18 Sep THP Top 10: Don’t Fall…But What To Do When You Do
Keeping it real – if you ride long enough you’re going to fall off. It happens. We’ve put together our Top 10 on not only prevention, but what happens when you find yourself looking up at your horse..or watching their backend saunter away.
- Check Your Tack. Yep – this sounds basic, but make sure the girth is nice and tight prior to mounting up. Check your billet, stirrup leathers, and connections to make sure everything is as it should be. Look at the bridle and see that the reins are buckled and attached properly to the headstall and bit. Make sure all buckles and keeps are in their proper place. Chins straps and throat latches should be tight, but not too tight. Do this before every ride.
- Proper Attire. Wear boots ALWAYS. And make sure they have a heel and can move easily both in and out the stirrup. The stirrup shouldn’t be so broad that your foot can slip all the way through either. On a hot summer’s day a helmet can be uncomfortable, but whatever you’re experience level the right helmet will protect you in a fall. In our world it’s about choice, but if you do take a monster fall and hit something hard with your head, you’ll be grateful you had the proper protection.
- No Phone Calls – No Texting! Cell phones are convenient, a safety tool, but a nuisance and can be dangerous if you become too distracted by the phone while riding. Put the phone on vibrate so if someone calls you a loud ring won’t spook your horse. Don’t answer calls or text messages. There’s a reason you can’t talk on the cell while driving a vehicle in many states and don’t even think about texting while on your horse. Keep your cell on you, but don’t use it unless you have an emergency – like you got bucked off and your horse is headed back to the barn. Which reminds us: Keep the phone on you, not on the horse. Same reason.
- No Grease. We all like our horses to look lovely while riding, but Oil or Show Sheen make for a slippery coat. Avoid using the products prior to saddling. We recommend only “greasing up” for the show pen and after you’re all tacked up and ready to go.
- Grab Mane. If your horse gets jiggy, grab a chunk to keep yourself centered. If you’re fortunate enough to experience a rear now and again, sit forward and grab some mane to steady yourself and get your horse to move forward. Do not pull on the reins or you’re going to go over. You’re trying to stay as balanced over your horse’s center as possible. Be careful if you have a “bucker”. If you lean forward on a bucker, you’re likely to get knocked in the teeth. Again, keep yourself in the center of the horse’s movement…think PBR.
- Stop, Drop and Roll. Handy three words for more than a fire drill. If you know you’re going to go off, don’t try to break your fall by putting out your hands, arms, or legs. You probably won’t break your fall, you’ll just break bones. We’re not saying this is easy to think about mid-spook or when you find yourself airborne, but try to tuck and roll as you land while moving away from your agitated horse. Hopefully, you won’t have the opportunity to practice this one often.
- Run. If you have a horse that’s prone to tripping it can really be scary. A lot can be done to alleviate the problem with farrier work, but some horses just tend to trip more than others. If your horse is moving fast and you see his head go down between his front legs, get your feet out of those stirrups and start running. When that horse goes down you’ll hit the ground moving and have a better than even chance of outrunning your horse’s body.
- Too Late – Assess. You’ve taken a digger. Think about yourself first. Did you break anything? As you’re thinking about this look at your horse. If you’re in an enclosed ring, you have some time. Visually look at him and see if his tack is in order. If he’s not in danger of getting tripped up from a saddle that’s falling off, or reins twisted up, stay calm. Don’t grab at him. He’s probably a little off balance as well since you’re no longer on his back. If you’re with others, let them help get your horse situated.
- Outside and On Your Own. Most of us know it’s not the best idea to hit the trails on our own with even the most broke horses. That said it probably hasn’t stopped us. When at all possible ride with someone. It’s smart and safer. When you hit the dirt, literally, on the trail you have a decision to make. If you’re not seriously injured, it’s a good idea to get control of your horse as soon as possible. If you don’t, your horse will head back to the barn (hopefully) and you’ll be stranded. It’s better to let your horse go, however, if you’ve done some damage to yourself.
- 24 Hour Rule. Once you’ve taken a digger, pay attention to yourself and to your horse for at least 24 hours. Everything may feel and look fine for both you and your horse, but the next 24 hours will be telling. Look for hematomas, muscle soreness and lameness in both you and your horse based on the extent of the digger you and your horse experienced. Don’t be afraid to call the vet or your doc to make sure the injury isn’t serious.
Have a tip to share relevant to fall prevention and/or assessment? Share it with us!