How Dangerous is Horseback Riding? A Look at the Numbers | Horse Blog (2022)

It is often said that horseback riding is the most dangerous sport out there, in reality it ranks in at number 3, just ahead of bull riding and cheerleading. It makes sense that horseback riding is dangerous, after all, the average horse weighs 1,500 pounds and we trust them to carry us on their backs. Horses are naturally kind creatures but with animals this big that can travel at 40 MPH and deliver 1000 N of force with one kick, there’s a lot of room for things to go wrong.

Despite the safety breach, I, the girl who was afraid to swing from the monkey bars, just had to ride horses. I never felt the weight of danger these giant creatures possess, instead I felt safest in their presence, no matter how many times I fell off or got stepped on. Somehow, my paranoid parents let me have at it too, as many other nail-nibbling parents do for their horse adoring children. And I’m glad that they did, because despite its risks, horseback riding has provided me with so many rewards.

How Often Do Horse Related Injuries Occur?

In one year, 6% of all horseback riders will be hospitalized for an injury; of this 6%, 27% will have already been injured in a riding related accident sometime within the last 2 years. Statistics published on state the average horseback rider will be injured 3.7 times over the course of 1,000 hours of participation. Let’s say you spend around 1 hour a day in the saddle, that’d put you at risk for one major fall or injury every 3 years or so. If you only fall off once every 3 years, you’re not doing so bad! I’d say this is fairly consistent with my own experiences and what I have seen growing up at a barn.

A study from the early nineties found that 39% of all injuries that occur while riding horses results in a trip to the hospital.These injuries don’t have to be anything serious, perhaps a bruised tailbone or a deep scratch that requires a few stitches. As far as equine deaths are concerned, 128 out of every 100,000 ridershave their lives claimed each year in a horse related accident. 128 sounds like a big number but it shouldn’t frighten anyone too terribly. The types of equine activities one partakes in will up the chances of mortality significantly, as well as dismissing proper safety gear and precautions. For instance, equine sports like eventing, jumping, and bronc riding carry higher risks than dressage riding.

(Video) Q4: Is Horse Riding Dangerous? #BeginnerEquestrianStartingOut

A web-based surveyin Malaysia found that 85.5% of all riders who responded reported some type of injury in the last year. 60% of these injuries did not result in a hospital visit. The most commonly cited injuries in this group were to the lower extremities, which accounted for 40% of reports. Head injuries accounted for 8.3% and back injuries accounted for 3.4%. Around 70% of riders reported soft tissue injuries.

Leading Causes of Equine Related Injuries

Preventing horseback riding injuries starts with understanding the leading causes, which include:

  • Using wrong or ill-fitting equipment
  • Failure of equipment
  • Not wearing the proper riding gear – for instance, riding in shoes that do not have a heel increase the risk of being dragged by your horse if you fall off. In addition, not wearing a helmet greatly increases the risk for a fatal head injury.
  • Improper technique/ lack of experience or knowledge about how to safely interact with horses
  • Riding a horse that is too difficult for a rider’s experience level
  • Poor environmental conditions – such as bad footing, or if it’s loud or windy enough to make horses spooky

When discussing dangerous equine sports, cross country jumping instantly comes to mind—horse and rider out in the wilderness jumping solid fences over uneven terrain, under highly unpredictable conditions—it’s a great recipe for getting hurt. When a stumble occurs in the arena, a horse is better able to regain his footing, plus there isn’t as much to trip the horse up in the first place. On the contrary, out in an open field galloping over hefty tree trunks, and jagged rocks, there’s plenty to trip a horse up and potentially knock them off balance all together. When a horse falls, he or she will often land on their rider, a cause of injury associated with the worst equine injuries seen amongst ER doctors.


For those who can’t escape the thrill of a difficult x-country course, look into safety vests, a grade-A helmet, and a trainer with the knowledge to set you up for success out there. These days the sport is only getting more dangerous with course-creators admittedly upping the ante in order to compensate for the handful of professionals demanding more challenges.

It’s not just out on the big courses where horses and riders get injured, isolated and random events make up the vast majority of injuries around horses; and isn’t that how it always goes with horses? You are checking your cell phone or scanning the clouds when, boom, suddenly your horse decides to bolt, buck, or act completely out of character.

