Learning to Fall

Written by: Sarah Lewandowski

How do you prepare for a fall?

Anyone who’s been riding horses will tell you that they have fallen off before, but how do you actually prepare for a fall? There’s no guarantee that you will fall without injury but the following tips may help you reduce the impact from the fall while riding.

Why would you fall?

There are some reasons why you could fall, including but not limited to: the horse could refuse a fence; they could be naughty and buck you off; they could fly over the jump and throw you out of the saddle; they could trip or spook.

Before you get on:

Before you get on a horse make sure that you and the horse match each other’s skill sets. Make sure that you aren’t riding an advanced horse that you can’t control. Make sure that are riding in a safe environment for your skill level, for example, if you’ve never ridden outside, make sure you don’t go outside. Make sure that your stirrup lengths are correct and that you have the right size saddle. The most important part is that before you get on, you should make sure you check your girth so that it doesn’t slip when you are riding your horse.

What should you do when you do fall?

When you do fall it’s going to be very fast; everything will be happening in milliseconds. What I learned from riding is that what you do for make sure that you follow almost into a ball.  When you do fall into a ball you’ll be less prone to injuries because you are in a smaller, confined body position. For instance, if you did fall and try to spread your arm out or legs out you put more pressure on that certain body part which could cause injury to that arm or leg. If you do fall into a ball this will give less of a chance for your horse to step on you.

*You should always try to land on your feet or back, but if these are not an option, falling in a ball will protect you as much as possible. Think “Tuck and Roll.”

Should I grab onto the reins?

This is a huge debate. Should you grab onto the rains when you are falling? Not everyone agrees with holding onto the horse once you have fallen off. If you do hold onto the horse this increases your chances of your horse landing on you or stepping on you. It can also painfully the horse’s mouth or nose, depending on what type of headstall you are riding in. Not only could the horse injure you, but it could also injure itself if it feels threatens or too confined. If you do decide to try and hold onto the horse when you fall, never wrap the reins around your hand. This is extremely dangerous because your horse could start running with you, dragging you by the hand.

*Every rider should practice emergency dismounts to prepare both horse and rider. This means dismounting at a moving pace, usually at the walk or trot. Be sure to drop your stirrups before dismounting so that you don’t catch your feet and make an emergency dismount into an actual fall. This is a good time to teach your horse to immediately stop and stand after their rider falls.

How can you prepare?

You’ll never know when you are going to fall, it might be at a lesson, a hack, or even at a show. There are a few ways that you can prepare:

Make sure that you have an approved helmet, and make sure that it fits you correctly. Don’t use someone else’s helmet, a helmet is supposed to fit you.

It’s very important that you check the girth before you get on. When you check the girth, this will make sure that the saddle is sitting properly and that it won’t slip if something were to happen.

Have a cell phone on you. This is why I always have it on me, just in case something were to happen so that I can always call 911 right way. If you do decide to carry it make sure that it is on vibrate or on silent so that you don’t spook the horse. Invest in a good armband or breeches with deep pockets to carry it

You can also practice falling off a small stool onto some mats. This will give you the feeling of a fall. This way you can practice how you will fall and protect your self.

Practice emergency dismounts. Every good rider should know how to do these. Start on a steady horse and eventually work up to any type of horse.

Stay safe!

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