you’ll need to be wearing a good and well-fitted helmet. It should be snug on your head enough to move your eyebrows when grabbed by the brim and moved up and down. It should also grip your scalp some and not slide side-to-side easily.
The helmet’s chin strap should be adjusted so that it’s snug and so that the helmet will stay on in the event of a fall. Some people have round shaped heads and others have oval shaped heads and there is a helmet out there that fits everyone. Go to a local tack shop and try on all the helmets they have in your price range to see which one fits best. You want one that is ASTM/SEI rated and keep in mind the more money it costs doesn’t always equate to it being safer. There are plenty of reasonably priced helmets that are extremely safe. I talk about this a bit more in this helmet review video.
The next piece of equipment that any rider should have is a boot that covers your ankle and has a heel. The heel on the boot prevents your foot from going through the stirrup so that in the case of a fall you will fall clear of the horse and not be dragged.
The day comes where you’ve had a fall…. Now what?
It happens to the best of riders. But you were wearing your helmet and you seem fine. So as the saying goes, you need to back on that horse…. Or should you? The thinking is that if you don’t get on right away then you will let your fear get the best of you and it will be worse later on. That may be the case in some, but I think we should look at it differently. I find that it’s good to take several minutes before getting back in the saddle. Why? Adrenaline.
Say you have a moderately bad fall, nothing broken, but you hurt a bit. You get up and your hands are shaking, you feel emotional, you may cry and feel embarrassed or scared. This is adrenaline. A hormone your body produces to make you ready to be stronger, faster, and feel less pain in the event that you may need to use physical force or run fast. It surges through your veins after a fall since your body doesn’t know what’s going to happen next. After the adrenaline starts to wear off you can feel weak, start to shake, have tunnel vision/hearing, or faint.
Do any of these side effects from adrenaline sound like it’s a good combination to have on the back of the horse? Not at all.
Am I saying don’t get back on? No. What I am saying is give it a few minutes. Fifteen minutes is good to let most of the surge be metabolized by your body. In that time you can assess if you have pain that was being masked by the adrenaline, check for head trauma / concussion, and get over the shakes and emotion that are most commonly seen before getting back on. Doing this can avoid a repeat and a potentially more serious fall. If you still don’t feel right after 15 minutes but you have been assessed not to have a concussion and nothing broken, then still don’t get back on. No harm will come from saving it for another day to make sure that there aren’t any injuries that appear later on.
Last but certainly not least, if you have a fall you must replace your helmet. Even if you don’t think you hit your head. The helmet may have done its job during the fall, but now its effectiveness may be compromised and might not offer the same level of protection. Some companies will even replace your helmet in the event of a fall.
Overall, always wear your helmet, wait to get back on, and replace your helmet after it’s been in a fall.
And as always…Happy riding!