How dangerous are horses? Injuries, accidents and ranking against other sports

Bruised leg from being kicked by a horse

What is the worst wreck you have been in or witnessed?

Injuries happen. At the last horse show I was at I saw a man in a cast and the first thing I asked was, “Horse related accident?” to which he responded, “No, I just tripped.” We both laughed and I told him he really needed a better story, or at least a better build up. But the incident got me thinking. Horses can be dangerous, but so can many other hobbies. This spring my 14 year old nephew broke his ankle/leg when he landed wrong during basketball. Another friend injured her knee in the same way. Several people I know hurt themselves simply walking, or rather, while simply walking.

Horses can be dangerous but there are ways that we can make them safer including educating both the horse and the rider and by simply being aware.

Here are some interesting statistics;

  • one in five injuries related to horses happens before mounting up
  • most dismounted injuries are more serious than mounted injuries
  • dismounted injuries tend to be kicks
  • mounted injuries tend to be falls

Total pro sports ranked horseback riding at #7 in comparison with other sports-

  1. Football
  2. Basketball
  3. Cycling
  4. Skateboarding
  5. Baseball
  6. Softball
  7. Horseback riding
  8. Ice hockey
  9. Lacrosse
  10. Golf
  11. Tennis

There are many interesting products out there to help reduce the chance of injury. Riding helmets are the most widely known and recommended piece of safety equipment. Others include safety vests and break away stirrups.

How dangerous do you consider horseback riding to be? What is the worst wreck you have been in or witnessed?

P.S.-Here is an interesting video on breakaway stirrups.


  1. […] threw a shoe into the audience. In high school I showed a horse and almost got trampled. Horses are DANGEROUS, PEOPLE. Horse people are, shall we say, a special breed of people that I tend to not comingle with. […]

  2. Brandi on December 14, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    Horses are very dangerous, I always ride with a helmet (on to my 6th one this year, I must have one heck of a guardian angel!). I have a displaced shoulder blade, a tendon in my thumb pulled off the bone, and road rash from a fall from a dead run on a dirt road, which I am very lucky to have survived, there was a hoof print on the front of my helmet. When a horse tripped at a slow canter and flipped over on me, I had a concussion and a pulled thigh muscle. I’ve been knocked down and stepped on, kicked twice, head butted numerous times, and bitten a couple times. and even flipped out of a mini horse cart twice, once because the cart broke and once because the mini spooked from a bird flying up from the ditch.

  3. […] The difficulty is that even groundwork carries a risk of injury. I wrote a blog titled, “How dangerous are horses? Injuries, accidents and ranking against other sports” and in that blog I shared the […]

  4. izzy on November 25, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    I am none for having horses doing crazy thing when I ride them. I have had a pony do a full on buck and take off at full speed but somehow I stayed on! But the only 2 times I fell off was once when i was when I was 3 and I flipped over a pony’s head and and a few months ago when a horse refused a jump. And both times I just got back on.

  5. zulima on October 26, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    Hi. My 5 year old daughter was hanging on the side of a pony while it was going wild. We attended the hoedown at her school, and she wanted to ride the ponies, she was on the horse less than 2 minutes before it started acting crazy, bucking and tried running off while my child was stuck on the saddle and hanging on the side of the horse. We were horrified, we ran to her and finally got her untied, thank god she only got bruised up and a rope burn on her arm. My question is, should I hold the pony company responsible? Or my daughter’s school? Im so upset. I feel that these types of businesses should be more regulated. It took 4 of us to get her off the pony, we thought she was going to die. It was horrific.

    • JJ (@MsMopar1) on October 27, 2014 at 7:13 pm

      I have had a couple of incidents at my home trying to give lessons to children. I have their guardian or parent sign a waiver, which includes the statement that they understand that horses are animals, they are unpredictable and dangerous and injury or death could occur. People always try to assign human character and feelings to animals, and they often forget they are only animals.

      Nobody has been hurt, but last year, my deadbroke mare broke into a canter with an aggressive 10 year old who has ridden for 2 years but only at a trot, whereupon she began to scream and wail, and balled up into the fetal position, completely letting go of the reins. Her mother was screaming and I was on foot trying to catch my horse; it was TERRible! Anyway after the mare ran around and around in circles, scared to death, she finally stopped and I got my student calmed down and riding at a trot again. Needless to say, I do not seek out riding students anymore. If you let a child get on an animal, it is your responsibility, and nobody else’s. It is too easy to assign blame elsewhere and sue people nowadays.

