Category Archives: Horse Rider Injuries

A Disc Herniation And What Not To Do As A Horse Rider

Do You Have A Disc Hernia In Your Lower Back?

Is Back Pain Affecting Your Riding?

Have You Been Told To Give Up Riding?

Doctors and medical professionals will always err on the conservative side and the uninformed will always view horse riding as a high-risk sport, especially with a back injury.

Repetitive Trauma in the Shoulder for Horse Riders
Repetitive Trauma in the Shoulder for Horse Riders

Well, I have written extensively on this topic, I have suffered a back disc prolapse and was told to never ride a horse again. I was also given many stretches by my treating therapist that increased my pain and pressure on my spinal nerves.

Many horse riders suffer from a lower back injury of some description. The disc is the most common structure injured. The advice and rehab programs that are given to many horse riders do not come from a therapist who  knows about horse riding. This is devastating for those who are told to give it away.

Time to heal is very important and understanding the biomechanics of the injury and movement patterns used in riding is essential. If you want more information in this area then look at my Applied Posture Riding program.

However, having written about what to do to recover I have listed here a group of exercises NOT to do.

Stretches To Avoid With A  Disc Hernia Injury.

The pictures are difficult to view.

The point is you avoid any stretch or exercises that push the lower spine into flexion. Lumbar flexion will increase the pressure through the disc and cause it to bulge or herniate further into the spinal structures. This increases the risk of a full-blown prolapse.

All the Images have been sourced from The book “The Anatomy Of Stretching ” by Brad Walker 2nd Edition.

(B Walker 2007. The Anatomy Of Stretching. 2nd ed. Berkely, Lotus Publishing.138,129,

stretch 42 websize
Never stretch toward the floor with a disc injury
stretch 18 websize
Sitting and stretching into your knees puts enormous pressure on the disc.

These stretches are very dangerous, especially in the early stages of recovery.

All stretches for a disc hernia must be carefully set up and the patient must know what structure they are stretching and at what level do you push it. No pain No gain is only good if you know what the pain is.

Once you have looked at all these stretches and in many riders you will realize you are actually increasing your injury. If you want more information or to contact me use the home page and the contact me tab.

Be safe learn about your injury and return to riding with good healing, good strength and confidence you are recovering well.

For Information on The Applied Posture Riding Program go to the Home Page.

stretch 36 websize
Avoid This Stretch with a Disc Hernia.

A stretch may well be increasing the injury or increasing the nerve damage…be aware!

stretch 32 websize
If you keep your lower back Arched this is not as bad as the others
stretch 24 websize
Twisting and Sitting is extremely stressful on your disc. Avoid this stretch.




Horseback Riding With a Herniated Disc

Have You Just Been Diagnosed With A Herniated Disc?
Have You Been Told To Give Up Riding?
You Don’t Have Too!

Prolapsed DiscA back or herniated disc injury does not mean your passion for riding horses has changed.  A herniated disc is a very common injury in the general public and very common is horse riders. Like any injury, a recovery time is required and it will require  patience, but there is no reason why you can’t eventually get back to riding again. It does require knowledge and correct exercises, though. It is not just your riding that needs to be considered here. Caring for a horse is much more harming to a disc injury than riding. This is an area not considered by health professionals.

I was 21 when I first injured my lower back. I was told surgery was my only hope and that I would have to give up all physical activities forever. I was devastated.  Instead, I chose to heal myself naturally. I studied Physiotherapy and allowed my body to heal as well as doing  a few specific exercises. In addition to these exercises, I designed a complete program of exercises and movement patterns specific to horse riding. (Applied Posture Riding). This has become one of the most popular programs for horse riders all over the world. If you want more information and to purchase the DVDs just go to the home page.

Lower Back Pain
Lower Back Pain

Every injury the body suffers leaves a scar. After a disc injury, your body will never be completely the same. The shock absorbing structures have been damaged, this means your body cannot absorb pressure through the spine as it did before the injury. All weight-bearing activities such as running sitting, rise and sit the trot, missing a step will jar your spine. Coughing sneezing and straining on the toilet will put pressure through your damaged disc.

