Category Archives: Horse Rider Injuries

How To Prevent Horse Riding Injuries

Horse Riding is a popular competitive and recreational sport in Australia and certainly around the world. The Membership in the Australian Equestrian Federation of Australia is 13800, with 28500 horses registered and 500 affiliated clubs. The Pony Club association has a membership of 5000 plus (figures quoted in 2000) To be updated once I have them.

Minor Injuries in Horse riders

Minor Injuries in Horse riders

The number of Horse Riding injuries now surpasses the number of motorcycle injuries per hour of riding. More females than males are injured and the most affected age group is 24 to 44 years old. But the most alarming number is the rate of injury is highest in the 5 to 25-year-old age group of riders. This means many of our younger riders are being injured when horse riding every year. This is the group that is most likely just starting to learn to ride.

There are many aspects of owning and riding a horse that has been addressed to improve safety and minimize injury. Numerous recommendations have been enforced, for instance, standard approved Helmets, correct fitting of gear, safe riding areas and correct matching of horse and rider have all been addressed. The teaching of coaches and riders has been accredited.

As a Horse Rider Coach, I believe the Training of Instructors and Riders is not complete and lacks Posture Riding information.

I Believe the way Horse Riders are taught to ride is not complete!

To clarify this bold statement I believe the teaching of coaches is focused on training the horse to perform and very little instruction is given to the rider about HOW TO RIDE. Many riders are left floundering and do not understand what instructors want them to do. Terms like

The training of the lower First is imperative for safe riding

The training of the lower First is imperative for safe riding

“Soften your Hands” !!! “Keep your leg Still”!!. “Stop Bouncing “Let go of the horses mouth”Sit Up Straight” ” More seat” HOW many ask?

All common statements. What lacks in the teaching of riders is WHAT TO DO and HOW TO DO IT. The training of the lower leg for stability and safety  is rare and the use of a neck strap or saddle  (monkey strap) is rarely taught. Applied Posture Riding teaches riders HOW to Ride and uses their core for everything not just riding.

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


The correct use of a neck strap in horse riding

The correct use of a neck strap in horse riding

Even worse, in my opinion in  the Accredited course in the Pony Club, the training to use a neck strap is wrong. This teaching I believe is contributing to the incidents of minor falls and major falls at all levels of riding.

I also acknowledge there are very many excellent riding instructors and teachers. These instructors are the ones identifying riders have problems in their body, posture and skills, and sending them to the correct professional to fix their problems. Riding instructors are not  experts in posture but can identify the rider is not right. Sending them to an expert is the right thing to do.

Back pain from poor horse handling techniques

Back pain from poor horse handling techniques

As a rider coach, I train the rider HOW To use their core, their lower leg, and their hands this is essential for safe confident riding. All coaches aim for their pupils to be strong ,skilled and confident and establish a deep independent seat. All riders want to be safe, have fun and be skilled and very importantly not hurt their horse by bouncing on their back or pulling on their mouth, even more critical is to not be injured either from a fall or from handling the horse and the equipment around the stables.

Back pain, shoulder pain, and knee pain are the most common injuries that occur around the stables, following correct lifting and handling techniques can minimize these simple injuries. Being stepped on or knocked over of kicked are all accidents that will continue to happen. Wearing correct footwear and common sense are important but accidents still happen. Sadly many horse people learn by experience.

Locations and Types of Injury in Horse Riders

Common Area For Horse Riding Injury is the Shoulder

Common Area For Horse Riding Injury is the Shoulder

Injuries commonly occur in the upper extremities, such as the wrist, elbow, and shoulder. 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. Many riders complain of repetitive type injuries and many of these are not recorded in the statistics.

All of these types of injuries are costly, painful and time-consuming to heal.

Accidents will continue to happen but by training riders how to stabilize and be safe through the lower leg, (before training for a deep seat) by the correct teaching of the use of a neck strap and simple posture care and manual handling techniques the incidents of injuries on horses would be reduced.

I have included below a number of links to various article and blogs on injuries in horse riders.

