Who Is Watching You: The Challenges of Rider Injuries and Setting the Example for Young Riders

By CATHERINE LATHAM

At just twenty-eight years old, I have had one knee surgery, one Achilles injury, and two major hip surgeries.

As I continue to go through the process of recovering from the second hip surgery, there are a few things that have become apparent to me—especially as an adult amateur in a barn full of kids who love to ask questions!

First, we as equestrians have to address rider fitness and injury prevention more broadly and at every level.

We are taught from day one to warm up our horses, to help them stretch, and that we need to give them the best possible care concerning their health. But what about us as riders? How many of us were taught as younger riders to warm up and stretch our own bodies to help prevent injuries in ourselves? 

I know that in my case, I was never once taught to stretch or warm up my own body before getting on a horse. And honestly, it was not something I thought about or even recognized myself until I began dealing with a slew of injuries.

In conversations with my surgeons, physical therapist, and even a friend who is a personal trainer, there was this sense of shock among them that we as riders did not do these things to care for our own bodies.

These reactions have forced me to really consider both how I have been approaching my health and riding, as well as what example I am setting to younger riders around me.

In a world where most barns can consist of riders of all ages and levels of competitiveness, it has become more important than ever to consider what we as adult riders, both amateur and professional, are teaching the next generation.

Of course, after an injury or surgery, we want to get back on as soon as we can. But when we push medical restrictions, getting back on after a surgery or injury before we are 100%, what are we teaching the younger riders watching us about recovery and the value of their health? 

By pushing through and getting back on too soon, or even joking about doing so, we are not only telling them that it is okay to go against medical advice and not listen to our bodies, but we are also creating an environment that pressures younger riders to do just these things. 

While these challenges are not necessarily easy to address across the board, the last several years of injury, surgery, and recovery have made it clear to me that these are changes that have to be addressed from the individual rider, and on a barn level, in order to create a larger change in the equestrian community.

It is in how we handle our recoveries, the questions younger riders ask us, and listening to medical restrictions even if we do not really want to—because we truly never know who is watching us. 


About the author: Catherine Latham, known as Catie to those around her, is a full-time museum curator who sneaks in as many rides and days off with her barn family as she possibly can, while also being a proud dog and cat mom as well as cat foster.