The 8 Most Common Ways You Can Be Hurt By a Horse

Horse in Sunny Dust
Zuberka / Getty Images

 Many horse owners have never been seriously hurt by their horse. There's certainly no reason to be afraid of horses. However, when you are working with an animal that is large and reactive, you need to understand the common behaviors of this animal and learn how to safely work with and around it. If you take care and learn to understand horses, you can reduce the risk of injury greatly. The Canadian Hospitals Injuries Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP) states that 49.6% of horse-related injuries required either 'advice or minor treatment'. Here's a list of common injuries that could occur as you work with or ride your horse.

  • 01 of 08

    Being Stepped On

    Woman crouching and holding a horse hoof
    Riding boots or sturdy shoes protect your toes

    David Harrigan/Getty Images

     Getting your toes crunched because you didn't move out of the way quickly enough is common. Even experienced horse owners occasionally don't move their feet as fast as their horses move theirs. This can lead to bruising, abrasions, and even fractured bones. It is possible to have your fingers stepped on, say when cleaning hooves, but far less likely. After a fall, it's possible that the horse might step on you, but often your horse will do what it can to avoid you. 

  • 02 of 08

    Kicks and Strikes

    Andalusian horse kicking out
    Horses can kick powerfully Life On White / Getty Images

     Horses can strike out with their front or rear hooves, and they can strike out backward and forwards with both. Sometimes, kicks are accidental, such as when a horse kicks at a fly and the handler gets in the way. Some kicks are intentional. Getting kicked by another horse while riding is also a risk, so be sure to keep a safe distance between horses when riding in a group.

  • 03 of 08


    Olympic rider falling from horse.
    Even experienced, professional riders fall off Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

     According to the CHIRPP, 62% of reported horse-related injuries occurred due to falls. When you fall, almost any part of your body can be injured. Breaks or strains to arms, wrists and collar bones are common when riders try to break their fall by putting their arms out, as the rider in this photo is doing. The horse can also end up getting hurt.

    Riders have been badly injured when a horse steps on or falls on them. And of course, the leading cause of death in riders is head injury. You can learn how to fall. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to avoid all harm. While a helmet won't guarantee 100% protection, statistics show that they do decrease the risk of traumatic brain injuries greatly. 

  • 04 of 08


    Woman feeding apple to horse outdoors
    It's easy for a horse to accidentally bite you

    Kondo Photography/Getty Images

     Horses bite to defend themselves or to express irritation and impatience. Some are sneaky and disrespectful. Horses that get pushy about being fed treats can become demanding and bite fingers and arms. Horses can bite hard enough to break fingers and can cause severe bruising and cuts.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Getting Knocked Over

    It's possible to be knocked over by your horse, especially going through narrow doors
    It's possible to be knocked over by your horse, especially when going through narrow doors

    Ascent Xmedia/Getty Images

    Getting knocked over by a horse is possible while it is loose, tied or being led. The more you work around a horse, the less likely this becomes, as you learn to anticipate what your horse is thinking and will do next. Getting knocked over can lead to sprains, bruises, and broken bones and teeth.  

  • 06 of 08

    Strains and Sprains

    A fall can result in a sprain

    VOISIN/Getty Images

    When you first learn to ride you will be waking up a few sore muscles, some of which aren't really used in other sports or activities. Many people will feel soreness in the muscles along the inside of their upper thigh. Others may feel their calf muscles, either along the outside or at the back, tired after a ride. Backaches are common and can indicate a poorly fitting saddle, or poor riding position. Shoulders can also become tight. The good news is, as you strengthen and stretch these muscles, and learn to ride better, most of these pains will go away.

    However, there are other strains that can happen by accident. A lot of things can happen as you fall including, straining or spraining joints and muscles either on the way down or as you land. If your horse suddenly spooks as you are leading it, your arm or shoulder muscles may get pulled. Sudden overexertion—such as lifting your saddle, a bale of hay or carting a load of manure incorrectly, can also cause muscle strain. 

  • 07 of 08

    Being Dragged

    Stirrup and shoe
    Safety stirrups are designed to help prevent drags

    Benny Ottosson/Getty Images

    Being dragged from the ground, or getting dragged after a fall can result in injury. Even a relatively small pony can drag an adult around, causing muscle strain and abrasions if you lose your footing. Of course, whether you're dragged while handling or hung up in the tack, there is a danger of being kicked while you're down there. Getting caught in the stirrups can lead to very severe injuries if the horse spooks, runs and kicks. Thankfully, being dragged can be largely avoided by learning to lead a horse properly and using safety stirrups and proper footwear.

  • 08 of 08

    Riding Into Obstacles

    Woman tightening horse saddle for horseback riding

    Caiaimage / Rafal Rodzoch / Getty Images

    Trail riding often means you encounter low branches that can scratch, stab you and even sweep you off the saddle. In an arena, it's possible to be taken through low doors, or bump into walls or obstacles like jumps or barrels. 

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.