  6. Kim on October 25, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    I am currently recovering from a broken tibia and fibula which required surgery to put a rod and screws in my tibia. We were going on a short ride before I packed up for an overnight camping trip with the horses the next morning, We came to the creek crossing that we have crossed 1000 times before and my mare suddenly spooked and began slipping on the rocky bottom. At that point, I actually could have come off the horse and avoided injury, but I noticed the side of the creek was approaching fast and it had a rocky ledge. My mare was recently bred and I knew if her belly hit that ledge she would loose the baby. In the 4 seconds I had to think of a plan, putting my right leg back across her uterus was the best I do. Just as I had predicted we were on that ledge in no time and as soon as we made contact I heard my bone snap. As soon as we came out of the water I looked for a flat spot to come off of her and held her until a friend could come get her to tie her up. Then I laid down and waited for the ambulance to arrive. They couldn’t get a pulse in my foot so I was air-lifted to the nearest trauma center. Hands down worst pain of my life, but the vet was just out last week and mama and baby are doing great, so I have no regrets! Fortunately I have good insurance and was in the best shape of my life before the accident! I have no doubt that I will be 100% by the time the foal hits the ground!!

  7. Janette on August 6, 2014 at 7:08 am

    I have become friends with a young lady who almost died when her horse fell at full speed. No broken bones,but she was in coma for three mouths from the massive brain injury. Eleven years on and she still struggles with every day life, but the very thing that took her quality of life is the thing that kept her fighting for life ( she was determined to ride again). As her short term memory is still very poor ,I made a video on my phone to remind her of her achievements ( link below ). She even lost the reflex to swallow after her accident but she never lost the timing and the understanding to ride. As she has so many permanent mental and physical disabilitys, I believe she rides from instinct now.

  8. Carmen Peone on August 5, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    I’n sitting here in an arm cast as i was working my colt, bending him at a walk, he lost balance and we rolled over a wire panel fence. i had to have him roll over the top of me so his legs and hooves wouldn’t go back into the fence. it all will turn out okay. My 2 year old is perfectly fine, i have a bruised up left side of my body and like a said broken arm. First broken bone ever at 49.

  9. Lyndsey on July 31, 2014 at 7:57 am

    I was riding a jumper and the horse fell to his knees a few strides after a jump. I went over his head and broke my collar bone in half (almost threw the skin). Thankfully the horse stayed on his knees until I was out of the way or he would have trampled me. I had to have surgery and now have a plate and 6 screws in my shoulder.
    I did get back on a jumper a few months later to get over the fear. But now I only ride reiners and cutters. Much more fun and relaxed than the hunter jumper world.

  10. Dianne Kalp on July 28, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    I had a bad accident last year when my horse slipped in the mud and fell sideways landing on my leg and the force from the fall slammed my face to the ground breaking 4 bones in my face. It’s been a year and I still have numbness on that side of my face. I did not have a helmet but I purchased one before I rode again. I have rode for years without one but never realized how fast an accident can happen. Please be safe and wear a helmet.

  11. Chris on July 28, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    I have been around horses since the day I was born. I started riding them by age 5 and by the time I was a teenager I was helping to break them. I am by no means a professional. I have seen so many handler errors (not to mention, I made quite a few myself) along with freak accidental things that you could never dream would happen. One such accident was when I was 14 and my mother and I were breaking a 4 year old mare. I was light weight so I was in the saddle while my mom was on the ground. Things were going great for the first 20 minutes. Our ring was in our pasture, so my mom made sure the mare had on her halter and lunge line. Suddenly out of nowhere, a deer jumped into the pasture about 200 feet from where we were working. The mare didn’t buck, instead she started running backwards, faster than she moved forward. My mom couldn’t stop her at the end of the line so I prepared as much as I could for that awful ending I knew was going to happen. The mare tripped over a pile of gravel and she flipped over backwards on top of me. I tried to jump at just the right moment so I wouldn’t take the complete force/weight of the horse on me. I didn’t quite make it, I landed on my back and the mare landed on hers. The horn of the saddle caught my ankle and crushed my foot from the ankle down. The mare passed out from the scare (no injuries for her!) Once we were able to wake her up and get her to the barn, it was off to the hospital for me.In the end we found out that I had a concussion, crushed ankle and foot, and my back was broken. I was more worried about the horse and how she would react from that point on. I am pleased to say she turned out to be a fantastic games horse and she never reared after that again. It has been almost 30 years since this happened and I have seen so many things happen since then. Sometimes, an accident is just that… accident! I rode for many years after that and I never regret what I did. I have been kicked, stepped on, bucked off, and still, other than that freak accident, the worst things have happened to me at home/in the home. No matter what we do, there is almost always a risk of injury. How you handle those situations is what defines you.

