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According to statistics, fractures account for 25-28% of all horse-related injuries in the US (we don’t have any recent Canadian stats, unfortunately), and concussions account for 9.5% of all show jumping injuries. Perhaps more surprising was that less experience meant a greater chance for falls and injuries, but the most experienced riders – and professionals – had the highest incidences of severe injury. Sadly, there was also a correlation between experience and lack of wearing a helmet; those who were professional horse trainers were least likely to wear a helmet when mounted.
Even if you’re a pleasure rider who just loves to go out on the trail for an hour or more, you should know what to do in an emergency. To help, we’ve created a list of rider survival tips that hopefully you’ll never need.
Become a Know-It-All
Take a first aid and CPR course from an accredited school or clinic such as St. John Ambulance.
Rules For The Trail
- Never go trail riding alone
- Always carry your cell phone – but never in a fanny pack; in case you fall onto your back, the phone will increase severity of injury. Also, don’t carry it in anything attached to your saddle in case you are separated from your horse.
- Always tell others where you’re going and when you’ll be back
- Always carry a GPS, which most phones have these days
- Always double-check your tack for correct fit and signs of disrepair
- Know your horse and what he or she spooks at
- Check ahead to see if bicycles, ATVs and the like also use the trail
- Know where the nearest hospital is
If Someone Else Falls
- Don’t touch them unless they’re lying face-down in water
- Ask them where it hurts
- If they are unresponsive, look and feel for breathing. If they don’t appear to be breathing, perform CPR and call 911
- Keep the person warm and dry until help arrives
- If you suspect a fracture, stabilize the body part and call for help
- If someone is bleeding badly, you must apply pressure to the wound until it stops and call for help
How to Make an Emergency Tourniquet:
If You Fall Off
- Don’t try and move right away.
- Lie down and assess what hurts.
- If you feel that nothing is broken, then slowly sit up to ensure you’re not dizzy; if you’re still okay, then slowly get to your feet.
- Call for help if you’re alone – which you should not be!
Do Your Homework
There are some useful online resources that you need to read, including the SADDLE UP SAFELY Rider Safety Program from the University of Kentucky. This in-depth guide includes a detailed list for creating your own first aid kit for the trail as well as helmet fitting guide and other facts and info.
The Ontario Equestrian Federation and the Horse Council BC also have online guides for rider safety. Check your local organization to see if they have their own or use one of these to help prepare yourself.
There An App For That
The Get Set App available for both iOS and Android was created for the international Olympic Committee by the Oslo Sports Trauma Center, with a goal to prevent sports injuries by providing effective workout routines for each sport. You can choose equestrian sports and find three levels of exercises to incorporate into your workout.
The App claims that the routines it provides can reduce risk of injuries by 50%. How? The idea is that by building strength in your muscles throughout your body, you can recover faster and also have less acute injury. This makes sense for some specific types of injury, say pulling a muscle, but obviously when it comes to concussions or fractures this isn’t going to do the trick! But it is wise to build up strength and endurance, the stronger and fitter you are, the more easily and faster you will recover from any injury.
If you have no choice but to ride alone, the Apple Watch Series 4 is an accessory you need to wear. It can detect a hard fall, sound an alarm, display an alert and even connect you to emergency services if the situation warrants. If you are not injured, simply dismiss the alert several ways including tapping “I’m OK.”
If the watch detects that you are still moving, it waits for you to respond to the alert; if you have been immobile for 60 seconds, it will tap you on the wrist and start a 30-second countdown before automatically calling emergency services and sending a message to your emergency contacts to let them know you have had a fall. You can also easily call for help yourself. It is pricey, though, at $650-$850.