Each year in the United States, an estimated 30 million persons ride horses. The rate of serious injury per the number of riding hours is estimated to be higher for horseback riders than for motorcyclists and automobile racers  The following report uses data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) to describe the epidemiology of horseback-riding-associated injuries in the United States during 1987 and 1988.During 1987 and 1988, an estimated 92,763 emergency room visits were made in the United States for injuries related to horseback riding. Although the greatest number of injuries occurred in the 25-44-year age group, injury rates were highest for 5-24-year-olds, especially for females

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. The reason is that some activities, such as jumping and cross-country, are inherently risky because horses can weigh up to 1,500 pounds, travel as fast as 30 mph, and stand as tall as 3 meters high. 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.

The following text is quoted from the article

Equestrian injuries: a five-year review of hospital admissions in British Columbia, Canada (link below)

“Horse riding is unique in the world of sports because one of the members of the team is not human. The horse has its own athletic abilities and temperament. This athlete weighs upwards of 500 kg, moves at speeds up to 65 kph, and elevates the rider up to 3 m above the ground. The horse can change direction and speed (acceleration or deceleration) in less than a second. When a change in direction and speed occur at the same time the centrifugal force is impressive. This team must be in absolute harmony to execute even the simplest maneuvers. The motorcyclist, for example, has a much more predictable partner, although balance and surface conditions are important to both motorcycle and horse riders.

Other significant differences are the teeth and metal shoes of the horse. Both can inflict serious injury to horse handlers on the ground. A significant number of injuries (30%–40%) occur to persons on the ground near the horse.1–3

Few statistics are available on the number of equestrian injuries. British Columbia (BC), with 75 000 horses, ranks fifth among Canadian provinces for horse population and there are an estimated 33 000 riders in BC (DVM Olson, Agriculture Canada; personal communication, October 1997). The rate of serious injuries in horseback riding has been reported to be one per 350 to one per 1000 hours of riding2 in the USA. This research was undertaken to gain some knowledge of Canadian statistics. ”

To read the whole article follow the link below.

The following link is a particularly good article in that its recommendation for safety covers many areas of horse riding and horse care.

If you want more information about horse rider injuries to fill in the subscribe form and follow Applied Posture Riding on facebook. Share your story and love your riding.

Enjoy Annette Willson Author Applied Posture Riding

Annette Willson author "Applied Posture Riding"

Annette Willson author “Applied Posture Riding”





Managing Injuries In Horse Riders

This is a favorite topic of mine. One, I am managing my own shoulder injury at the moment and two I get many emails from both riders and health professionals around the world asking for information and advice on managing horses riders with an injury.

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

We all know riding is our passion and we all know the general public, health professionals in particular label horse riding dangerous. Well everybody is right but to be fair more money is spent on contact sports to rehabilitate injuries than in horse riding. Horse riding produces more repetitive inflammatory injuries rather than high impact traumas. Although my injury is an impact injury from a direct fall  many riders suffer ongoing pain, stiffness and soreness in many parts of their body on a daily basis.

Shoulders are a primary target for sprains, strains, and minor trauma injuries. Lifting, throwing, pulling, tugging, dragging, rails around the tail ramp on a float etc etc all cause pain. All these objects including throwing rugs and lifting feed buckets, even grooming horses regularly all affect the shoulder and or upper limbs joints. The lower back is another common and painful area to affect horse riders.

So How Do We Manage Injuries In Horse Riders?

I believe and state “horse riding is good for your body” I state “horse riding is not bad for your back”. The job of caring for your horse is the damaging part of the sport. Also, obviously, I have to say falling off IS bad for you, but if you don’t fall off and ride to your own level then horse riding is one of the best sports for fitness, tone, and happiness.

Managing Skill level

A strong Lower leg is essential for confidence and skills

A strong Lower leg is essential for confidence and skills

Horse riders seem to spend so much money on lessons. Well this is great, but like all industry’s be careful, not all instructors will teach you good skills. If you are progressing and your strength, confidence, and performance improve then your instructor is of good value. If your instructor  begins to reproduce the same lesson over and over and repeats the same instruction then, 1 you have reached the limit of that instructor and time to change or 2, you have a block in yourself you need another approach or more professional instruction, or 3 your need more time between lessons to establish the skills you are learning.

Re point 1. Many instructors are great with the initial basics and great to a certain level. This is a good thing but if you are advancing beyond the skills of your instructor then don’t be held back and move on.

