How Often Do Horses Fall In Horse Racing? Analysing The Stats…

Horses falling is a part of National Hunt racing. It might be a case where the general public don’t like to see or think about it, but true horse racing fans know how often horses fall. It adds to the drama; even when you’re ten lengths clear heading to the last fence, there’s always that worry. It’s a ‘your heart skips a beat’ moment for racing fans and punters.

The question is: just how often do horses fall in horse racing?

There’s actually detailed analysis. It is usually from a point of view where punters are trying to understand the aftermath of a fall. Why did it happen? Was it a jockey error, a poor stride or crumbled on landing? It’s equally crucial to gauge how frequently horses fall during jump racing as this factor significantly influences betting decisions.

Several elements can sway the frequency of falls, not least the nature of the race. The focus of this article will be on National Hunt racing because we just don’t get many falls on the Flat. It won’t be a surprise to anyone that we saw more falls over Fences compared to Hurdles, but it’s worth looking at the numbers!

How Many Horses Fall on Average?

There’s a huge volume of data available on horse racing these days.

Falls are broken down into different categories:

  • Fell
  • Unseated Rider
  • Brought Down
  • Refused

It’s crucial to distinguish this from horses that did not finish the race for other reasons. Pulled Up is an obvious reason why a horse didn’t finish the race, but didn’t fall. You could say the same about Refused in the sense that they didn’t jump the Hurdle or Fence, but the reality is they didn’t jump, and if you don’t jump you can’t win!

Fell is an obvious one and needs no explanation. Unseated Rider is basically when the horse jumps OK, doesn’t hit the ground but the jockey falls off it’s back – this usually happens when the horse makes a sudden movement perhaps jumping to the side and the jockey loses their balance. And lastly, you have Brought Down – this is when another horse has fallen, and has made your horse fall too. A classic example of this is the horse falls in front of you, and you have nowhere to go so you fall over the fallen horse. We usually see that a lot in races like the Grand National for example; big fields.

If you take the most recent data, and go all the way back to 2005/06 so you have a huge sample. You basically end up with several horses falling. The percentage works out to be 8% give or take. However, this figure is an average, and it must be noted that the average is creeping down as the BHA aims to make horse racing a safer sport.

Is Horse Racing Getting Safer?

We have a tonne of modifications made to the likes of Cheltenham Racecourse and especially the Grand National which is always in the news. How often horses fall is definitely coming down, and changes have been made to the size of fences, rail movements and reducing the number of runners in each race. These changes were implemented to reduce horse fatalities and enhance safety measures. While it’s unfeasible to eliminate every risk to horses, especially National Hunt, the intent is to minimize potential harm.

But have these alterations truly made horse racing safer and decreased the likelihood of horse fatalities due to falls? So much can go wrong with horses; we often see injuries in between fences or even horses break down on the Flat too. The danger just doesn’t lie with Fences. We still see fatalities at Cheltenham, Aintree and on the big meetings on ITV Racing. Unfortunately, it’s just a part of racing.

The British Horseracing Authority has presented statistics indicating a decline in horse fatalities. In 1994, horse deaths stood at 2.6 per 1,000 race starts, which decreased to 2.2 deaths per 1,000 race starts in 2018. The BHA will always continue to drive the message that they are focused on horse safety – always aiming to reduce how often horses fall in horse racing over both codes.

This data indicates a progressive trend towards safer racing, albeit gradually. It’s significant to mention that these numbers encompass both jump and flat racing. Focusing solely on jump racing, the statistics vary: from 1999 to 2004, the fatality rate was 4.9 deaths per 1,000 race starts. However, this reduced to 3.9 per 1,000 race starts from 2013 to 2018 for example. You’d expect this figure to keep trending down as the years go on.

In 2023, Aintree took the step to reduce the number of numbers in the Grand National to 34 from 40 previously. It was reduced to 40 back in 1984 and it’s been kept at that since. They have made a huge amount of chances to the fences in the Grand National course, and worked very hard on the first fence and starting line because most of the fallers came at the first fence.

The BHA took a safety review in 2012, and in the ten Grand Nationals after that we had five fatalities. The BHA would love that number to reduce, but the reality is falling is part of the Grand National. They don’t call it the world’s greatest steeplechase for nothing.

These are the changes being brought in to the Grand National in 2024, via the BBC website:

  • Cutting the maximum number of runners from 40, a limit introduced in 1984, to 34.
  • Moving the first fence 60 yards closer to the start, and implementing a standing start – rather than letting horses run in – to all races over the National fences. Research showed speeds to the first fence had increased to about 35mph from 28mph in recent years.
  • Bringing forward the start time from 17:15 BST as the ground conditions can become quicker as it dries out on a breezy, sunny April afternoon. It is thought the revised time is likely to be between 15:45 and 16:15.
  • Horses will no longer be led by a handler on course during the pre-race parade before the grandstands, so they can prepare in their own time.
  • Changes to the alignment of the running rail on the inside of the course to help catch loose horses.
  • Reducing height of 11th fence by two inches, from 5ft to 4ft 10in, on take-off side and some ‘levelling off’ on landing side to reduce height of the drop. The fence was shown to have an unusually high number of fallers, horses being brought down and unseated riders in all races over the National course.
  • Introducing softer foam and rubber ‘toe boards’ at the foot of the jumping side of every fence.
  • More pop-up irrigation to water the course; and widening paddock walkways.
  • Raising the minimum handicap rating for horses to 130 from 125, which brings it in line with top-level Grade One races.
  • A review panel of industry experts who assess the suitability of every runner to take a closer look at horses that have made jumping errors in 50% or more of their last eight races before allowing them to take part.


From the data available, how often horses fall is pretty small relatively speaking. However, an average of 8% is high if the likes of the BHA are working to reduce it. The reality is there will always be falls; it’s part of jumps racing. The figure will never be 0%.  In many instances, those who fall often tend to be absolutely fine but nobody likes to see an injury happen. It’s good that the BHA are working to make racing safer for everyone, but if you’re a racing fan you know falls are part and parcel of horse racing.

Related: Guide to Horse Racing Types, Grades and Class

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