At its best, the bond you form with your horse feels unbreakable — like you’re working together as one. However, after a riding accident, it can sometimes feel like you’re starting over as you try to rebuild the trust you once shared.
Like with any other mishap among friends, a riding accident can create some awkward tension, and possibly fear, between you and your horse; but if you take the recovery slowly and give each other time to heal, your bond will be stronger and for the better because of it.
Recovering From an Accident
Depending on the nature of your accident, the recovery for you and your horse may be only a few days, or it could be several weeks or months. Physical injuries can prevent you from engaging in regular riding or training, which can be a problem if your work depends on riding or interacting with horses or is just largely physical. However, it’s important to give both of you the time you need for your injuries to mend completely before you get back to it. Not doing so could result in additional harm and injuries.
Horseback riding accidents are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries in adults. The average horse is between five and six feet tall, which means that a fall off a horse can have a pretty large impact. A fall that results in a traumatic brain injury can take months, and even years to heal from, so in these cases, it’s probably best to give yourself a break until you’re fully recovered, and let someone else take your horse out for its daily exercise.
A fall could also result in a serious injury that could cause months of acute or chronic pain. If your fall resulted in a herniated disc, back injury, neck injury, or other serious and painful condition, you may need physical therapy to heal your injury. Serious injuries can take weeks or even months to heal, and this can feel like ages if you’re in a hurry to get back on your horse. Physical therapy can speed up the healing process by methodically restrengthening and retraining the area of your injury.
After particularly dangerous injuries, your doctor may be wary about you continuing horseback riding until you’re fully healed. To a doctor, fully healed could be long after you feel ready to get back on your horse. Fortunately, healthcare has come a long way, and new technologies exist that can help doctors monitor your health. Your doctor may feel more comfortable with your horseback riding if they have access to constant information about your health through a wearable device. This can be a good precaution to keep you safe when you start riding again.
Getting Back on the Horse
Once you’re healed and ready to train again, you may need to work with your horse for months before they are sure they can trust you again. Your horse needs to feel confident in your ability to lead if they’re going to let you take the reigns. To establish this confidence, you may want to start with the basics and do simple exercises that will help build their trust, such as groundwork.
Some groundwork exercises that can be helpful for you and your horse include:
Leading: lead the way for your horse by having a firm hand and maintaining boundaries.
Touching: stroking and grooming your horse will help them feel comfortable with you.
Guiding: use direct pressure to give your horse direction for where to go.
Yielding: don’t touch your horse, simply guide them through indirect pressure.
Circle work: use body language to encourage your horse to move around you.
These exercises with help your horse become attuned to you and the instruction you give them, which is a good first step after the nervousness that follows an accident. Even if you don’t suffer a serious injury after an accident, the fear gained from a fall can take a long time to overcome.
As you know, fear and horse riding don’t go well together. You both need to feel comfortable and trusting to successfully ride together. By starting again slow, you’ll overcome the emotional complexity that follows an accident and get back to your close bond in no time.