Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month: Horseback Riding Safety


The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) reports that according to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, in 2017, more than 48,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for horseback riding injuries.

A study entitled “Traumatic Spinal Cord Injuries in Horseback Riding: A 35-Year Review” found that compared to diving, motorcycle riding, football, and gymnastics, horseback riding is equally likely to result in paraplegia or quadriplegia. Additionally, this study found that spinal cord injury from horseback riding resulted in incomplete tetraplegia in 41percent of cases and complete paraplegia in 24 percent of cases.

Horseback riding is one of the leading causes of spinal cord injuryImage courtesy of http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Malene

Below are some tips from AAOS that will assist you with riding safely:

  • All riders should always wear horseback riding helmets that meet proper safety standards. •Wear properly-fitted, sturdy leather boots with a minimal heel. Your clothing should be comfortable and not too loose.
  • Inspect all riding equipment to make sure it is not damaged.
  • Be sure the saddle and stirrups are appropriate to your size and are properly adjusted.
  • Secure all riding equipment properly.
  • Children and novice riders should consider using safety stirrups that break away if a rider falls off the horse.
  • Novice riders should take lessons from experienced instructors.
  • Young horseback riders should always be supervised.
  • Amateurs should ride on open, flat terrain or in monitored riding arenas.
  • If you feel yourself falling from a horse, try to roll to the side (away from the horse) when you hit the ground.
  • Horses are flight animals. They will run away from sudden noises and movements. Stay alert for anything that might startle your horse. Be prepared to respond quickly.
  • When trail riding, do not go off trail, no matter how tempting. Heed warning signs.
  • To gauge a horse's demeanor, watch the horse's head, particularly its ears. The ear movements of a horse will provide you with information about how the horse is reacting to its environment, people, or other animals. A horse will direct one or both of its ears toward a sound. Ears held to the side can indicate that a horse is sick, sedated, or sleeping. Ears that are pinned back indicate anger or a threat.

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