Is Riding Dangerous?

This was the subject of a conversation I had many years ago with a woman in her 30’s. She was very typical of a person that rode in their teens but gave up for all the usual reasons such as university, getting married, having a career and raising a family. Some of us do all that yet still keep horses, those that do not often yearn for their own horse again. Thirty-something always seems the most common age to re-enter the equestrian life. The kids have become more independent, plus the finances are looking healthy, and more importantly, the passion for horses still remains .

These conversations always, literally always, go the same way. The person worries about taking care of their kids should anything dire happen to them, who will run the home, how will they survive without a second income etc? My response to her was You are more likely to slip in the bath and break your arm, than hurt yourself falling off a horse. A week later the same lady fell from a chair hanging fairy lights and broke her arm in several places. Yes, several places. Not a hairline fracture, not a nice clean single fracture, but in several places.

Five strikes and you’re out

That’s how I think of horse riding, handling and anything pertaining to horses. To explain, let’s think about the lady hanging fairy lights. The first strike came from using a chair instead of a ladder. The second strike came from over-reaching, or reaching too high, the third strike is exactly why the first and second strike occurred, bad planning and lack of preparation. She has 2 strikes left, but it doesn’t take a mathematician to work out the odds are now stacked against her. I wasn’t in the room with her, I can only guess where the last two remaining strikes came from. But once those strikes became 5, she fell.

Horse riding is about not stacking those odds against you and not gaining those 5 strikes. Even then, I have to tell you, something that you could have never imagined planning and training for, may still happen.


But that will be just one strike. You already know those strikes, I don’t have to tell you what they could be. There will be something you already know that will affect your horse on a hack, or in the show ring, or when loading and leading. Those that know those strikes but carry on regardless…then yes, for those people horse riding is dangerous.

Some forms of riding will definitely be more risky than others such as point to point, cross country and racing that are potentially more hazardous than dressage, or a hack around the local woods. Add speed, and add jumps and the potential for a fall increases, yet the people that partake in such sports do so fully aware of the risks. Some people are risk takers, others are not. The average horse rider is not a risk taker, they have more in common with the fairy light lady than Oliver Townend.


Keeping Safe

Riding and being around horses is as safe as you want it to be. The training and level of experience of the horse needs to be appropriate for the work it’s doing, it also needs to fully accommodate the ability, level and experience of the rider. Training is something an owner needs to be doing all of the time and striving to continually learn. The most common falls I have seen have been the result of the horse shying sharply or bolting. But it’s not necessarily the cause, in both cases the actual reason people fall is because they lose balance during such an episode. Yet the more a person rides, the less likely a fall will occur, simply because they are improving their seat every single time they ride. Those losing balance on spooky, bolting horses…shouldn’t be on spooky, bolting horses, right?

While I don’t believe any horse will be absolutely 100% bombproof, there will definitely be horses that are less likely to spook through competent training. Yet a novice rider is already at one strike, simply for being unbalanced,  riding a spooky animal is 2 strikes, what else is it going to take before the balance between safe and dangerous is looking unfavourable?

The novice rider will be safe with one strike but only on the appropriate horse, and in an environment and situation that particular horse is comfortable being in. So know your level, understand the level of experience and training the horse has had, continue to improve your own knowledge, training and experience so that when something unexpected does occur, it’s just one strike, not one of many, this will keep the balance in your favour.

Some will argue there will always be an element of risk when riding a horse, and you will have no argument from me. But no more risky than driving a car, walking down the stairs, being on a plane, crossing the road…or even hanging fairy lights.


Images: CC0 Creative Commons, Free for commercial use, No attribution required. Pixabay

8 thoughts on “Is Riding Dangerous?”

