“10 Safety Tips and a Big Tumble Off My Horse”

I’ve always considered myself to be VERY safety conscious.

When I walk into a barn, my eyes are always scanning for safety. I’m just wired that way. As if I’m on autopilot, I look to see if the horses are tied high and short enough (so they don’t get a leg through the leadrope) … the horses are tied far enough apart (so they don’t kick each other) … the saddle cinches are snug before getting on and then checked again before working a cow, etc.

Welllllll … I had a little accident a few weeks ago.

It was actually a big accident that could have had catastrophic consequences for me and for my horse. But thank you, God. My horse and I are both fine.

Here’s what happened. I was in the middle of showing a cutting horse and the cow was FAST. After turning left with the cow, the off side billet broke on my saddle. I rolled off to the side and onto the ground at mach speed. I landed on my right elbow and shoulder. The horse (a true sweetie pie) was super scared, of course and inadvertently stepped on my lower leg as he began a frantic run around the arena with the saddle under his belly. Thankfully, a friend and fellow trainer was able to get the horse into a confined area. He helped him relax as he retrieved the saddle.

Words do not express how grateful I am. In fact for two days afterwards, I was emotional as I could only think about how grateful I was that no one was seriously hurt.

I do have a bruised elbow and a very bruised leg … but nothing time won’t heal. But my experience did get me thinking about safety even more.

I know that many of you have had accidents both large and small. Some have left serious physical damage in their wake while others have left mental and emotional ill affects that can take a long time to heal. If this has been your experience, I empathize with you now more than ever. Truly.

In the wake of my incident here are some thoughts for you about accidents.

As in all of life, some things just happen and can’t be avoided. Other things could be avoided theoretically with more caution. Some things fall in the middle. No matter … we learn; we heal; we do our best.

I think my off side billet breaking falls in the middle. I know to check billets and saddle leathers consistently, and I do. Did I check that billet that morning? No. Also, the saddle was relatively new. Maybe there was a tear in the billet that could have been detected if I had systematically checked it? Maybe it was a faulty piece of leather that split in that frightful moment because of an inherent weakness? I’m not sure. All I know is that I’m more fastidious now about checking my saddle leathers.

I thought it might be a useful reminder for all of us to compile a list of 10 safety tips to live by as we work and play around horses. This list is certainly not exhaustive so feel free to elaborate on any one of them or add some of your own safety tips in the comments section.

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15 Comments on “10 Safety Tips and a Big Tumble Off My Horse”

  1. Lura Wight on Fri, 5th Aug 2016 1:03 pm
  2. Phew!!! Thank God you are OK. I see much less severe mechanisms of injury with much more serious results all of the time in the ER….you are a very lucky lady!! I, for one, am very grateful you are OK…..for your own benefit and for mine as well….I’m just not done learning from you yet!! Glad God is not finished with you : ))

  3. Diane on Fri, 5th Aug 2016 2:46 pm
  4. Dear Barb,
    I’m so glad that both you and your horse are all right. I don’t post much, but I think of you often and always invite you to ride with me when I’m feeling nervous. Thank you so much for every thing you do and please, check that tact and stay safe.


  5. Annie on Fri, 5th Aug 2016 2:49 pm
  6. Thank you for the reminders. Being a fairly new saddle, I wouldn’t expect it to break either.

  7. Kim Wende on Fri, 5th Aug 2016 2:54 pm
  8. So glad you are okay and that you didn’t get stepped on a lot more. I’m always telling people to check and double check things. I don’t care how gentle and safe a horse is things happen. Here’s to hoping you heal quickly.

  9. Laura on Fri, 5th Aug 2016 3:57 pm
  10. I’m glad you both are okay! Yep, no matter how careful and prepared we think we are, “stuff” happens.
    You didn’t mention in the story, but did you have your helmet on? You include it in your 10 safety tips.

  11. Cassie Behrends on Fri, 5th Aug 2016 4:26 pm
  12. Sooooooo glad you’re ok! Good tips, thank you!

  13. Kathy Smiley on Fri, 5th Aug 2016 5:44 pm
  14. I also had a second-hand mishap with my new green horse a while back. We didn’t realize that she blew up when girthed, and when the young trainer got on her, the saddle slipped under her belly, scaring her to death. The young trainer came off and was OK, and the horse was tearing around the round pen, when I opened the gate slightly to go in a check on the young trainer, and my horse made a rocket-fast beeline for the gate and barged out of it, hitting me in the mouth with her shoulder and breaking part of my upper jaw. It wasn’t a ‘serious’ injury, as some can be with horses, but it took about a year to heal and gave me serious pause about working with such an anxious horse for a while! But all is fine now, although I’m not ON her yet, but the young trainer has done a fabulous job with the horse’s anxiety problem and I hope to be on her soon!