Re point 2. Many instructors are able to identify rider problems but don’t have the skill or knowledge to fix them. Eg. commonly I hear from riders who are told over and over “Your crooked..straighten up”. This is repeated  every lesson. Yes, the instructor can identify the problem but the solution requires much more insight than just “Straighten Up”! This is one of the common problems I hear about from riders. This is a problem that requires much more knowledge from a professional. The Applied Posture Riding program has detailed information about this.

cropped-Gymkhana-Clare-2012-018-Copy1.jpgA rider will never be straight in a saddle if they can’t sit straight on a chair, walk straight or lie straight. It may be their spine, it may be their hips, it may be their pelvis, in many cases it is just long term habits with work, postures and lack of stretching. A riding instructor without knowledge of the musculoskeletal system will not be able to the instructor a rider on HOW to fix this. A rider coach is needed.

To manage skill level seeks and pay for the correct advice. Good skills lead to better and safer riding.

Managing Minor Injuries and Pain.

Repetitive Movements that cause minor pains

Repetitive Movements that cause minor pains

It seems a good idea to manage minor aches and pains before they become major aches and pains. We all manage pain… we don’t manage NO pain. So if you have minor aches then learn to deal with them everyday before they develop into serious problems that will require months of rehab, money and time away from horses not just riding, A broken shoulder cannot even feed a horse let alone rug or, ride a horse. A minor shoulder pain can lead to a complete spontaneous rupture over time as it decays away slowly. Bang one day it is fine the next day it is ruptured! It happens!!

Learn to stretch and exercise properly every day, don’t assume riding is enough.!

I have a great program to manage NO pain as well as manage existing injury.

Managing Major Injury as a Horse Rider.

Lower back pain doesn't mean stop horse riding!

Lower back pain doesn’t mean stop horse riding!

This is a topic I have a great passion for. I receive many emails from horse riders all over the world wanting advice on their rehab because they are horse riders. I even get emails from doctors wanting advice about their injury as a horse rider. Of course, when you have a major injury you need to seek local professional medical advice and you need to follow it. Having scans and seeing specialists on their field is essential. If you break a bone and it takes six weeks to heal then it takes six weeks to heal, you or I cannot speed time up. If you try, it usually ends up in needing more time because you wreck it.

A CT scan or an MRI scan tell the truth, it is what it is. Healing time is real as well. The advice on what to do while healing is the area I get emails about. Many riders are advised to never return to riding again…hmm. imagine. I was told this as an 18 yo…Many riders are told to do nothing while they heal and many are told they can forget to get back to a level they dream of.

Well, we as riders know passion and determination is a powerful thing.

Understanding the horse rider, understanding the injury, having experienced many myself and the attitude of the medical system and being an elite horse rider myself I can put the package together. If you are injured you need to follow the medical advice, but with  knowledge and common sense advice from an experienced therapist who specializes in the horse rider and horse riding you may well change the way you achieve what you want.

I look at the cause of pain and deal with why you have pain as well as how to manage and fix it. I look at the state of the injury and give advice about the mechanism that will harm and help. It may be as simple as changing the way you do what you do not stop what you do. EG I stand on a bench to brush my horse to protect my shoulders. I use a sack trolley to move feed around. I have gaps in my fence  to walk through rather than climb under or over. I use a back brace for pain control in my back.

My passion is horses and I also love seeing riders return to their passion after injury and most of all love seeing riders achieve what they have been told to stay away from If you have a problem with your riding and have reached a block in your progress and have a look at the Applied Posture Riding program. If I can help I will, fill in the subscribe form ,follow Applied Posture Riding on facebook, read and share you story.

Annette Willson author "Applied Posture Riding"

Annette Willson author “Applied Posture Riding”



Common Shoulder Injuries In Horse Riders

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

The shoulder is a very painful joint to injury and takes a long time to recover from. Shoulder injuries in horse riders are common and not well managed.The shoulder is one of the most used joints in our body. Many of my patients present with pain and say “I haven’t done anything”? The shoulder is a victim of repetitive use and with  my clinical experience, I believe it is due to poor posture more so than overuse or age. Throwing a ball, driving, typing, lifting boxes, or pushing a lawn mower all use the shoulder under a load. We rely heavily on our shoulders to perform a number of activities.

The shoulder has a large range of motion, it not only rotates it moves in a full arc both above the head and to the side of our body. The shoulder with this range is the most mobile joint in the body. Because of this flexibility, however, it is not very stable and is easily injured.