Lisa Zeppegno, an acupuncturist from California, found herself with compression fractures of her L1 and L2 lumbar vertebrae, sacrum, and the bone at the base of her spine, all after a mundane trail ride turned sour. Lisa and her friend were thrown from their spooked horses after 2 young bike riding boys illegally cut across a trail marked for horses only. The women’s cries for help went ignored as the boys hustled off in a panicked hurry. Thankfully, no one was hurt beyond repair, but it just goes to show that anything can happen anywhere, even if you are only out walking on a quiet rural trail.

Is Horseback Riding Dangerous For Kids?

While researching the safety of horseback riding, parents might find comparisons to how it is more dangerous than riding a motorcycle. Of course, that’s not something you want to hear if you are about to enroll your 12-year-old at the local riding school, but how dangerous are horses,really?

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According to a study published on the National Library of Medicine, female riders between the ages of 10 and 20 were the most common population group to visit the ER for horse related injuries. Of these injuries, the most common are fractures and head injuries. The most serious injuries were caused by falling off a horse and either becoming dragged or crushed. Although, it’s important to note that 30% of these injuries were caused by a hoof kick when children were not mounted.

In 2002, it was reported that 13,400 children under the age of 15 visited the emergency room for a horse-related injury. “When using a severity score to compare it with other childhood injuries, equestrian-related injury ranked second only to pedestrians being struck by a car,” reads a review of Horse Related Injuries in Children published to

Being careful with kids and teaching them the important safety rules and regulations before they start to ride or handle horses independently is key to keeping them as safe as possible. Enrolling children in lessons on a pony instead of a horse is also known to reduce the chance of a serious injury, as a pony is much smaller than a horse, and therefore, can’t do as much damage. Also, wearing helmets is well documented to reduce the risk of head injury. Any well qualified and reputable riding school should strongly enforce the use of riding helmets.

(Video) Q5: Is Horse Riding Hard To Learn? #BeginnerEquestrianStartingOut

Speaking of helmets, according to a 2007 study published by trauma room surgeon Dr. John Mayberry of the Oregon Health and Science University, 38% of injured riders received a head injury that was potentially preventable if they’d only been wearing a helmet.

Does Rider Experience Have Anything Anything to Do It?

A study undergone at a rural Colorado hospital found that 55% of injured riders were inexperienced, 10% were intermediate, and 35% were experienced. This proves that the more education and experience one has around horses, the less likely they are to be injured, that is unless they know too much. The fact that advanced riders were injured more than intermediate riders is curious, but isn’t without plausible explanation. After all, advanced riders tend to spend more time at the stable taking on more difficult (and risky) tasks while having a more relaxed, and ultimately vulnerable, stance around horses.

Preventing Horse-Related Accidents

Around 38% of all horse related accidents are preventable, and while there’s nothing Lisa Zeppegno could have done to stop those bike riders from scaring her horse off, at least she had a cell phone on her and was able to call for help. While some accidents are preventable, the unpreventable can be made less serious if the proper precautions are in place. We never think today is the day I am going to fall off, which is why it’s so easy to leave the bulky safety vest in the tack room. The truth is that you NEVER know when something will happen. Always be prepared for the worst case scenario and it could save your life.

As an adamant horse lover I can’t ignore that it’s not only riders that get injured when things go wrong. Horses are often injured in equestrian sports as well, sometimes by mistake and sometimes due to human error or outright abuse.

(Video) Q13: What Are The Disadvantages Of Horse Riding? #BeginnerEquestrianStartingOut

Playing it safe around the barn and respecting the power of a horse can help riders and horses live in peaceful harmony. Be alert and aware, leave the cell phone (and any other electronic distractions) on silent in your pocket, carry the proper protection for yourself, and always be aware of your horse—what he’s looking at it, thinking, and positioned to do next. No matter how careful you are, you can’t prevent all injuries but you can reduce your risks.


How dangerous is horse riding statistics? ›

For every equestrian related death there may be approximately 7 or 8 very serious injuries. Most injuries from horse riding do not involve hospital treatment but there is concern that a significant number these soft tissue or musculoskeletal injuries may also cause riders long term pain and disability.

Is horse riding too dangerous? ›

The risk of an injury, requiring hospital admission, is higher for horse riding than for other potentially risky sporting activities, such as football, motor racing, or skiing, finds research published in the online journal Trauma Surgery & Acute Care Open.

