What Are the Most Typical Horse-Riding Injuries to Avoid?

Jean van der Meulen via Pexels

Horse-riding is a much-loved sport around the world, but it can be seriously dangerous too. Here are the most common injuries to watch out for when you take up the hobby…

Horse riding is an extremely popular hobby and sport and enjoyed by many people of various ages and backgrounds. According to the Equestrian Channel, there are 9.2 million horses in the United States alone. What’s more, 4.6 million Americans are involved in the industry as horse owners, service providers, employees, and volunteers, and 2 million people own horses.

Unfortunately, however, it can be an incredibly dangerous sport and cause several serious injuries. Horses are large and powerful animals, with the average horse weighing between 900 and 2,000 pounds, depending on its breed, age, and several other factors. 

Although most horses that are ridden are domesticated animals and can be well-trained, they often have a mind of their own, and can be incredibly unpredictable if you catch them on a bad day. Even horses of calm temperaments can be affected by external factors such as the weather and loud sounds, causing them to become panicked and agitated. With this in mind, what are the most common injuries to watch out for and how can you reduce the risk?

5 Most Common Horse-Riding Injuries

1.    Head Injuries

Head injuries are by far the most common of all horse-riding-related injuries. They are increasingly gaining attention as researchers investigate the long-term consequences of multiple concussions.

Data from the Journal of Neurological Focus found that the sport that causes most traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in adults isn’t a contact sport, but horseback riding. What’s more, a 2019 study by Sports Medicine found that 70 percent of all reported equestrian fall accidents resulted in a head injury, of which 91 percent were concussions.

Interestingly, the findings saw that helmets that are too worn don’t prevent concussion injuries, let alone serious brain injuries. Also, better quality testing of helmets is needed to reduce the risks.

Head injuries resulting from riding accidents can include:

  • Concussion
  • Fractured skulls
  • Brain haemorrhage
  • Cerebral oedema
  • Diffuse axonal injury

The key to avoiding a serious head injury while horse-riding is to maintain regular lessons and hire a professional instructor to create a safe environment for you to learn in. It is also vital to buy and continually update your protective gear and equipment to ensure that, in the event of an injury, the risks are minimised. 

2.    Spinal Injuries

Spine injuries (SI) and spinal cord injuries (SCI) are serious injuries that can have devastating consequences for the rider. Due to the nature of jumping, spinal cord injuries are most likely to occur when a rider gets thrown off their horse and are the second most common after head injuries.

3.    Incomplete Spine Injury

Incomplete spine injury is more common than complete injuries, and medical professionals are often able to improve the problem to the best of their ability. Types of incomplete spine injury include:

  • Anterior Cord Syndrome
  • Central Cord Syndrome
  • Brown-Sequard Syndrome

4.    Complete Spine Injury

Complete spinal cord injuries are less common but more severe, and the most catastrophic of injuries can leave a rider paralysed from the waist down and destined to a wheelchair. Types of complete spinal cord injury include:

  • Tetraplegia
  • Paraplegia
  • Triplegia

Varying in severity, horse riding incidents can lead to back injuries spanning from a muscle to Tetraplegia which can cause paralysis in every affected limb. Fortunately, spinal injuries of this severity resulting from horse riding accidents are fairly uncommon, but the potential is always there.

cottonbro via Unsplash

5.    Facial Injury

Finally, it is important to consider the likelihood of enduring serious facial injuries after falling off a horse, or because of a horse lashing out.

In 2014, a study found that most facial injuries are due to kicks when equestrians are unmounted from their horse. This finding highlights the regularity of riders experiencing accidents outside of the paddock, when they are untacking their horse or in the stables.

The results emphasise the importance of staying safe while on and off a horse and reinforces the often-unpredictable nature of animals.

Due to the likelihood of facial fractures due to kicks while unmounted, equestrians should strongly consider keeping their helmet on in all situations around a horse. Young children should follow this rule in particular, as they are more likely to experience an unintended kick to the face due to their height.

Despite most facial injuries being nothing more than a graze to the cheek, or a bruise that might stick around for a few years, in the worst-case scenario, a rider’s injuries can be so severe that facial reconstruction surgery is necessary.

Alexander Dummer via Pexels

Don’t Become Complacent

Many would assume that learners are more likely to suffer an injury than experienced riders. However, studies have revealed that the longer someone rides, the greater the likelihood that they suffer injury.

The same research paper found that from the sample study of riders, 81 percent had experienced at least one horseback riding injury requiring medical treatment during their lifetime.

It’s clear that horse riding can be considered one of the most dangerous sports around. So, make sure you’re buying the necessary protective equipment to decrease the risk of a serious injury. It’s impossible to completely protect yourself from experiencing a serious sports-related accident, but you’ll be able to ride easier in the knowledge that you’re as protected as you can be if an incident does occur.