Anatomy of The Shoulder

The Shoulder Bones

The Shoulder Bones


The shoulder is made up of two main bones: the end of upper arm bone (humerus) and the shoulder blade (scapula). It has two joints associated with it. The shoulder joint itself and the acromioclavicular joint.The head of the humerus is round, and it fits into a socket in the scapula. (shoulder blade). Engulfing the shoulder is a group of muscles and ligaments. Ligaments connect the bone to bone and tendons connect muscles to bones. The most common muscles injured come from the rotator cuff group. This group is made up of four muscles  that wrap around the head of the humerus and connect to the scapular and allow us to perform many ranges of motion. This group of muscles is also used for stability in the shoulder joint. The most common are abduction , this action is the most used , this is when we take our arm away from our body sideways.

The Shoulder Abduction

The Shoulder Abduction

When the shoulder moves, the head of the humerus moves in the socket This is called a ball and socket joint. Very little of the surface of the bones touch each other. Ligaments and muscles keep the humerus from slipping out of the socket and keep the clavicle attached to the scapula.

To prevent injury it is important to understand how all of this works.


If you are interested in the Anatomy and Biomechanics then watch this video

From Youtube.


Shoulder Instability And Treatment

The Dislocated Shoulder

The Dislocated Shoulder

Shoulder instability occurs when the muscles and ligaments have been stressed or injured directly. Sometimes the shoulder feels like it might slip out of place.Sometimes I see people with the shoulder sitting out of place. This is a dislocation or a subluxation of the shoulder joint. It occurs most often in young people and athletes. The shoulder becomes unstable when muscles and ligaments that hold it together are stretched beyond their normal limits. In some people hyper-mobility causes the joint to be unstable, this condition may be a normal part of growth and development. Shoulders generally stiffen or tighten with age.

Shoulder Trauma in Horse Riders

Shoulder Trauma in Horse Riders

In athletes, shoulder instability is caused by activities, such as tackling or throwing or defending in Netball for example. In horse riders a fall or a severe grab at the reins and in many cases just doing jobs around the stable. It doesn’t always happen in the saddle.This puts extreme force on the shoulder. Symptoms

Repetitive Trauma in the Shoulder for Horse Riders

Repetitive Trauma in the Shoulder for Horse Riders

of shoulder instability is pain that comes on either suddenly or gradually, a feeling that the shoulder is loose, or a weakness in the arm. Dislocation is common in falls when the hand or arm is outstretched to stop the fall, or when the fall is on a hard surface. Symptoms are severe pain when the injury occurs, a misshapen shoulder and decreased movement of the shoulder. It can present in other ways though and should always be assessed by a Physiotherapist, and or xrayed as well. Treatment for a dislocation is ice applied immediately after the injury to decrease pain, swelling and bleeding around the joint. Within 15 to 30 minutes of the injury, the joint will be painful and swollen. A dislocated shoulder needs immediate medical care.Once the x-ray confirms the joint position a Doctor uses gentle traction to pull the shoulder back into place.The shoulder must wear a sling for up to 6 weeks and follow a rehab program from a Physiotherapist.

If  the shoulder does not repair and it pops out of the socket repeatedly, the condition is called recurrent instability. Recurrent instability can be treated with surgery to repair the torn ligaments.This is a very painful and long rehab.

Shoulder Repetitive Strain Injuries.

This is the most common injury in all people and certainly the most evident in horse riders.Again my patients say they haven’t done anything. My answer is many micros makes a macro. So every time you tug and pull or use a tendon is everyday activities it is being loaded and if not in the best posture it is being micro traumatized. Soreness is often neglected until it becomes very painful. I having a saying “Manage NO pain” Don’t wait until you have a pain to change you management and way you do things.


Shoulder Bursitis

Shoulder Bursitis

The most common injury is to the rotator cuff. Bursitis, tendonitis, and tears are common.The most common of these is an injury to the Supraspinatus tendon and or bursa that cushions the tendon. If the tendons develop small tears, pain and swelling change the way we move and without rest and time to heal these small tears grow into bigger tears. the bursa inflames and swells and then the shoulder becomes extremely painful and useless. The humerus can’t move as easily in the socket, making it difficult to move the arm up or away from the body.