  12. Wendy Russ on July 28, 2014 at 11:53 am

    If you’ve never been hurt by a horse, then you haven’t been around them very long!
    Your pic reminds me of perhaps my 1st hurt when my friend & I were racing our steads around the outside of a square arena. I turned too close and about tore my leg off on that outside corner. Still have the scar and a several more hurt stories. But… I’m 56 years old and no broken bones thus yet 😀

  13. Karen on July 28, 2014 at 6:26 am

    My worst wreck WITH horses was on the ground. I was holding a mare to be covered by a stallion. She wasn’t interested. She tried running off, and I tried circling her. But she turned towards me, stepped on my foot, and proceeded to knock me flat and run right over the top of me. I smashed the back of my head on the ground, had hoof prints up my front and gravel in my back. The hospital said skull fracture, broken ankle, and broken ribs. I got amnesia, which was really frightening. Turned out nothing was broken, just terribly bruised. The amnesia cleared after a day…although there are three hours I still don’t remember (and I was never knocked out). I was very luck.

    ON a horse, I got bucked off a colt (first ride, I asked for too much, stupid me), and landed on my back. Broke two vertebrate, although I didn’t know it until several years later when I was xrayed for the above incident, and they discovered the healed areas. Another one was a bad crash jumping where I broke my collar bone, and the third was on a quiet trail horse who tripped while trotting and went down so fast I got my collar bone and face smashed into the ground. Cracked the collar bone (again), broke my nose, and ended up with a bunch of stitches in my face.

    However, those things have happened over the course of a carreer spanning 45 years now, where I was riding from 1 to 12 horses a day, and was specializing in problem horses and colt starting. And participating in show jumping, cross country, galloping racehorses, and fox hunting. So, not that bad really.I’ve only been in the hospital those times, and never spent more than 12 hours there (and most of that was waiting for doctors and xrays!).

  14. Grace on July 28, 2014 at 6:16 am

    The worst horse related injury I’ve ever had was when I was playing horse polo an a girl on the other team tried hitting my horse (blue) in the face with her polo stick. Blue spooked and reared an I slid off the back of him and he spun round and cantered across my back, I had two lovely black horseshoe bruises on my back for a month and there’s still a faint scar of the hoof prints on my back now even though it happened two years ago When I was 10.

  15. Jacque on July 28, 2014 at 3:52 am

    After not riding for 24 yrs I told my husband that I was going to get me a horse again he said no wrong word to tell me, I started riding when I was 3 so everytime I would go to anything with people riding horse’s I would cry cause I wanted my riding back, kids are all grown so now’s my time. So I went to a horse sale (on the way out the door he said Don’t buy anything wrong) they rode out on this mare I new she was mine so I told my friend with me I’m buying her she said no she’s to thin , they said sold we came home. She has some issues but we were working on them and she jerked back and the lead rope ran through my hand and caught my right hand ring finger just right and broke it in 4 places, 2 pins etc etc.good news is was released Friday to go back to normal activity. 🙂

  16. Alex Sykes on July 28, 2014 at 12:38 am

    As a farrier, injuries are part of the job. Wait till an 1100# pregnant mare decides you’ve been holding her back leg too long and sits down… On you. It almost like a badge of honor. Get a bunch of farriers together and they’ll inevitably start comparing injuries.

  17. Brandy on July 28, 2014 at 12:24 am

    I was barrel racing in Kentucky, approx 15 yrs old I was coming for home down the alley way and the girl who was working the gate started to open the gate and shut it as my horse approached. Needless to say my horse and I didn’t stop and he went through it and I landed on top of it. The impact knocked me out, when I woke up a trainer was holding c-spine on me waiting on the ambulance and he says to me ” you did this for the attention of the boys didn’t you” of course I was red faced. The ambulance picked me up and they didn’t lock the gurney in place, every turn, and curve they took the gurney slid around everywhere. I broke my pelvic bone. This is one of my worst injuries I’ve had.

