Falling off is scary. Watching a rider fall off and realising that something has gone wrong can be terrifying, especially if they are unconscious or injured. Riding is a dangerous sport and accidents happen, so if whether you ride regularly on just on the odd occasion, knowing what to do when a rider has fallen off and become unconscious is vital – and could save their life.

Dr Di Fisher talked through the audience at the Horse & Country Stage at Your Horse Live on what to do if a rider becomes unconscious after a fall and what you can do to.

1. Let someone else know – and call an ambulance

“It’s not just the person [who’s fallen off to think about], there’s also the horse who could potentially injure you or them. So alert somebody else that there’s an issue,” advised Dr Di.

Hopefully other people are around to help, so someone can focus on catching the horse and putting them away whilst others can give attention to the rider.

Depending on the severity of the fall, you’ll also need to call an ambulance. Ensure that this is done quickly – it’s all too easy to think someone else has called in an adrenaline-fuelled situation, so make sure to communicate clearly who is responsible for contacting the emergency services.

2. Don’t move

Plenty of riders who fall off will immediately try to get up, but this is one of the worst things you can do.

“There’s a lot of questions around moving people. You should not move someone who’s come off a horse,” stressed Dr Di. “You need to keep their neck still; if there’s an injury in the neck and you move them, you can kill somebody or mean that they can’t move anything below their neck for the rest of their life.”

3. The five-minute rule

“I always say if you’ve fallen off, take five minutes. When you hit the floor and you think ‘I’m actually on the floor’, take five minutes to quietly lie there and work out what actually hurts,” said Dr Di. “You need the adrenaline rush to go to work out if you’ve hurt anything.”

It’s possible that a rider who has fallen off might not believe they are injured, as adrenaline can mask any pain. To prevent a further injury, staying still is the best thing to do. A rider might be confused or disorientated, particularly if they have been knocked unconscious, so do your best to remain calm and explain that they’ve had a fall and must stay still for the time being.

4. Know when to use the recovery position

For anyone who has completed first aid training, you will be familiar with the recovery position, however this isn’t stressed that in certain situations, it is not the safest or most appropriate practise.

“No recovery position unless they’re being sick. If they are, turn them and keep the neck still,” said Dr Di. “There are videos on my Facebook page and Instagram showing how to turn the head and keep the neck still.”

5. Open their airway

Rather than move a rider into the recovery position, you will need to ensure their airway is open so they can breathe as well as holding the neck. This will limit any additional damage that might be caused should there be a spinal injury.

“It takes two seconds to learn how to hold the neck and open an airway, but that could save somebody’s life or mean that even if they have a spinal injury, they won’t end up with a worse spinal injury than they’ve already got.”

6. What to do if they’ve landed facedown

It’s possible that a rider has landed facedown, and in this case, they will need to be turned over.

“Two people turn them, but keep the neck still. Wedge the neck, coordinate and turn out. But keep the neck still,” stressed Dr Di.

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