Treatment is rest, ice, and correct stretches and strengthening exercises. It is important to treat the injury and then look at the cause. If you injury yourself by doing what you do , then you will keep the injury by doing what you do and it will develop into a chronic injury. It is important to follow a professional program specific to your injury . This program must respect your lifestyle as well, though.

Shoulder Pain In The Older Horse Rider

As people age and their physical activity decreases, tendons begin to lose strength. This weakening can lead to a rotator cuff tear. Rotator cuff injuries occasionally occur in younger people, but most of them happen to middle-aged or older adults who already have shoulder problems. This area of the body has a poor supply of blood, making it more difficult for the tendons to repair and maintain themselves. As a person ages, these tendons degenerate. Using your arm overhead puts pressure on the rotator cuff tendons. Repetitive movement or stress to these tendons can lead to impingement, in which the tissue or bone in that area becomes misaligned and rubs or chafes. This is explained in the video above.

The rotator cuff tendons can be injured or torn by trying to lift a very heavy object while the arm is extended, or by trying to catch a heavy falling object.

Symptoms of a torn rotator cuff include tenderness and soreness in the shoulder during an activity that uses the shoulder. A tendon that has ruptured may make it impossible to raise the arm. It may be difficult to sleep lying on that side, and you may feel pain when pressure is put on the shoulder.

Treatment depends on the severity of the injury. If the tear is not complete, your health care provider may recommend RICE, for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Resting the shoulder is probably the most important part of treatment, although after the pain has eased, you should begin physical therapy to regain shoulder movement. Your doctor may prescribe a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) for pain.
Frozen Shoulder

This extreme stiffness in the shoulder can occur at any age. It affects approximately 2 percent of the population, most often between 40 to 60 years of age. Although the causes are not completely understood, it can affect people with diabetes, thyroid disease, heart disease, or Parkinson’s disease. It can also occur if the shoulder has been kept immobile for a period of time. This can be after a surgery of resting the joint due to injury. It occurs when a minor shoulder injury heals with scar tissue that affects how the joint moves. This scar tissue reduces flexibility in the shoulder and makes it more prone to injury. The major symptom is the inability to move the shoulder in any direction without pain. Treatment can be NSAIDs, cortisone injections or physical therapy. You can reduce further injury and stiffness by stretching before starting activities.

Beginning as early as age 50, some people develop osteoarthritis, which causes painful movement. This occurs as the smooth surfaces of the cartilage that line the bones of the shoulder joint are worn away, and joints begin to wear out and become larger. The most common cause of osteoarthritis is overuse. Treatments for arthritis in the shoulder depend on the severity of pain. The usual treatments are rest, NSAIDs and cortisone injections.  In some instances, a replacement of the shoulder joint is necessary.

Managing Shoulder Injury In Horse Riders.

Well, a horse riders’ shoulder is no different to any other athlete or nonathlete. The tissue is damaged and needs time to heal. Ice, a sling, stretches and the specific rehab program is the only way a shoulder will repair. It is important to follow the program properly so stop the injury becoming chronic and developing into a major injury. Horse riders need to get help with the daily chores of caring for their horse. They need to accept the time frame and do the exercises.

I am currently recovering from a full shoulder  reconstruction so I have to practice what I preach and I do understand the  constraints.

Following a detailed core program is essential. I follow my Applied Posture Riding program.

Shoulder Brace For Horse Riders

Shoulder Brace For Horse Riders

I also recommend a posture shoulder brace for support and for training the posture muscles while your tissues heal. This is not the normal advice but I have had enormous success with people wearing this simple brace.

To sum up if you have shoulder pain, see a Physiotherapist and or a Doctor and follow their advice. A chronic shoulder injury is very hard to deal with as a horse rider.

I am passionate about my horses and my riding. I love seeing riders achieve their dreams and I love seeing riders return to riding after an injury or even worse from being told to give up.This usually comes from a health professional or family member who does not understand, first of all, the passion and secondly the injury and thirdly the sport itself.

I have been in all three situations, injury poor advice, and no family support, I have the experience the knowledge and the skills as well as the passion for helping you.

Look at my Applied Posture Riding Program and follow me on Facebook.


Annette Willson

Annette Willson author "Applied Posture Riding"

Annette Willson author “Applied Posture Riding”