    Present day – my daughter got a broken collar bone and dislocated shoulder after she was bucked off (loose saddle and she spurred her horse in the flank) the day after Easter this year. She was off for about 9 weeks, 3 weeks after being released from the doctor she was bucked off again and landed on a fence -no broken bones just bruised and sore, then the Sunday before fair started her horse (a different one) went down backwards and had to go to the ER. The paramedics thought she might have fractured her spine, thank god no fractures. She is ready to get back on as soon as her muscles will allow her to. She’s ready to get this horse ready for the 4-H drill team. We all have a lot to learn.

  18. on July 27, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    The worst accident ever turned out to be a blessing in disguise. On May 17th, right after California Chrome lost his chance for the triple crown win,  My husband and I went out to play with the horses. We have a four year old filly that had only had someone on her back a handful of times in an indoor roundpen. The plan was I was going to pony him on her with our older trustworthy mare. When I turned my back my husband was on the filly and off they went, she scattered. He went off, hit his head on a large metal fence post and was knocked unconsious. He spent four days in trauma care with a fractured skull small brain bleed and broken ribs. While doing tests , scans on him they found a small nodule on his lung. Long story short it was lung cancer. (He is 71 years old and has not smoked in over thirty years). On July 18th they were able to remove his upper left lobe of his lung, and several lymph nodes. Only one node was found to have cancer. Why he got on the horse without being prepared we will never know for sure. But  have an idea it was not by accident. If this had not happened they most likely would not havefound this cancer untill it had progressed to a not very good prognosis. His prognosis now is excellent and he is doing great. He can hardly wait to get back on and ride again!

  19. Caitie on July 27, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Funny, I played tackle football for two years, women’s lacrosse for eight and men’s lacrosse for four. I’ve had plenty of bumps and bruises but my worse accidents – the one that I ended up in the hospital over, was on a horse.

  20. Janice on July 27, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    Two years after I tripped in a grass bunker and broke my left ankle, I fell off my paso and broke my right ankle. I was out of commission 7 months. Mostly my fault since he was green broke and I wasn’t skilled enough to handle him. He went back into training and I went back to lessons as soon as I got the ok from the doctor. We are both better as a mount and rider. And I still have him 11 years later!

  21. Loren Schumacher on July 27, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    While loading her into our trailer, my mare spooked as I put the butt bar into its slot. She crushed my hand and arm against the bar breaking my middle finger and pulling the tendon from the bone. At the same time my wrist was lacerated exposing and nearly severing another tendon. All of this missed the Radial Artery by less than 5MM! I still went to the Dan James Clinic I had signed up for and didn’t arrive at the emergency room until 12 hours later. Dan loved it.

    I’m just glad Stormy only weighs 950 pounds. We have no idea how much force even a small horse like Stormy can generate when it moves. I am really a lucky guy not to have been hurt much worse.

    By the way, I am still wearing a splint and have since May 10.

  22. idea027 on July 27, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    At the fun show friday at the MoCo fairgrounds they were running barrels when the saddle started to slide (the cinch was obviously not tight enough) when the guy fell off. He stood up but the slipped saddle was on the horses side, and it was flipping out, bucking and running. Then, it jumped over the fence and took off, but when it went over, it got a lady watching on the fence and working the gates. She sure didn’t move until the ems got there. It was terrifying to see and we joined hands and prayed. Luckily, her head and spine were fine, but she had a concussion, broken arm, and dislocated shoulder.

  23. Patricia Nichols Coins on July 27, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    I found my dream horse, I was looking her over and found she had been abused. I told my husband I wanted her and she was scared to death of a human. But in 30 days she was under saddle and trusting I was not going to hurt her. We had been riding her for three months when we went on a trail ride in the mountains. All day the only problem we were having is if someone would lope up behind her, So I chose to ride in the back. Someone had fallen behind, ( unsure of why) and came up behind us running. I heard them and started to turn her so she would be able to see what was running at her. But to my dismay I was to late, the other rider T-boned us. It pushed her off balance and she stepped of the road with one hind foot. Just so happened we were on a mountain dirt road. And were she stepped off the road at was a straight down cliff. When she stepped off the road it caused me to flip off her back backwards. I hit the ground on my back and right hip. I seen my life ending. I was hitting trees, rocks and anything else that was there. The only thing that stopped me was my right spur caught a tree, ripping my leg and hip into a backward position. After they were able to get me back to the top of the cliff I refused to leave my horse. All I could think about is how scared her must have been. I had been the only one to show her kindness and love her whole life. Now someone had hurt us both, what was she feeling? Was she okay? Was she hurt?
    I made my way to her with the help to some caring people. My friend was holding my mare, she was shaking and scared. I called her name, hugged her neck, she nickered softly as if to say I did not mean to Mom. It took three men to help me get back on her because I had a fractured hip but I rode her back. I knew if I did not, I would never ride again. It took me three years and a child’s horse to get my nerve back up. But I ride her now and love her so much. It took that accident to help us both to learn about trust in a whole new way. But we made it.

