Healing Trauma from Horse Riding Accidents

Healing Trauma from Horse Riding Accidents

Dr. Diana Yang, L.Ac., DACM

Students of horsemanship understand that falling from a horse is traumatic both physically and emotionally. Horse riding has been reported to have a higher injury rate than motorcycle riding, with one serious injury occuring every 350 hours of activity vs 7000 hours. These data include only physical injuries.

But a fall while riding a horse also encompasses emotional trauma. It is normal for a rider to have feelings of fear and maybe even failure. This type of fear may hinder the rider’s ability to perform, as it can cause tension in the body, which the horse also can sense. Riders may feel that they have failed as herd leaders, as riders, and ultimately feel that they have failed their horses as well. And finally, there naturally could be a fear of falling again.

Acupuncture is a tool available to riders after a fall because it uniquely treats both physical and emotional trauma. It is one modality under Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Doctors of TCM have an innate understanding that physical injury is not separate from the emotional. Both need to be addressed for either to fully recover.

A good trainer understands how to build confidence over time in a horse and student. A good rider can do the same for a horse. There are various ways to do this, including approaches that involve slowly and safely exposing the horse and student to the same trigger that may have resulted in the fall. Or, temporarily lowering expectations to allow the horse and student to recover from the trauma of the fall before asking for the same level of performance again.

This is a top down approach, which helps the body relearn that riding is safe and train the brain to recognize that it is fine to release the memory that riding is traumatic. Over time, the top down approach helps the limbic system of the brain recognize that it can lower its defenses.

On the other hand, acupuncture supports emotional healing through the bottom up approach. it helps the healing process by physiologically releasing the tension from fear of falling. Emotionally, it re-balances the limbic system to help break the cycle of fear from a physiological means in the brain.

Additionally, acupuncture addresses the physical aspect of a fall by reducing pain. A rider can return to the saddle sooner with acupuncture speeding up the healing process physically.

Ultimately, horsemanship is a life long activity that can give riders much wisdom. Falling is an inevitable part of it. It provides lessons for how to fail and how to recover from failure. It teaches courage, and highlights why this passion is worth these lessons. Acupuncture is here to make these lessons less painful— literally and figuratively.

Treatment Room at Limbic Acupuncture in Half Moon Bay, California. Photography by Diana Yang

Dr. Diana Yang, L.Ac., DACM is a resident of Half Moon Bay, California. She started riding as an adult ten years ago. She is the founder of Limbic Acupuncture, the first clinic in the United States to focus on Acupuncture for Problematic Screen Use. Through this experience and through working with horses, she specializes in healing the physical and emotional injuries from stress and trauma. She received her Doctorate from the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco. She is in private practice in San Francisco and Half Moon Bay. Follow her on Facebook.