Steps To Recover From Herniated Disc.

  • Control the pain..pain medication,wear a back support, heat or ice, resting. movement exercises
  • Allow time to heal. it is very important to allow the ligament and disc structures to heal at the level of the disc. (up to 6 months).
  • Set the body up to heal in the correct posture and movement patterns.
  • Protect the spinal from further injury.
  • Train for core stability and general fitness
  • Learn specific movement patterns to ride with better balance, stability and strength.

Recovering from a disc injury in forever. Exercising your core muscles needs to be an ongoing part of your lifestyle, not something you stop doing once the pain is gone. Correct stretching and learning how to move ,and lift correctly and even how to rest-stress-free is essential. A rider  who learns about core stability and proper spine alignment can actually further strengthen their back and core stability using horseback riding as an exercise.

Learning How To Protect Your Spine.

Riding is not the riskiest activity for a back injury. Lifting feed buckets, rugs, cleaning yards and stables, lifting the tail ramp on the float are high impact on your spine. Lifting a saddle onto a horses’ back, stretching up to put the bridle on put pressure on the disc. Wearing a good quality lumbar support will support the core and spine and  decrease your risk of further injury.

For Information on The Applied Posture Riding Program go to the Home Page.

Back Brace for horse riders
Back Brace for horse riders

I recommend wearing a back brace while riding and when in the stable area for protection. When riding avoid sitting trot and shorten your dressage length stirrups to help absorb the trot impact. Avoid sitting deep at the canter and jumping for a number of months.

Remember to start off slow and ease back into your riding. Expecting to ride full gallop again immediately out of a disc injury is not only unrealistic but also foolish. Start off walking your horse for a few days.
Horseback riding can be a wonderful pastime, and the bond riders often share with their horses can be just as wonderful. Be patient with yourself. Focus on your healing first, building up your core strength and stability.

The Applied Posture Riding program is the perfect program to recover from a herniated disc and learn how to ride with core strength and specific movement patterns.

Lumbar Back Support for horse riders
Lumbar Back Support for horse riders

If you want to buy a Lumbar support brace click here.

If you want more information about this unique program go to the home page or contact me direct

cheers Annette Willson












Age Injury Pain Fear The Damaged Horse Rider

Is Age Affecting Your Riding?

Age takes our strength, our flexibility, our physical endurance. Age gives us experience, hindsight, knowledge and drives our passion. The older person takes less stress, less impact to create more damage, poorer healing, and longer rehab and then, of course, a loss of confidence.

Confident and Skilled
Confident and Skilled

When I was young I was strong confident, skilled. I had very few falls, I broke a few bones and they healed. I never suffered fear or a loss of confidence. Now I am old…er. Injury is affecting me as a rider. Shoulder tendon tears, lumbar herniated discs and broken limbs in the past affect me now.

Age Injury Pain Fear..A New Experience For Me.?

Last year (2013) my horse got bogged in the dam and struggled his way out. I grabbed for the neck strap as I was flung out of the saddle. I landed  next to him but I had ripped my shoulder apart. This was a simple bad luck fall. My age was the weakness, my tendons just tore apart. Maybe 10 tens younger they may have just stretched???

For Information on The Applied Posture Riding Program go to the Home Page.

Shoulder Bursitis
Shoulder Bursitis

I had surgery repaired my shoulder did all my own exercises, fully recovered, the fall was not a confidence hitter,…… just bad luck. I returned to riding, after 3 months of rehab, strength was good, confidence was good, all was good, then bang!!! the horse  hit a bank ,then hit the deck rammed me into the ground shoulder first…bang …complete rupture and another tear of the same shoulder…Just bad luck really!..age or bad riding?..6 weeks in a sling more rehab but to no avail more surgery needed.

Well, while planning surgery dates protecting my shoulders I rode, gentle safe riding, I didn’t lift anything but this time just kept playing while waiting for a surgery date. Bang the other shoulder is ripped apart lunging a horse….2 shoulders needing surgery now. The right one to re-repair the torn cuff and the ruptured AC joint and the left needing a cuff repair.