  24. millspaw on July 27, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    I just had an accident one week ago that caused fractured ribs. This is the first time that I fell and actually went to the hospital. My horse and I had entered into An Obstacle Course Challenge. I was on the 9th of 12 obstacles, a hula hoop throw. Seemed simple throw the hoop over a steer head. When the judge gave me the first hoop and I moved it up to throw the beads in it rattled. I am not sure if my horse thought it was a snake or not, but he had a flight response. This particular Arabian has the habit of not just spin and run, but buck, too. I made it through three bucks before it dawned on me to drop the hoop. That seemed to make it worse as he scooted away and I fell on my back. I did get back on him and make him stand while I rubbed the hoop over his neck and head. I threw the two remaining hoops and even made it over the steer head with one. I also continued the course and finished. Not until after the award dinner, where I was dubbed the “Tough Award” did I go to the hospital. I am 61 years old and now I am considering buying a vest to help protect me in the future. Thanks, Stacy for posting about safety equipment.

  25. Stacey Lewis on July 27, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    The worst wreck we saw was on a family trail ride. Busy holiday weekend riding was later realized a poor choice. The rider was on a new horse, with unfamiliar tack. The horse threw her and became a galloping mess. Saddle slid underneath it and it careened down the trail, up the side of a hill before falling, rolling and screeching back to camp. It was ugly. The rider was sore but otherwise unhurt. Definitely scary.

  26. Sandy Robbins on July 27, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    I had bought a 2 year old Quarter horse and sent him to a trainer to be broken. I would go to the trainers place and ride him under supervision. The last time the trainer told me to go get on my horse in the round pen and meet him in the next training field ( he was riding another clients horse). I had to use a stool to mount my horse. I put my foot in the stirrup and my foot hit him in the butt and he launched into orbit! I went flying and landed on my back knocking the wind out of me. So i knew i had to get back on. I go to get back on him and no sooner get my foot in the stirrup again before i knew it i was flying through the air again! There was no one around at time. I finally saw some one and told them to go get the trainer. He came over to me and told me i had to get back on….we tried it again! Again i went flying only to land on my back for the 3rd time. I had to lay there for awhile because my lungs had decompressed too much i couldn’t breathe! Him being 16.1 hands and me 5’4″. I was lucky ….no broken bones but my whole right side was black and blue. My horse is now 9 years old and old lady broke. I am now 60 and still think back to the day when he threw me 3 times in 20 minutes!

  27. Kevin Farley on July 27, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    thought this was dad

    *Kevin Farley*

  28. Ben Soles on July 27, 2014 at 8:38 am

    I would not put horse riding in the category of pro sports but rather grouped with boating, sledding,moter biking and quading and watch the results

  29. Lauren on July 27, 2014 at 8:32 am

    A few years ago I was riding a buddy sour horse on the trail, alone of course. I was a few miles from our property when he suddenly decided he didn’t want any part of it and started bucking. The last thing I remember is thinking “well I should probably bail right about now”. A few hours later I woke up in my bed covered in blood and still wearing my boots. I ran out to the horse and was happy to find out that my unconcious self was responsible enough to take the horses bridle off and put him back in the pasture. When I finally decided that I should go to the ER I ended up having a huge laceration in my head from where he kicked me and a major concussion. I remember everyday how lucky I am to be alive after that accident. I still don’t remember what happened in those 4 hours I’m missing.

  30. Katharine on July 27, 2014 at 7:29 am

    Worst injury for me was two years ago. My horse spooked and I fell off and broke both bones in my lower leg. It was a simple fall, a freak accident but it did some damage. Both bones broken, both bones sticking out of my leg, had 5 hours of surgery and now have 2 plates and 12 screws in my ankle.

  31. Miranda on July 27, 2014 at 6:47 am

    I got my first horse for Christmas when I was 15. Three days later I was riding him and he bolted, my foot was stuck in the stirrup and he drug me along the top of a barbed wire fence. The fence cut open my neck, armpit, arm, and the underside of my breast. The doctors said I was lucky because if the cut on my neck had been any deeper or to the left or right any more I would of bled out before I got to the hospital.

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