According to BETA’s 2019 National Equestrian Survey, there are a whopping 1.8 million regular horse riders in the UK. And with the recent rise in riders, it’s no shock that there’s a rise in horse riding incidents, too!
But what are the most common incidents that can happen when hacking? And what do you do if something unexpected occurs? Our at-a-glance guide has all the answers you need. Read on to find out more…
Why do horse riding incidents happen?
Horses are big and powerful. That’s a given. But what you might not know is that the average horse can weigh up to a massive 2,000lbs! To put it into context, the average man weighs 184lbs, and the average woman weighs just 154lbs!
A standard human is 175cm tall – compared to the average horse which measures between 152cm and 173cm. But horses are only measured from the top of their withers to the ground. So, if your horse’s head is held high, they’re probably much taller than you! This means that when mounted on a horse, you’re likely to be several metres above the ground.
Horses have minds of their own, and no matter how well-trained your horse may be, they can have good and bad days – just like us! When you take into account their huge height and weight, as well as their unpredictability, it makes sense that incidents sometimes happen.
What are the most common incidents when riding a horse?
Before we kick things off, we want to let you know that the British Horse Society have a dedicated page where you can report any incidents. They then use this as evidence to lobby for horse safety and make real change. And it doesn’t matter how big or small the incidents, each one is included in their national statistics. Here’s the lowdown on the most common cases:
1. Road traffic accidents
At YuMOVE, we know that nearly all riders prefer not to ride on the road. However, every now and then it’s the only option.
According to The British Horse Society, 4,774 road incidents have been reported, 1,220 people have been injured and 395 horses have been killed since November 2010.
How can you prevent road traffic accidents when horse riding?
- Wear reflective and bright clothing, no matter the weather
- Always wear a helmet
- Be alert and watch out for traffic, such as cars, bicycles, motorbikes, pedestrians and other horse riders
- Make it obvious which direction you’re going in by giving clear signals
- Slow down (or stop completely!) when approaching or driving away from horses
- Don’t beep your horn or rev your engine when horses are nearby
2. Inexperienced riders
As we mentioned before, horses are strong, tall, heavy, fast and can be unpredictable. That’s why horse riding can occasionally be dangerous – especially if you’re not a seasoned pro!
How to stay safe if you’re a beginner:
If you’re new to the saddle, the safest option is to ride with supervision from an expert instructor and on a mild-tempered horse. An experienced coach can teach you the safest ways to mount and ride a horse, and will help you improve in no time. We recommend that beginners ride well-schooled horses that will give them the confidence they need.
3. Defective or badly fitted equipment
As with all sports, faulty or poor-fitting kit can increase the risk of injury. If you’re a rider, it’s important you also wear the correct clothing. Think boots with reinforced toes, gloves, a helmet and high-vis jackets.
What equipment do you need to check when riding a horse?
If you’re unsure how to check your equipment, then you should seek the advice of an experienced rider to take you through the rigorous safety checks.
4. Horses becoming frightened/distracted
Horses are easily spooked, and they can sometimes get distracted or confused by their surroundings. Here’s a few of the most common reasons your horse may get scared:
- Loud noises. Horses often react with fear when they hear loud noises – like fireworks, car horns and blaring music. This can be dangerous if you’re aboard, as the horse may suddenly gallop or unseat you if he or she is panicked. Never take your horse out when you know it’s likely to be loud – such as during firework season.
- Other animals. Livestock like other horses or dogs can often startle or confuse horses. Especially if there is uncertainty over who has right of way. Try to ride in areas where there isn’t a lot of livestock and keep your horse well away from other animals.
- Off-road gates. If you struggle with using gates when you’re riding your horse, we recommend teaming up with a more confident rider so you can practise opening them safely.
- Pedestrians. Horses can move extremely fast. If they’re passed too quickly (e.g., by runners) or if someone gets too close to them, they may get startled. Always keep a sensible distance between your horse and other people.
5. Poor riding surfaces
Some paths or surfaces can be extremely uneven or slippery – this can cause your horse to stumble. In worst-case scenarios, your horse may fall over which, in turn, will cause harm to you too.
How to stay safe on poor riding surfaces
It’s always worth checking out your route before riding on new and unfamiliar terrain. Poor road or path surfaces can cause your horse to stumble and lead to an accident.
What’s more, hard ground may cause discomfort and pain in your horse. That’s because your horse’s legs can’t tolerate the high-impact force. You should inspect your route for any areas of extremely hard ground, too.
How to protect yourself when riding a horse
- Ride horses that are appropriate for your skill level. This means beginners should ride horses that will give them confidence when learning.
- Learn how to ride with an experienced instructor. If you don’t know how to ride a horse, never try to do it alone.
- Wear a helmet every single time you ride. One of the most common types of injury is concussion. That’s why it’s so important to wear a helmet. More serious head injuries are rare but are more likely if you don’t take precautions.
- Dismount if your horse is agitated or distracted. It’s always best to handle these kinds of situations from the ground. Read our guide to find out how to understand your horse’s body language.
- Check your equipment. Keep an extra close eye on the saddle, stirrups, bridle, girth and reins.
- Learn how to do an emergency stop. This guide from Horse and Rider has all the information you’ll need.
- Inspect and plan your route before you head off. And try to avoid areas where there are lots of cars and other things which may frighten your horse.
If you’re looking for more horse tips, check out our helpful horse guides. What are you waiting for? Trot to it!