What is the safest equestrian sport? ›

Yes, vaulting is considered the safest equestrian sport, as the most common injury is ankle sprains. According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, horseback riding produces less head injuries per year than Football, Basketball, Soccer, riding bicycles, and playing Softball.

How often do riders fall off horses? ›

81% of equestrians get injured at some point in their riding career. Over 100,000 horse riding-related accidents occur yearly in the U.S. 83.4% of horse riding injuries are caused by the rider falling off the horse.

Is riding a horse more dangerous than a motorcycle? ›

Motorcycling injuries account for 0.14 out of 1000 hours of riding. By contrast, horse riding has 0.49 injuries during that timeframe, with 37 per cent of those requiring care for trauma to the thoracic region (chest and upper back area) and a fifth suffering a head injury.

What are the disadvantages of horse riding? ›

It can be tiring

A lot of physical and emotional strength is required to ride a horse and it will wear you out, especially if you are dedicating a lot of your time to the sport. If you lead a busy lifestyle, then you will need to take this into consideration before taking up horse riding properly.

Is horse riding dangerous for girls? ›

She says that horseback riding doesn't pose any risk of infertility or other serious health problems for women. She notes that the primary risks from riding horses are falling or being thrown, both of which are the same for men and women.

What's more dangerous skiing or horse riding? ›

Horse Riding – Approximately 9.5 times more likely than skiing.

What is the most abusive equestrian sport? ›

All riders know that of all the equestrian disciplines, eventing — in particular the cross-country component — is the most dangerous. Eventing has been labelled THE most dangerous sport in the Olympics, and that is not an exaggeration.

Is horse riding more dangerous than football? ›

"The risk of hospital admission from equestrian injuries is higher than football, motor vehicle racing, and skiing," wrote the authors of the study, which was recently published in BMJ.

Is horse riding the most dangerous sport in the world? ›

But in reality, just 2.3% of people reported having been injured while riding — suggesting it is less likely to cause harm than many other popular activities. The top three most dangerous sports were football (18.9%); running (9.4%) and rubgy (4.9%).

Is horseback riding an extreme sport? ›

Well yes, the horse does do all the work of transporting the human and itself … however that is only half the equation. Equestrian sport is an extreme sport on the human side, requiring skill, nerve, balance and timing that can be invisible to the observer.

Why is dressage so hard? ›

The difficulty in dressage, especially in the more advanced work, is that there are very few circumstances where the aids can be completely removed. The horses have to work under varying degrees of pressure at almost all times. Dressage isn't black and white, aid or no aid.

Is learning horse riding safe? ›

Understanding why horseback riding is dangerous is the first step to understanding how to best prevent injuries. Surveys of those involved in equestrian sports have revealed that 81% of riders have reported being injured, while 21% reported a serious injury.

What is the safest way to fall off a horse? ›

Top tips: how to fall off a horse safely
  1. Bend through the body and bring one arm around, across the body — avoid putting both arms out in front of you, this could result in broken wrists.
  2. Keep the head tucked in to one side and chin down towards the chest.
  3. Aim to take the impact on the back of the shoulder.
5 Dec 2016

Is there a correct way to fall off a horse? ›

Through their research, LandSafe suggests the following if you feel that you have reached the point of no return and must fall off the horse: tuck your chin to round your back, extend your arms but not your hands and aim to take the brunt of the impact on the long bones of your arms. Roll away from the horse.

Are horses more dangerous than cars? ›

Riding a horse is much more dangerous than driving. Mostly because of all of the safety features that are built into our vehicles now. Sometimes the only thing between you and injury when you are riding is a helmet.

How many times a week should you ride your horse? ›

If you want to ride in upper-level competitions, it's not uncommon for horses to get an intense training session 6 days a week. However, if you just want to keep your horse in a healthy physical condition, riding your horse three times a week for at least 20 minutes at a time can help maintain a good level of health.

Why do you keep your heels down when riding a horse? ›

Maintaining a good lower leg position with the heels a little lower than your toes, is important for so many reasons: To be able to apply leg aids effectively and correctly. To help you stay on board and secure if the horse is excitable. To help build a balanced, symmetrical, independent seat.

Do horses like to be ridden? ›

Conclusion. There is no definitive answer to the question of whether horses like being ridden. While some horses seem to enjoy the companionship and the attention that they receive from their riders, others may find the experience to be uncomfortable or even stressful.

