I fell off and didn’t “Just Get Back On” and this is why…

As much as we try and minimise risks, falling off a horse is something that every rider will likely experience, but what happens next is crucial. The age-old advice to “just get back on” can sometimes do more harm than good. In this blog, I’ll explain why it’s important to pause, assess, and understand both your and your horse’s physical and mental state after a fall. By taking the time to analyse and learn from the incident, you can rebuild confidence, trust, and ensure the well-being of both you and your horse.

Step 1: Assess Physical Health

For the Rider:

1. Immediate Check: Right after the fall, perform a physical self-assessment.

2. Delayed Symptoms: Some injuries, such as concussions or internal injuries, might not show symptoms right away. Monitor yourself for the next 24-48 hours and seek medical help if anything feels off.

Horse riders are a hardy breed but it is not ‘weak’ to make sure you are ok! As the daughter of a national hunt jockey, I can definitely appreciate the effect of the culture of bravery in the equestrian world. Competition societies had to put rules in place for disqualifications with falls as people were completing rounds with dislocated and broken limbs with long term consequences. You can not shrug off a broken leg!

For the Horse:

1. Immediate Examination: Check your horse for any obvious signs of injury. Look for cuts, swelling, or signs of lameness.

2. Veterinary Check: Sometimes, the stress of a fall can cause injuries that are not immediately visible. Sometimes, the reason for a fall is an undiagnosed issue.

Step 2: Assess Mental Health

For the Rider:

1. Acknowledge the Fear: It’s natural to feel shaken after a fall. Acknowledge your fear instead of brushing it off. Talk to a friend, trainer, or a professional coach if needed.

2. Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself. Falls happen to everyone, and it’s okay to feel scared. Give yourself permission to take a moment to regroup if you need it.

For the Horse:

1. Behavioural Changes: Observe your horse’s behaviour. Are they more on edge or reluctant? Falls can be traumatic for horses too.

2. Comfort: If it feels right, spend time on the ground with your horse to rebuild trust. Gentle handling and patience go a long way in helping your horse feel secure again.

Step 3: Analyse the Fall

Understanding why the fall happened is key to preventing future incidents.

1. Environmental Factors: Was the footing unstable? Was there a distraction? Understanding external factors can help you mitigate risks in the future.

2. Equipment Check: Ensure that your tack is in good condition and fits both you and your horse properly. Ill-fitting equipment can lead to accidents. Check your saddle, bridle, bit… Ask an expert if unsure.

3. Training and Skill Level: Rose coloured spectacle off – were you over-facing yourself or your horse? Adjust your training plan accordingly.

4. Horse Health: Sadly our horses can not talk so they express themselves in unusual ways… could he/she be trying to tell you something is wrong? Kissing Spine, Ulcers, Lameness and much more can all show up in unexpected ways. Get a professional view if concerned about something.

I hear “for no reason whatsover” far too often – there will be a reason, always! You could contact your instructor or your local Intelligent Horsemanship Recommended Trainer for a fresh set of eyes.

Step 4: Rebuild Confidence and Trust

For the Rider:

1. Start Small: Begin with easy, familiar tasks. Ride at a comfortable pace and gradually increase difficulty as your confidence returns.

2. Professional Guidance: Consider working with a trainer who can provide support and help you rebuild your skills and confidence step by step. On or off the horse this can make a big difference. Please don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help – trust me, I know it can be hard sometimes! (I offer online coaching for riders recovering from falls.)

For the Horse:

1. Consistency: Maintain a consistent routine to help your horse feel secure. Routine builds confidence.

2. Groundwork: Spending time doing groundwork exercises to rebuild trust and communication with your horse can be hugely beneficial. Have you explored Horse Agility? I find this really helpful to rebuild a relationship from the ground.

Step 5: Moving Forward with Compassion

Falling off is not a failure; it’s can be an opportunity to learn and grow.

1. Patience is Key:  Give yourself time to rebuild. Ride another horse to rebuild your confidence. Ask someone to ride yours if needed. Celebrate small victories along the way.

2. Community Support: Lean on your riding community for support. Sharing experiences with others who understand can be incredibly healing.

Falling off a horse can be a significant event – particularly if like me, you have a love for the bigger horse! It is a long way down!

The best course of action is not always to “just get back on.” By taking the time to thoroughly assess and understand the situation, you can ensure the physical and mental well-being of both you and your horse. Through analysis, compassion, and gradual rebuilding, you can come back stronger and more confident, with a deeper bond of trust between you and your equine friend. Onwards, upwards and here is to staying on if we can! 😉

Recommended reading on this topic

Rosie Jones McVey has written a research paper on the Equestrian Virtue of Bravery and the implications to Horse Welfare – Read Here

Sue Palmer has written a fantastic book “Understanding Horse Performance: Brain, Pain, Training” – find out more here


Full disclosure – All the humans recommended, I know personally and think are epic woman so I am proud to recommend. Not an advertisement or sponsored. I am related to the founder of Intelligent Horsemanship – and proud to be.

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