If you ride, you will fall off. Even the quietest, most well-schooled horse can spook, bolt or buck. This can result in an 'unscheduled dismount'. There is no way to completely avoid falls when you are riding.
There is no way to guarantee you will fall without injury, but the following tips may help you lessen the impact of a fall while horseback riding.
Avoiding the Fall
- Ride a horse that matches your skill level.
- Ride in a safe environment for your skill level.
- Ride with awareness. Try to see what may spook your horse before your horse does so you can divert its attention.
- Ride in control.
- Keep proper position in the saddle.
- Make sure that saddle fits you, and the stirrups are adjusted to the right length.
- Check that your girth or cinch are tightened so the saddle doesn't turn.
Prepare for a Fall
Protective equipment may help you avoid serious injury if you do take a tumble.
- Wear an ASTM approved helmet.
- Wear boots with a 1" heel, safety stirrups or cages on your stirrups.
- A crash vest provides extra protection for your torso.
- Gloves give you better purchase on the reins and protect your hands.
- Learn to do an emergency dismount.
- Learn to do an emergency stop.
What to Do with the Reins
If you get into a situation where a fall is inevitable you'll have a split second to decide whether or not to hold onto the reins. If you are in an enclosed area, it should be safe to let go of them. If you are out on the trail, you might try to hold on to the reins. If your horse gets loose, not only will you have a long walk home, you might be endangering your horse, anyone else on the trail, or even drivers if you've crossed roads en route. There will be circumstances where it isn't possible to decide. If your horse is bolting or bucking, it is always better to release the reins to prevent being dragged or entangled.
How to Fall
If you know you are going to fall, try to kick your feet free from the stirrups. Ideally, you'll have one of those long slow descents that leave you sitting on your backside with your horse looking down at you in surprise. If not, try to roll out of the way of your horse's legs. Don't stick your arms out to break your fall as this may increase the chances of breaking a bone, or having parts sticking out that the horse may step on. Instead, think of curling like a hedgehog.
After the Fall
Do a quick assessment: give yourself a second to get your wind back and check for injury. If everything seems okay to get up, climb back into the saddle. This will reassure you, your riding companions, and your horse. If something seems wrong, ask for help immediately. Being stoic about pain might seem valiant, but if you've broken a bone, you might worsen the injury.
Assess why you fell off so that you can try to avoid making the same mistake twice.