Why do female riders not fall sitting aside on a horse? ›

Also riding side-saddle was seen to preserve the ladies' modesty. The idea of it being indecent for a lady to ride astride can be traced back to 1382, when Princess Anne of Bohemia rode side-saddle across Europe on her way to marry King Richard II.

Can Muslims ride horses? ›


Particularly amongst Muslims in the Western World 'Horse Riding' is an almost forgotten Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammed.

Does riding horses make you tighter? ›

Develop thighs of steel

It's because riding uses different muscles to what you'd use during a normal day. Riding works your glutes, quads and hamstrings, with your glutes tightening and loosening as you move up and down with the horse. In fact, you're squeezing your leg muscles just to stay in the saddle.

What injuries can you get from falling off a horse? ›

In equestrian, the head, shoulder and arm are most vulnerable body parts to injury. Most injuries occur as a result of falling off the horse. The rider may sometimes fall on their shoulder or head. The severity of the injury depends on the surface the rider falls onto, how they land and how fast the horse is going.

What injuries can you get from horse riding? ›

Horseback riding injuries often occur to the arms as riders try to break a fall. These injuries include bruises, sprains, strains, and fractures of the wrist, shoulder, and elbow. The most serious horseback riding injuries can damage the pelvis, spine, and head and may be life-threatening.

What is the most fatal sport? ›

Here are the 5 most deadly sports in the world.
  1. Base Jumping. Deaths per 100,000 population: 43.17. Odds of dying: 1 in 2,317. ...
  2. Swimming. Deaths per 100,000 population: 1.77. ...
  3. Cycling. Deaths per 100,000 population: 1.08. ...
  4. Running. Deaths per 100,000 population: 1.03. ...
  5. Skydiving. Deaths per 100,000 population: 0.99.

Is horse riding animal cruelty? ›

Horses are several times the rider's size - weighing anywhere from 400kg to even a 1000kg. There is a huge amount of skill, trust and respect that makes the partnership between a human being and a horse look effortless. Cruelty has no place in this partnership - and sooner or later, your horse will let that be known.

Is dressage a horse abusive? ›

Many horses compete at the highest level of dressage and are not treated cruelly. However, some dressage competitions and training are cruel. Harmful conditions arise through forceful and rapid training methods. But, training practiced with patience and care is beneficial for you and your horse.

What sport is more dangerous than football? ›

Basketball, football and soccer have the most injuries overall, but the number of injuries varies with each age group. Football is the most dangerous sport for children ages 5-14, while basketball has the highest number of injuries among people ages 15-24.

What are the top ten most dangerous sports? ›

Ranking Top 10 Most Dangerous Sports
  • Rock Climbing (Source:
  • Luge Sport (Source: Flicker)
  • Big Wave Surfing (Source:
  • Sports car racing (Source:
  • Rugby players on the field (Source:
  • A cowboy on a bull (Source:
18 Nov 2021

What is the most dangerous sport in the world 2022? ›

1. Bull riding: This is a rodeo event in which the rider attempts to stay balanced on a bull as long as possible as the bull struggles to throw the rider.

What is the most dangerous sport for females? ›

If you think cheerleading only involves cute pom-poms and piggy tails, well, think again. Because according to studies, it is by far the most dangerous sport for female athletes, accounting for a number of serious injuries and even fatalities.

What is the safest sport in the world? ›

Swimming is the safest sport to take part in. Its easy on the joints and can be an aid in recovery after an injury so making it the safest sport in America. A study by researchers at The University of Colorado Denver lead by PhD.

What type of people ride horses? ›

An equestrian is someone who is involved with horses. You can also use it as an adjective to describe anything having to do with horseback riding. An aspiring equestrian may have to give up socializing with friends in favor of equestrian duties like grooming horses.

How hard is horseback riding? ›

Horse riding is not particularly easy to learn. It is both physically and mentally challenging to handle both your own posture in the saddle as well as the movements of the horse. Becoming a good rider can take years depending on how often and consistently you ride.

Why horse riding is the best sport? ›

Horseback riding is a great activity to help exercise your mind. Controlling a large animal challenges you to pay close attention to your actions. Horses rely on their riders to make decisions and practice good judgement. Horseback riding is recognized as having excellent therapeutic qualities.

Do you have to be fit to do dressage? ›

1 – Physical exertion

Riding well demands that the “athlete” is physically fit and has good core strength. Without that, you cannot remain in perfect balance with the horse's movement. If the rider is not in perfect balance, it's impossible to give the horse subtle, invisible aids.