    SO glad you’re OK as that really COULD have been a much more terrible accident! Sometimes after something like that, our looking back and realizing how awful it COULD have been is worse than the accident itself!!!

  15. Terrie Goiney on Fri, 5th Aug 2016 6:13 pm
  16. So glad you are ok. Like you I am always checking and paying attention to possible accidents. Had a accident in Dec. broke my ankle and my collar bone. My horse slipped out from under himself and fell over sideways doing trotting loping transitions in a wide trail area. I have been doing them for years same area. I’m very leary now even though it was a fluke and chances of it happening again small. Thankyou for the ten safety tips. Stay safe and enjoy the ride:-)

  17. Debra Taylor on Fri, 5th Aug 2016 8:41 pm
  18. Glad your okay. Funny you write this at this time. I fell off today for the very first time. It was while I was working practice cows. Thank gosh for soft dirt in the pen. It’s funny how quick my mind worked when I realized I lost my balance and was going to hit the dirt. I thought about what if my boot gets hung up and I get drug under the horse. It kind of scared me so I pretty much baled while I was falling rather than trying to hang on. All this in a split second. I got right back on and continued my run a lot more dirty than when I started. I think it scared my trainer more than me at first. At 60 years old it hurt my pride more than my body at the time. Quick forward to this evening. I’m starting to feel the after effects. Ouch ouch. LOL!

  19. Janie Larson on Fri, 5th Aug 2016 8:44 pm
  20. Inherently we trust leather. It was a living thing in its previous life. We clean it and assume that’s all it needs. Not! With dust and hard use, leather breaks down. Sweat is its other enemy……and the salt that goes with it. I’m devoting tomorrow to doing a tack survey…….Thanks to you.

  21. Cub Wright on Sat, 6th Aug 2016 12:09 am
  22. Glad you are ok.
    Take care of yourself

  23. Beth Yerby on Sat, 6th Aug 2016 2:16 pm
  24. Barb, I ,too am so thankful you were not hurt seriously and can personally relate to the emotional trauma falling can cause in us “more mature” riders. After bailing off a rearing horse at age 64, I was shocked at the frailty of my body- even though fairly agile & healthy! Even in soft dirt,I was terribly bruised and had to have shoulder surgery, leaving me not afraid to ride,but afraid to fall! That said, at age 68, I am still riding, but still trying to overcome some fear. Your articles and others like it do definitely help, so keep it up! We need all the encouragement and safety tips we can get ! Thank you,so much!

  25. Jay Cornay on Sun, 7th Aug 2016 2:23 pm
  26. Barb,
    I am so glad that you were not hurt. It reminds me of an incident I had that drives home a safety lesson I hope helps others. I wasn’t showing a horse but I was helping sort some cattle for doctoring while the event was being filmed for a friend of mine. A calf broke from the sorted group being moved to the chute and I responded. While attempting to turn the calf along a fence my horse slipped during a rollback on an incline next to the fence. The ground was slightly damp from a recent rain. I baled out as the horse was coming over on me and got by with some bruised ribs that reminded me for about 4 weeks that sometimes there is a better way. When sorting cattle in wide open country, options are limited but in cross fenced pastures there are always options that are easier and safer on the rider, the horse and less stressful on the calf. Separating the uncooperative beast in a sweep pen after calling them in with sweet feed may be a heck of a lot easier and less stressful on all parties concerned. The point is that sometimes you have to pull out your rodeo game to get things done but a careful analysis of the situation and your options may help you in the real life world of cattle management when the place you are working is not a conditioned and prepared flat arena surface. I felt the story fit your safety theme and hope it gives food for thought to our friends that handle cattle for a living.

  27. Nancy on Sun, 7th Aug 2016 8:03 pm
  28. I have a new quarter horse who jumped out from under me on the trail. I landed on my right shoulder which has caused lots of problems. My left boot was out of the stirrup and my reins were long. I flew through the air and luckily landed on relatively soft ground. Lesson learned!!!!!!!

  29. Patty on Mon, 8th Aug 2016 6:02 pm
  30. Thank you for sharing your story and thankfully you were not seriously hurt. Gosh after the times I have been hurt I think if that happened to me now I would be done with horses. I have just started back riding since October of last yr. slowly building my confidence thanks to you and your words of wisdom.

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