Falling Off A Horse: What Does It Feel Like?
Falling off a horse is a feeling I know all too well… just like any avid horseback rider. As they say, “If you haven’t fallen off yet, you haven’t been riding long enough…”
I’ve been riding horses since I was 7-years-old, and have since fallen off more times than I can count. My most recent fall was just last week, 2 days before my 27th birthday. Some falls are slow, graceful, hardly hurt at all. Others are harsh, abrasive and leave you in pain for days, sometimes even weeks. My most recent fall lands in the later category, 4-days out and my tailbone still hurts and my butt remains covered in harsh bruises.
Us horseback riders are basically asking for it. After all, you are 20 times more likely to be injured riding a horse than riding a motorcycle. According to a study out of Cambridge University, the average rider falls off a horse once every 100 hours in the saddle. If you are jumping this number dramatically increases to once every 5 hours!
Say you don’t jump all that much and you ride around 4 hours a week. That means you can expect to fall off or incur some sort of riding-related injury once every 20 weeks, or every 5 months. My last fall was three years ago, so I already knew I was long overdue for a tumble.
Falls can end in debilitating, even life threatening injuries. Thankfully, the majority of horseback riding falls just end in bruises and broken bones.
Every time you fall is a little different, but always pretty much the same. There’s that moment when you know what’s about to come. I’m falling, you think, oh sh*t, here it goes.
I see the shoulder of the horse from this one angle where I am looking up at the mane and that’s when I know there’s no way of catching my balance; it’s all over for me. As I’m freefalling I tend to close my eyes, reopening them once I slam into the sand. I usually land in some weird seated position, with my butt taking the brunt of the fall… good thing I don’t have a boney booty! Although, the time before last I fell right on my head… thankfully I always wear a helmet. Right now, as my tailbone throbs, I’m just wishing they sold helmets for butts, ‘buttmets’ they could be called.
If you fall in a sandy arena you are going to be covered in layers of dirt, especially if you were sweating prior to your fall. Dirt gets trapped between the corners of your lips, up your shirt and down your pants, and you can feel little specks of sand crunch between your teeth.
There is that moment right after I land that I always think, oh gosh, I hope I can get up. And when I do find my feet and stand I think, thank everything good I am still mobile.
After falling off a horse, you’ll likely find your horse standing somewhere nearby looking confused/guilty with the reins lopsided hanging down from their neck. They may also run off, which is far less ideal.
I’ll admit, falling off my horse last weekend was completely my fault. Stanely over-jumped a fence that I didn’t guide him towards too well to begin with and I simply lost my balance. I can’t believe how easily I lost my balance, but I can’t beat myself up about it… after all, it already looks like I got beat up with a wooden paddle.
The day after the fall my tailbone hurt, my neck felt like it had whiplash, and my left calf was mysteriously sore. Ironically, I nearly posted a photo to Instagram mere minutes before the fall with the caption: ‘Starting off my birthday weekend right!’ I got lazy and never did it, but either way I ended up starting my birthday weekend right… in the dirt.
Today marks four days after the fall and my tailbone still aches and my bruises remain frighteningly prominent. I can deal with the un-comfortableness, what I’m currently struggling to deal with is my inability to ride. My tailbone is too sore to get in the saddle just yet… but I don’t know how much longer I can wait!
I am scared of most things in life, but no matter how many times I fall off a horse I am not afraid of getting back on. That doesn’t mean I’m dumb or want to have a messed up spine and endless back pain when I’m only 40-years-old. I know good and well that if you fall off too many times that’s exactly what happens.
If you want to ride until your old and grey the key is to keep your body healthy and fit. So to all my fellow horseback riders out there, play it safe, think through every decision you make on the back of a horse, and never, NEVER forget to wear your helmet. And if you’re jumping, a riding vest is a great investment to protect your back. Oh, and no matter what… “Keep calm and get back on!”
Share your worst horseback riding accident and how you bounced back in the comments below!
Haven’t bounced back yet? Read: How to Overcome Fear of Riding Horses