Is dressage or jumping better? ›

A dressage rider's balance comes from the core and seat more so than the leg. Though jumping is often taught with less core and seat emphasis, jump riders definitely benefit in performance and safety from a strong seat and core.

Why do dressage horses drool? ›

It is believed that horses went through an evolutionary adaptation to an unusual substance in their saliva called latherin, enabling them to eat dry food. The side effect of this substance is the production of foam when the saliva is agitated inside the horse's mouth.

How common are horseback riding injuries? ›

In fact, of all sports in the U.S., equestrian sports are the most common cause of sports-related traumatic brain injury (TBI) in adults.
Relative Risk.
SportInjuries per 1,000 Hours of Participation
Downhill skiing4.1
Horse riding3.7
16 more rows
24 Jan 2021

How do I make my horse rider safer? ›

Consider wearing a torso-protecting safety vest. Check your girth before mounting. Check tack frequently for signs of wear and weakness, especially stirrup leathers. Learn to do an emergency (one rein) stop.

Is horse riding more dangerous than driving a car? ›

In short, my answer is that DRIVING a horse is FAR more dangerous! Just being NEAR a horse is dangerous, for you can get stepped on, tail-swished, bitten, kicked, crushed, or fallen on. Riding is also dangerous, for reasons listed by other responders.

What are the top ten most dangerous sports? ›

Ranking Top 10 Most Dangerous Sports
  • Rock Climbing (Source:
  • Luge Sport (Source: Flicker)
  • Big Wave Surfing (Source:
  • Sports car racing (Source:
  • Rugby players on the field (Source:
  • A cowboy on a bull (Source:
18 Nov 2021

Is horse riding more dangerous than skiing? ›

The risk of an injury is higher for horse riding than for other potentially risky sporting activities, such as football, motor racing or skiing.

Is horse riding dangerous UK? ›

With the British Horse Society reporting that in the past 10 years over 315 horses have died and 43 people have been killed on UK roads, it's vital for both your safety to get your forever friend used to traffic.

What are the disadvantages of horse riding? ›

It can be tiring

A lot of physical and emotional strength is required to ride a horse and it will wear you out, especially if you are dedicating a lot of your time to the sport. If you lead a busy lifestyle, then you will need to take this into consideration before taking up horse riding properly.

What's the most dangerous sport in the world? ›

The 15 Most Dangerous Sports in the World
  • Auto Racing.
  • Motorbike Racing.
  • Heli Skiing.
  • Swooping (Skydiving discipline)
  • Wingsuit Flying.
  • Free Solo Rock Climbing.
  • High Altitude Mountaineering.
  • B.A.S.E. Jumping.

Does horse riding damage your knees? ›

Be kind to your hips & knees

Unfortunately, increased frequency of riding or improper form can strain the knee ligaments and/or hip adductor muscles. The problem with constantly compressing the knees and thighs around the horse is that these muscles can become strained.

Is horseback riding the most dangerous sport? ›

Ask anyone what the most dangerous sport is, and you'd probably hear football. Or auto racing. Or cliff diving. Pretty much anything but the correct answer: Horseback riding.

What are the 3 most dangerous sports? ›

Top 10 most dangerous sports in the world, ranked
  1. Bull Riding – the rodeo sport.
  2. Base jumping – the daredevil dive. ...
  3. Big wave surfing – a dance with death. ...
  4. Skiiing – an alpine adventure sport. ...
  5. Car racing – a trendy sport. ...
  6. Climbing – a battle with the elements. ...
  7. Rugby – a dangerous school sport. ...
  8. Boxing – a ring sport. ...
7 May 2021

Is horse riding more dangerous than boxing? ›

The public rated riding as the third most dangerous sport after boxing and rugby, with 13.5% of respondents thinking it posed the greatest risk. But in reality, just 2.3% of people reported having been injured while riding — suggesting it is less likely to cause harm than many other popular activities.

Can you lose weight by riding a horse? ›

For a person weighing 150 lbs, riding at a walk burns approximately 136 calories in a 30 minute session. If you increased the horse's speed to a trot, that same person would expend 72 additional calories over that same 30 minute period of time (208 calories). Galloping a horse burns 261 calories per half hour.

Is horse riding more dangerous than cycling? ›

The hospital found that horse riders have a serious accident every 350 hours on average, compared to every 7500 hours on a motorcycle.


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