Horse Riding: Risk of Injury to the Horse

September 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Horse Riding
Image via Wikipedia

How risky is riding a horse to the horse?

We know that horse riding is risky. Falling off a horse can sometimes cause pretty severe injuries, such as happened to Christopher Reeves. Even being around horses can lead to injuries, they are large animals that weigh much more then us mere humans and they can pack a very powerful blow.

But what about the horse? Is the horse at risk of injury when we ride? Well about 25% of horse owners this year will experience a lameness in their horse – is it from riding?

The answer to that question is… it depends.

Risk of Injury while riding depends on the following factors –

  1. Discipline
  2. Level of riding
  3. Conformation
  4. Ground Surface
  5. Previous Injury
  6. Fatigue

Discipline - Obviously a race horse will have a higher incidence of injuries than a trail horse. Jumpers, Barrel Racers, Reiners, Eventers, Dressage horses all have different common injuries related to the discipline in which the horse performs.

Level of Riding – The higher the level of riding the more likely for injury – A Grand Prix jumper is more likely to have a serious injury than a training level horse.

Conformation - A horse with crooked legs will more likely to move incorrectly and cause injury to itself.

Ground Surface – Uneven ground, deep footing in an arena, wet ground will be more likely to cause injuries when riding.

Previous Injury - an old injury or even an existing unhealed injury that may be unknown to the rider is more likely to be reinjured or more injured.

Fatigue – A tired horse is much more prone to injury.

Of all of these factors the one that is in complete control of the rider during competition is fatigue. It is up to you as a rider to monitor your horse. If your horse is tired and has signs of fatigue, YOU are in control, then it is up to you to slow down or even stop. A common injury in competition horses is damage of the Suspensory Ligament and/or the Superficial Digital Flexor Tendon and it is much more common to have this injury in a fatigued horse. Is it really worth another class at a horse show to risk injury to this ligament because your horse is tired?

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About Dr Daniel Beatty
An Infopreneur with a Veterinary Medicine degree.