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Dealing with Fear of Falling

By: Galadriel Billington

10:19PM Nov 29, 2004

Falling happens. Everyone falls once, twice, occasionally, or ride after ride :)

Some people are afraid to ride, due to a fear of falling. Some people find each ride full of tension or stress due to this fear. It is a legitimate fear! But it doesn't have to be an overwhelming one.

There are a number of precautions that you can take, to make riding more safe. In the event of a fall, your precautions may minimize (or even prevent) any injury. You can keep yourself safe and relax about someday falling off, but make sure that, in case of a fall, you are prepared.

Always wear a helmet.
  1. ALWAYS wear a helmet. The primary cause of head injury in a fall is not going fast, or doing something dangerous, it is simply the fall from a height. No matter what you're doing, protect your head. Then if you do happen to have some silly oopsy and you take a spill, you'll know that your head will be safe.

    Any rider, no matter how good, occasionally has a fall. Any horse, no matter how trustworthy, may occasionally stumble. The last time I rode without a helmet, I had hopped on to just ride bareback for a few moments--there was no danger, I wasn't doing anything major.

    My horse tripped rather dramatically. I was bareback. I managed to help her catch her balance (so she wouldn't fall also), but by the time she was balanced again, I was halfway off her side and still falling.

    Have you ever noticed that it takes HOURS to reach the ground when you fall off? All I could think, throughout the whole slow-motion trip downwards, was: "My husband is 20 feet away watching me fall off my horse. Why am I not wearing a helmet?"

    I have too many commitments in life, too many people who care about me, too many people who I don't want to leave hurting. It's just not worth taking the risk of not wearing a helmet. What would my dogs and horses do, if I couldn't take care of them anymore?
  2. You can wear a body protector also. The body protector's job is to keep your back straight (keep it from twisting) and pad a fall somewhat. The body protector can minimize chances of injury if you fall--but be sure to purchase one which is comfortable, which won't interfere with your riding.

    I have a "Tipperary Eventer," which I find quite comfortable and even a little supportive. I wear this body protector every time I school or compete cross-country jumping, when my back feels a little fragile (it really does a nice job of supporting), or when I am riding a horse with questionable training.
  3. Learn how to fall properly. If you stick out your arm to catch your fall, or tense up as you go down, you're more likely to hurt yourself. In falling, it is best to ball up and relax.

    The one time I've seriously hurt myself in a fall was when I stuck out my arm to catch myself. I sprained my wrist. It was really quite unwise, and I was lucky that I wasn't more badly hurt.

    In falls where I managed to hit with a good large surface area (usually torso and a hip), I sometimes have had the wind knocked out of me, but I rarely even get bruises.
  4. Learn how to control a fall. Many times, when you're definitely going to come off, you have a chance to control the "involuntary dismount." The method is called the Emergency Dismount. With an Emergency Dismount, you can have a lot of influence over how you fall. You can usually have a much safer trip to the ground, even if you didn't plan it!

You don't have to try to put aside your fear. Your fear is a legitimate one. However, you can learn to combat the fear, and find ways to minimize the danger. Then you can relax and enjoy the ride!
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2004 Galadriel Billington. All rights reserved.