  1. My brother will not allow his 12yr old daughter to go anywhere near a horse and she’s been desperate to just sit on and have a gentle lead rein plod on ours for ages who is one of the safest horses I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

    He got her hopes up once when I said once we moved to the new paddock and stables up the road from our house she was welcome to come up and have a ride and he nodded and “Yeah yeah sound” then when my daughter messaged her on Facebook to invite her other it was intercepted “No I don’t want her riding. I went to school with a girl that was killed riding I don’t trust horses so sorry but she won’t be coming up”

    Firstly the lass that was tragically killed was someone I used to ride with a lot when we were younger and she was an incredibly inexperienced, very competent and confident but slipped from her horse during a mounted games / gymkhana event and in a horrifically twist of irony the safety stirrups she had didn’t release properly and instead just twisted and kept her from falling clean off which meant she was dragged and trampled underneath the horse as he desperately tried to run and jump out of the way.

    He drives arctic lorries for a living and I tried to explain his distrust and fierce aversion to horse-riding is like me saying I heard about an arctic lorry crashing and killing people once so I won’t get in his or let the kids.

    You can’t tell him though but I think he’s just generally far too keen on controlling and deciding what his daughter wants and will or won’t do. At some point she’ll be old enough to go out and ride whether he likes it or even knows about it and I sincerely hope she sneaks off to mine to ask if she can ride ours rather than jumping on the back of someone else’s horse she doesn’t know and which could be the most unsafe, unpredictable and dangerous horse for a novice teen to ride.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well you hit the nail on the head there, she may end up taking risks because of a suffocating father. My dad was the actually the first person to put me on a horse, then told her she was mine, I’ll never forget it. I’m a parent myself and we HAVE to let them live their life, even at the risk of them becoming hurt, even killed, because experiencing nothing is not living at all. Thanks for commenting, I hope her dreams come true some day 💕

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah my brother has issues and at the rate he’s going will lose that girl much earlier than he’d expected because at the first chance she gets I’d bet a fair amount she will take it and be out of there rapid style.

        Don’t know whether it’s me or if others notice how many owners seem utterly terrified of their own horses. Wonder if it’s because so many parents (quite rightly) have their kids receive formal instruction at approved riding schools from day one which is obviously the safest, most sensible thing to do but I never let my kids on a horse until they’d learned how to handle, read and work with one on the ground.

        Last thing I want is for them to jump on a horse and think that’s how it’s done all the time with every horse.

        Then again I grew up on a rough estate and was taught to ride by a gypsy cob dealer who knew I was horse mad to the point of stupidity. Had me draped like wet washing on the back of a horse that was about to start bucking and throwing his head in 5..4….3….1

        Not the most ideal, safe or careful way to ride horses but there’s a lot to be said for roughing it with an old head-collar held together with twine and two dog leads as reins. Always said if I were born into money I’d either be dead or hold the record for most grand slam wins.

        “Mary King, Michael Jung, Mark Todd… Pffft. Here hold my beer I’ll show you how it’s done” 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Excellent! Won’t make any difference to my brothers though. Anything they don’t know about, never heard or just can’t understand is filed under “Nonsense my stupid bitch sister believes” 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Think I know what it is we have in common!! We were both mentalists and it’s more luck than management we’re still alive. Am I right??!

        Good points in your video and I’ll come back and pick up again later on especially about the impact and affect attitude, approach and confident handling makes to a nervous, battered and beaten horse or pony.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Apparently said brother tutted and shook his head at a video my daughter posted on Facebook playing with my little 11hh Sec A. She was in a huge riding arena smack bang in the middle just going “Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!!!” and sending him hurtling at flat out gallop bucking, kicking and having a blasts.

    “Stupid that you’ll get killed look it’s galloping right by you? Can’t believe your Mum lets you do that”

    My daughter’s response “Does it not make you think if Mum plays with horses and taught me how to safely play with horses maybe it’s actually not that dangerous?”

    Not enough people just kick back, play and have loads of fun with their horses and it’s a shame because it can work wonders for confidence and helping any real anxious, nervous and abused little souls like my mate. Terrified of everything when I got him six months ago and on my life he’s bold, brass, cocksure and confident as anything now.

    Speaking of which I have to head down to yard now and have a mad half an hour with him whilst my husband fixes some stuff in his stable. Will follow up again later once I’m home, In the meantime I’ll leave you with Flip having a daft do. Can’t beat playing chase or giant inflatable football with giddy ponies.

    Liked by 1 person

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