First Aid Self-Assessment for Lone Horse Riders

If the worst should happen and you suffer an accident while riding alone it is important to know what to do.

If you are riding alone we would always advise telling someone where you are going and what time you will be back. Apps such as Whatsapp and Strava offer live tracking of your route if you are out hacking. 

The First Aid Training Cooperative have joined us today to help us to understand what your priorities are if you are riding alone and have a bad fall. 

As with any first aid incident, it’s best to follow the acronym ABCDE.

A - Am I safe?

Or am I about to be clobbered by the horse and rider following behind me? Am I on the road or in muddy ditch or jump water feature?

‘A / B’ - Airway / Breathing

(If you can’t breathe that’s going to be at the front of your mind.) If you’re struggling to breathe, what can you do?  Try to clear your airway if it’s blocked by coughing up any obstruction. Try to stay calm, and TEXT 999 if you can’t talk. Provide your location, name and condition. Find out how to TEXT 999 HERE.

‘C’ - Circulation

Check for bleeds and injuries. Assuming all is in place, use your hands to check back of head etc where bleeds might not be obvious. Deal with any bleeds and be alert to the risk of infection.

D’ Damage checks

Breaks and fractures. In reality, you might skip ‘C’ because you can feel where the pain is without looking.  You might naturally do a body scan immediately after a fall but always check your whole body in case there are other injuries – these might not be so obvious or painful but still need addressing.

'E’ – Evacuation

Once you have made sure that you are safe and stabilised, you need to consider how to get help if you are unable to get home under your own steam.  Learn how to find your location by using your phone, and how to make an emergency call in an outdoor environment. Remember you can also text 999 if you have poor signal or low battery.

‘E’ - Ensure your breathing continues

If you feel lightheaded, faint, or ‘woozy’, whilst waiting for help, put yourself in the Recovery Position to ensure you are safe and stable on the ground and have an open draining airway. This way any vomit will drain out rather than causing a blockage in your airway and potentially choking you if you are to lose consciousness.

‘E’ - Environment

You will get cold fairly quickly so a foil blanket will help. If you can, move to a more sheltered position to get out of the wind or off the muddy track. Try and put something between yourself and the ground to insulate you if it is cold.

Other things to consider:

What information do you need to get across?

Think of the acronym – LIONEL.  Having this information to hand to the best of your abilities, before making an emergency phone call can seem like a lot of extra unnecessary effort in a stressful situation. 

Location – Incident – Other services required – Number of casualties – Extent of injuries / Environment – Location again. 

Read more about this in detail in our LIONEL blog

Are you concussed?

The biggest risk is any sort of head injury which can lead to a reduction in your level of consciousness which then leads to poor decision making.   You therefore need to recognise this immediately and accept that this is the situation.  You must not get back on the horse with a concussion or any other type of head injury. If you’ve banged your head in any way, DO NOT continue until you have been checked out properly.  You may not be capable of making a good self-assessment, and riding with a concussion is potentially very dangerous.


Be alert to your body going into shock, a medical condition brought on by loss of blood or other fluids. Signs of shock are feeling cold and clammy, an increased heart rate and breathing rate, feeling anxious and confused. Treatment is to keep warm, lie down (with some ground protection and cover to prevent heat loss), raise your feet 6 inches or more. If you feel yourself getting drowsy or sick, put yourself into the Recovery Position.

Are you prepared for incidents?

Personal First Aid kits for riding alone are essential. They don’t need to be massive. Many riders carry ‘bum bag’ sized kits.

A basic personal kit might include:

  • gloves
  • scissors
  • triangular bandage
  • vet wrap
  • some medi-wipes
  • tape
  • dressings
  • foil blanket
  • whistle, torch or glow stick

Water is always useful to carry as it can be used to clean wounds, washout eyes and  keep you hydrated.

Are you identifiable?

Do you have means of conveying information to others if they come to help and you’re unconscious? Your name, date of birth, emergency contact, any underlying medical conditions etc. This information could be inside your riding helmet and also on your horse’s neck strap.

You can also install a free ICE App on your phone which includes emergency contacts and other information about you. All phones have the ability to put medical and emergency contact information on them and, like the ICE App, it sits above the lock screen so anyone can access it.

The next level up is a tracker such as ‘Hollie Guard’. It sends an alert and a video link to your emergency contact and is activated at the press of an icon.

What about the horse?

And finally, prioritise yourself over the horse! 99.9% of riders are far more concerned about the horse – especially if they own it and especially if the horse is injured too. You’ll not be able to help the horse if you neglect your own injuries and health. You’ll know your own relationship with the horse and whether they’ll stick around, go off for a feed or find their way home

Thank you to Medi K and The First Aid Cooperative. You can find out more about them and their first aid training here –

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