Sunday, February 7, 2010

How to fall off a horse

"Flying is simple. You just throw yourself at the ground and miss." Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

I've known a couple of adult riders who have injured themselves badly from what should have been a minor fall. Here are some hints to prevent injury:

  • Keep your appendages close to your body (tuck and roll). The most common in injuries are in the wrist, elbow, and shoulder
  • Roll away from the horse
  • Ride (and drive, for that matter) on an empty bladder to avoid bladder damage.
  • The two best places to land are on your rear end or your feet. Bend at the knee as you land if you land on your feet.
  • Wear a helmet of course!
  • Don't hold on to the reins.
  • Make sure your boot size and stirrup size are compatible.
  • Avoid clothing that will "catch" (I always wonder about hoodies).
  • Remember that 20% of injuries occur on the ground (not riding-related).
One tidbit that I have heard, but not read in any article, is do not "fight" the fall. Once you become unbalanced, let go. Of course in show jumping and eventing you see counter-examples of this every day.


Strides Rider and Volunteer Newsletter (focus on falling?), May 2007 issue

Learn how to fall off a horse from

Falling off a horse from

Horseback riding injuries from Hughston Health Alert


  1. I agree with most of your comments -- but a recent article with Danny Warrington and Phillip Dutton on how to fall shows that the old adage of "tuck and roll" can cause more harm than good. In fact, in a fall, you DO want to use your arms to break your fall. Yes, you may break your arm. But that will slow down your crash and is better than bruising internal organs, breaking backs, necks, etc.

  2. The trouble is remembering all the rules of how to fall when you are falling. If it happens quickly, sometimes the brain just doesn't have time to process all the data.

    I used to get a lot of practice at falling as a kid. Old age makes practice far less appealing. *G*

  3. Well, I definitely agree with the keep your knees bent if you land on your feet, having flown off a bucking (in upward transition) 17.3 Hanoverian cross and landing on my feet, badly jambing and or hyper-extending my knee and rendering me lame for some time! Not that that stopped me from clambering back aboard and getting the transition right away.

    I have sadly also been bucked off so hard that even though my original landing point was my butt, and the ground was a softish arena, and wearing a good, newish and "never in a fall" helmet, I STILL ended up with a concussion that provided me with headaches for weeks before subsiding.

    Why do we ride, again? Or, better question, why do we ride greenies and barely broke horses?

  4. The best way to practice these tips is to ride a very tall horse - further to fall=more time to remember how to do it properly ;)

    Worst fall I've ever had came from a very athletic little bucking mare. I'm not sure how but I ended up underneath of her with my face under her hoof. There just wasn't any reaction time there.

  5. good stuff! You as a rider have to pick the FALL. You may have to roll or in a quick second determine what you do.

  6. "Let go of the reins". Why can't I ever get that one right? In every spill I can remember, I know my biggest mistake was not letting go of the reins. Of course, the one time I did it when I got launched from a nasty buck and got yanked by the horse back onto my feet so I wound up just standing next to him with the reins still in my hand was pretty neat.

  7. The tuck and roll helped me safely off my 17hh mare when we were cantering and she tripped and went to a knee, I rolled right off over her shoulder. Got up, got right back on and forgot it even happened.

  8. I do wish I could do this, but I'm a terrible faller, just really really bad at it. I have had a couple of doozys so I always hold on till the last moment. It's a skill I wish I had though.

  9. My Appy mare was very naughty at age 3 and 4. That whole tuck and roll never happen. The falls happen so fast I was on the ground before I could think tuck. I had a knack at falling on my butt most times.

    One time my friend was riding his reiner in a hunter class. She did a sliding stop to the fence and he somersaulted over her head and landed on his feet the other side of the fence. That was the coolest fall I ever saw.

  10. Eventer 79, I defer to your greater experience in eventing -- where the speeds get up to what, 550 meters/minute?

    As Jean says, it all happens so fast, there's barely time to think "Oh, expletive!"

  11. Great post! I love that you have references at the end of your posts.

    When I was a beginner, I used to fall off so frequently that the other mom's watching us ride had to get my mom's attention to let her know that I fell. She would casually exclaim "oh, she does that all the time."

    Now, the most difficult fall is watching one of my student's bite the dust. I can see it coming and the rider has passed the Rubicon...what do I do? I start laughing!? In a good-natured, chuckling kind of way. I know this sounds terrible, but it is truly uncontrollable. My hope is that my bizarre reaction to an unfixable situation at least keeps my students light-hearted in the moment. So far, they have stood up smiling. :)

  12. I had a trainer once who always told me never to jump off. If your horse is taking off and you get scared, you shouldn't bail. She said she'd seen some of the worst injuries happen when people had jumped off.
    I've taken this to heart, because I can imagine that if I planned on jumping, I'd think about it way too much. So far, whenever I've fallen off I instinctively rolled and everything just sort off happened. If I had time to think about it, I'd probably do everything wrong.

    On a lighter note: a horse once bucked me off in such a strange way, that it looked like I did a regular dismount (but with a LOT more air) and ended up on my feet holding his reins. I was perfectly fine and the only reason I couldn't get right back on, because I was laughing so hard.

  13. "Hitchhiker" = one of the greatest books ever! I have always loved that quote too. And it is true that you will get hurt less if you just relax through a fall. It's been proven that people involved in car accidents while asleep in the car get hurt less than people wide awake - they are not tensed at impact.

  14. I tend to hang onto the reins when I fall. One experience coming off cross-country and chasing my horse back to the barn taught me to hold on to the reins at all costs. Now that I also foxhunt, I REALLY don't want to have to walk a couple of miles home if I'm parted from my horse. So while hanging onto the reins might not be the safest thing ever, my horse doesn't have the opportunity to bolt for home in the event that we become separated.

  15. I have perfected the art of falling off during my years of riding! I have fallen off more than my fair share of times and have proven to be a natural, for some reason. I do think that being flexible helps. Incidentally, I have taken up the hobby of inline speed skating and have proven to be quite the excellent faller in that domain as well. Guess if you've got it, you've got it. ;)


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