Well, the left has been done and the right shoulder to look forward to and then on with my passion…..Time off work, many $1000 for medical expenses, pain, time to heal,time to think, time to plan. Time to worry about what else may happen,and of course everybody suggesting it is time I gave up horses!!!

I now have experience of age,injury,pain and fear. I also have others telling me to give it all up.

This is a scenario I get emails about nearly every day. Riders returning to the sport after a long time away…..scared. Riders returning to riding after having children..scared. Riders returning from a major injury..scared! Riders new to the sport,taking it up at a later time in their life..scared.

Well as you can read the history is similar, that is, an injury , a trauma, older bodies, pain, weakness, and a loss of confidence. Me at the moment.

Recovering From Injury and Fear

I am physically accepting time for healing. As a Physio I have knowledge.I will start range of movement stretches soon, once I have the range I will start gravity free exercises. From there I will add in strength and movement pattern exercises. Core exercises have never been stopped as well as posture pattern exercises. I am will then pick up all the Applied Posture Riding exercises and plan to get back in the saddle within the next 6 weeks.

I have to address my fear, though. The past  18 months have been filled with bad luck, pain, expense and time healing. Before my first fall in the dam, I was a strong confident, skilled and very safe rider. I practice safe procedures, I wear a helmet, chaps, a neck strap, my gear is always well fitted and safe. I understand the  horse I am riding and the stage of training he is at. I warm up correctly and don’t take chances on anything…I have been in this industry for a long time.Well my bad luck continued and I had to put my horse down due to a bad luck injury, so now I am in the position do I start again or do I retire and just teach.

Well, I still face one more surgery on my right shoulder, I have to buy another horse. I am recovering physically I am suffering financially and psychologically. I don’t want to just be a trail rider. I want to ride and train and compete at a low level and teach.

I revisit 18 months ago and focus on my skills, my strength, and talents as a rider. I respect my age and  luck.

I plan to buy  another horse and start again. I still have passion and time to enjoy.

If fear is going to inhibit me I will look internally and gain confidence from knowing I am skilled and ready. I have given this advice , so now I will use it.

The Applied Posture Riding Exercises  are still my principle exercises program to follow.

If you want to buy this program and learn how to ride with an independent balanced seat then go to the HOME page.

Annette Willson author "Applied Posture Riding"
Annette Willson author “Applied Posture Riding”


Common Injuries Suffered By Horse Riders

Have You Been Injured?

Have you been doing an exercise program?

An estimated 30 million Americans ride horses each year. However, more than 2,300 riders under the age of 25 years are hospitalized annually because of horseback-riding injuries. Some riding activities, such as jumping and cross-country, are inherently risky because horses are unpredictable, flighty and can weigh up to 11000kg. When galloping a horse can travel as fast as 30 mph, and stand as tall as 3 meters high. If a horse comes down the impact is enormous. Most injuries result from falling off the horse, which can lead to severe and sometimes fatal injuries.

Believe it or not!
Horseback riding carries a higher injury rate than motorcycle riding. On average, motorcyclists suffer an injury once every 7000 hours of riding. By contrast, an equestrian (horseback rider) may have a serious accident once every 350 hours.

If you want to buy the Applied Posture Riding  program and learn how to ride with an independent balanced seat then go to the HOME page.

Locations and types of injury

Injuries commonly occur in the upper extremities,  the wrist, elbow, and shoulder are easy targets for being pinned or caught or flung around causing an injury. The lower extremity injuries, involving the knee, ankle, and foot, are more frequent in rodeos and less common in other equestrian activities. Although most accidents occur while riding a horse, some take place in the stable while handling, grooming, or feeding the horse. The stable is a dangerous area for repetitive type injuries. The lower back is susceptible to strains and trauma from lifting. The horse is in close proximity and always at risk of kicking or biting or fleeing another horse. People can be kicked, crushed, pushed over at any time.

