First aid: Unconscious rider

Horses are unpredictable at the best of times, and potentially life-threatening accidents do happen around them. Because of this, every rider should have basic first aid knowledge, and every yard should have a designated, trained first aider.

In any incident when the person is unconscious, the most importantthing to do is protect their airway. If they cannot breathe, they will not live.

To check for breathing in an unconscious person lying on their back:

  • Open the airway by placing one hand on the casualty’s forehead and gently tilting the head back
  • Look into the mouth and ensure that there are no obstructions
  • With two fingers, lift the chin forwards and out of the way — this lifts the tongue off the back of the throat and opens the airways
  • Place your ear close to the mouth and look along the chest for 10sec, listening, feeling and looking for signs of breathing

Suspected neck injury

If you suspect the injured person may have suffered a back or neck injury they should not be moved, unless they are having trouble breathing and there are enough people present to perform a “log roll”.

To aid the person’s breathing, kneel behind the casualty, place your hands over their ears, then gently lift the angle of the lower jaw forwards with your fingers to bring the tongue off the back of the throat.

If they are then breathing normally, support the head and neck in this position and get help.

The log roll

If the breathing becomes noisy, and there are between three and five people present, then you can perform a “log roll” to aid the person’s breathing.

One person supports the head and directs the roll, keeping the head, neck and trunk in a straight line, while the others, positioned ateither side of the body, turn the casualty onto their side.

The recovery position

The recovery position is the safest position to leave someone in while you go for help. To place someone in the recovery position on your own:

  • Place the arm nearest to you flat on the ground at right angles pointing above the head with the palm uppermost
  • Place the back of the hand furthest from you against the cheek nearest to you and hold in place with one hand throughout the manoeuvre
  • With your other hand, reach over the casualty to their furthest leg and, keeping the foot flat on the ground, lift the knee
  • Keeping the casualty’s hand firmly against their cheek, pull on the far leg, rolling the casualty towards you on to their side
  • Adjust the leg so the hip and knee are at right angles for stablility
  • Gently tip the head back and check the casualty is breathing and that there is no severe bleeding
  • This information is available in the eight edition First Aid Manual, authorisied by the St John Ambulance. (ISBN 0751337048)

    For more information visit www.sja.org.uk

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