Ask Us: “I Had a Bad Fall — Now I’m Scared to Ride.”

Ask Us: “I Had a Bad Fall — Now I’m Scared to Ride.”
We’re tracking down expert insights to your toughest, horse-related questions. In today’s edition, Canadian Olympian Tiffany Foster gets real about one of equestrian sport’s most common and enduring scenarios: how to cope with a bad fall.
Q: I had a bad fall last year and broke my tibia. My horse slipped on the grass and landed on my leg. I suffered a spiral fracture that took almost nine months to heal. Now I am back in the saddle but I feel my confidence isn’t the same as before. When I jump, I feel tense and I catch myself hesitating now. How do I progress with my riding when my confidence has been so dramatically affected?
-Beth L.

A: Tiffany Foster:
“Any time you have a bad fall that is a fluke thing that you can’t control, it’s almost scarier and shakes you a little bit more. If you flip over in the last jump in the jump off, you know you’ve taken a risk. When you’re just doing something like that, flatting on the grass or jumping a cavaletti, and you have a horrible wreck, you’re thinking, How do I avoid this in the future? I can’t, because I didn’t know it was coming to begin with.
I think that’s hard and just something you have to get over when you understand the risks involved with riding. Either you’re going to take them, or you’re not. My personality is that if I decide to do something, I’m just going to do it. I think that’s something you have to just be a little bit strong with.

I’ve learned, as I get older, that when you get hurt, it’s harder to bounce back. The older you get, the more self-preservation kicks in, and if you fall off and get hurt, then the less you want to fall off again. When you’re a kid and you fall off, you don’t even feel it the next day. Even now, I’m not old—I’m 32 years old—it hurts when I fall off, so I try to avoid that.

I think you have to just make a mental decision that you’re going to do it or you’re not going to do it. It’s like anything in life—once you’ve decided you’re doing something, you have to have full commitment. If you can’t get your head around that conscious decision that this is what you want to do, then maybe you shouldn’t do it.
Horse riding is a dangerous sport, it just is. It’s like skiing or anything that has a high risk of injury. It is dangerous. It’s one of those things that you cannot take lightly. If your confidence is shaken and you don’t feel good on the horse, step way down. Do only what you’re comfortable with and not nervous about. If you’re worried to jump, don’t jump for a bit. Every time you get on a horse, and nothing goes wrong, the closer you’ll be to feeling good about it.

There’s no pressure, nobody’s telling you that you have to do anything about it. There’s no countdown; take your time. First of all, decide, is this what I want to do? And if it is what you want to do, take time and don’t rush yourself back. It’ll come, it just takes time.”