Horseback riding has been around for many years. Possibly the most famous use for horses has been in wars, as well as to manage groups of livestock, and for recreational purposes. Approximately 30 million Americans ride horses each year and unfortunately, more than 2,300 riders under the age of 25 are injured annually.
Horseback riding activities such as cross-country and jumping can pose a danger to horseback riders because horses weigh up to 1,500 pounds and travel at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. Most injuries result from falling off a horse.
While horseback riding is a great source of exercise, if you don’t take the proper precautions, you could be seriously injured. Most horseback riding injuries occur in the upper extremities. When a rider falls off their horse, they usually try to break their fall with their arms. This can cause bruises, sprains, strains, and fractures of the wrist, shoulder and elbow.
While injuries to the upper extremities are most common, injuries to the head, neck and spine can be the most dangerous. Head injuries account for 20 percent of all horseback riding injuries and can cause serious concussions or even cause brain damage. In a study done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, horseback riding resulted in 11.7 percent of all traumatic brain injuries in recreational sports from 2001 to 2005. This was the highest of any athletic activity.
There are a number of safety tips you can practice to prevent these types of injuries.
1. Wear a helmet. Always wear a riding helmet to help prevent serious head injuries and make sure your hat properly fits you.
2. Wear safe riding clothes. Wear properly fitted, sturdy leather boots with flat soles and a heel so you don’t get your foot stuck in the stirrups. Wear long pants such as jeans, as well as riding gloves and reigns with safety clips. Wear chaps so that you will stay in the saddle and a body protector to protect your ribs and organs if you fall.
3. Use correctly fitted stirrups. Use stirrups with a rubber band stirrup bar and non-slip stirrup pads. These are meant to prevent your foot from getting stuck in the stirrup in case of a fall. Children or novice riders should consider safety stirrups that breakaway if the rider falls off the horse.
4. Keep your arms bent. It is instinctive to keep your arms out but if your elbows are locked, your could break a bone. This goes for your legs as well.
5. Jumps and stunts require a high level of skill. Do not attempt these tricks if you are an inexperienced rider. If you are going to practice jumps or stunts, make sure you do them under supervision.
6. Duck and roll away from the horse. If you feel you are going to fall off a horse, try to roll to the side, away from the horse, when you hit the ground.
If you follow these safety guidelines before you get on your horse, you will be much more likely to be injury free when you get off.
Trisha Banks is a blogger for Matthew Boes M.D. Orthopaedic Surgery in Raleigh, North Carolina. Trisha wants to know what kind of injuries are sustained during horseback riding.
Photo Credit: Echo Valley Ranch (www.evranch.com)
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