Serious injuries, such as an injury to the spinal region, can leave permanent impairment, possibly resulting in paralysis. A herniated disc is the most common injury.Others may cause long-term side effects, such as seizures from a head injury. Even a simple mild injury can result in permanent loss of range and or strength on various body parts.

The most frequent types of injuries are bruises, strains, and sprains, which affect the soft tissues (skin, ligaments, tendons, and muscles). Other types of injuries include fractures (broken bones), dislocations, and concussions.The seriousness of the injury will determine the time away from the horse and from work. Many injuries’s can be healed with rest, however, many require surgery and a lengthy rehab period.

Deaths resulting from horseback riding injuries are not very common. Most deaths are a result of a traumatic injury to the head.


Approved safety standard hard shell helmets should be worn at all times when you are mounted on the horse. The helmet must always be securely fastened and should be replaced after any significant impact. Many riding and pony clubs have very strict rules regarding the use of helmets. However, many trail riding and pleasure riding clubs choose the not wear a helmet leaving them vulnerable to severe injury.

Numerous injuries are related to being caught in the stirrup and dragged by the horse. A properly matched boot-stirrup combination is very important. The size of the boot must be 2cm smaller than the stirrup width. Release catches are available on some saddles to prevent dragging if your foot is caught in the stirrup. Correct positioning of the foot in the stirrup is also important. This is taught at all registered riding and pony clubs.

Riders should wear properly fitted boots and nonskid gloves. Do not wear loose-fitting or baggy clothing. All riding equipment should be maintained and inspected thoroughly before venturing out.

Body-protecting gear can be used to prevent soft tissue injuries and rib fractures; however, it does not protect the spine from injury and does not protect against a massive crushing blow to the chest.

Some horses are safer than others, but no horse is 100% safe. 

For Information on The Applied Posture Riding Program go to the Home Page.

Sports Med. 1990 Jan;9(1):36-47.

Common injuries in horseback riding. A review.


United States Pony Clubs, Inc., American Medical Equestrian Association, Waynesville, NC 28786.


The most common location of horse-related injuries is the upper extremity (24% to 61%) with injuries to the lower extremity second in frequency (36% to 40%).

The head and face sustain 20% of horse-related injuries. The most common type of injury is a soft tissue injury (92% to 1%), followed by a fracture (57% to 3%).

A concussion is the third most common type of injury (63% to 2%). The most frequent cause of hospitalization is a concussion (38% to 4%) with fracture second. The most common injury which leaves residual impairment is an injury to the central nervous system.

The age at which most injuries occurred is less than 21 years. In the latest NEISS report (1987-1988), injuries have decreased in the younger riders but have increased in the older riders (above 24 years). More women are injured than men, but over the age of 44 years, more men are injured than women, with the difference more marked in the 1987-1988 NEISS report.

Previous horse-related injuries are reported frequently (37% to 25%). In mortality studies from Australia and the United States, head injuries caused the majority of deaths (78% and 60%), followed by chest injuries (9%). In the Australian study, each sex had 50% of the deaths. In the United States, 60% were male, 40% female.

Above the age of 24 years, male deaths increasingly predominate, being 15 male deaths to 1 female above the age of 64. A concussion is divided into 3 divisions of severity which require different medical evaluation and treatment: mild in which rider is stunned or disoriented for a brief period; moderate in which there is a loss of consciousness for less than 5 minutes; and severe in which there is a loss of consciousness for more than 5 minutes.

An investigative need is cited in the areas of previous horse-related injury, lessons, experience vs knowledge, epilepsy, drowning, gender, deaths, safety helmets, stirrups, and body protectors. No horse is a safe horse; some are safer than others but the horse is a potentially lethal animal. Prevention of accidents and injuries is dependent upon using knowledge previously obtained from studying horse activities. Much more information is available than in the past through the medical studies that have been done and the recommendations made by these investigators. The medical community has a responsibility to educate the horse riding public and to participate in investigations requested by the horse organizations.

If you want to improve your Rider skill, balance confidence and ride better and safer then have a look at my program Applied Posture Riding.