Recovering from Accidents and Incidents - Part 1
Welcome to Part 1 of a short series on recovering from accidents and incidents whilst riding. This month we will look at minor and moderate events and then next month we’ll take a look at more serious events.
So, let’s face it, all of us who choose to ride and work with horses have chosen a potentially dangerous sport and we all know that. But life itself can be dangerous and accidents happen in all areas of our lives so we have to keep things in perspective. I always say to my clients that each of us decides on what level of risk we are prepared to take whilst riding: for some people that is riding a familiar horse quietly in an arena and for others it is galloping around a cross country course and tackling large obstacles at speed. Once we have decided on the level of risk we are prepared to take then we control what we can control and accept the excitement of the sport and it’s associated adrenaline rush.
But unwanted, unexpected and unpleasant things do happen. Whether they be falls, bucking, rearing, running off, bolting we have to find a way to deal with them or risk losing our confidence and our enjoyment of riding.
So, I would classify a minor accident or incident as perhaps a fall where you have had a bit of a fright and perhaps a few bruises but you haven’t been injured (other than perhaps sustaining injured pride!) or horse behaviour such as bucking or spooking to the extent that you’ve been unbalanced or worried but you’ve dealt with it. These sort of incidents are extremely common and generally most riders will handle them without issue.
Minor Incident - What to do
Have a quick check of yourself and your horse and if all is OK carry on doing what you were doing or get back on and continue your ride.
If you are a bit worried or upset then give a friend a shout and ask them to keep you company while you catch your breath or calm down.
If you are upset by whatever happened then set yourself a time to ride within your comfort zone for example ride quietly for a few minutes and then continue with whatever your goal was for the ride. Make sure that you are strict with this as you don’t want to risk getting stuck in your comfort zone.
Finish your ride on a good note and afterwards have a think about what happened and how you can learn from it.
LET IT GO - once the incident is over then let it go and say this to yourself. Just LET IT GO.
If your horse is showing repeated unwanted behaviours then please do ask for help from someone who has the experience to help you work out why this is happening.
Minor Incident - What NOT to do.
1. Avoid re-telling people about the incident as you risk the natural tendency to exaggerate what happened and before you know it this exaggerated version becomes your new reality and you lead yourself into believing things were more challenging than they actually were. Avoid the “OMG you’ll never believe what happened to me today....”!
2. If you are having repeated minor incidents of the same nature eg frequently falling off then look at having some instruction or coaching to identify what’s going on and why. Don’t just continue doing the same old thing and risk getting hurt or not learning from whatever mistakes you have made.
So, what counts as a moderate accident or incident? Perhaps this would include a fall where you have been hurt to the extent that you have had to be seen at hospital, have had an injury which means that you are unable to ride for a few weeks, your horse has shown repeated unwanted behaviours which have had a significant effect on your confidence as a rider to the extent that you are worried about riding.
Moderate Incident - What to do
Once you have recovered or have medical clearance to ride then get back on as soon as you can.
Have someone with you the first time you ride after the incident and as before ride within your comfort zone for a strictly limited period of time before you begin to stretch again.
Learn and use a visualisation technique in which you can practice mentally riding as you would wish to ride.
Learn to ride ‘in the moment’. I always remind riders that if their horse is moving in the direction of their choice and at the pace of their choice at any given time then everything is alright.
Accept that you may feel a bit nervous the first few times you ride again. This is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about.
Remember that your horse may have also had a fright so it might be necessary to do some de-sensitisation work with him. Seek help with that if you need to.
As before LET IT GO. The incident is in the past and has no part in your present other than as a learning experience.
Once again if your horse is showing repeated unwanted behaviours then do investigate what is going on and why and seek professional help as appropriate.
Moderate Incident - What NOT to do
1. As before take great care to avoid re-telling and re-enacting the incident in a way which exaggerates it. Each time you re-tell what happened you risk the event becoming more embedded in your memory and those little exaggerations become the new reality.
2. Don’t struggle alone if you are finding it difficult to get over whatever happened and put it behind you. Seek help from an expert.
Next month we will look at recovering from a major accident or incident.