Survey Highlights Need for Equestrian Safety

A September 2010 survey conducted by Saddle Up Safely, a rider safety awareness coalition of 40 community organizations led by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture's Equine Initiative and UK HealthCare, reveals that equestrians are experiencing too many riding accidents that could be prevented or minimized.

Saddle Up Safely

Of the 500 equestrians selected from a national search panel, 221 (45.5%) had been injured at least once due to a riding accident or handling injury with an average of four injuries reported. Of the 221 individuals injured, 57% sought medical treatment.

Of the 221 that were injured, 66% said it was due to rider error, and 23% had to stop riding for an extended period.

A little over a third (35.7%) of riders rode alone the last time they rode, and only 43.8% of all riders wore a helmet.

"Our study and a number of others have shown that many injuries can be prevented or reduced in severity by practicing safe horsemanship," said Fernanda Camargo, DVM, PhD, assistant professor, and equine extension specialist, in UK's College of Agriculture.

Every year millions of Americans participate in horseback riding activities. Riders are often 6 feet above the ground on horses weighing more than 1,000 pounds capable of 35 mile-per-hour speeds. In 2007, 78,000 people were seen in the U.S. emergency rooms due to horse-related injuries; 9,000 of those were admitted to hospitals for further treatment.

The most common horseback riding injuries are fractures, bruises and abrasions, sprains and strains, internal injuries, and concussions. Injuries are most often caused by falls, but people can be kicked, stepped on, or fallen on by horses.

"The most severely injured riders are seen here at UK HealthCare's Chandler Hospital Trauma Center," said Julia Martin, MD, associate professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the UK College of Medicine. "If there was one recommended behavior we would like to see, it would be for every equestrian--whether novice or experienced, young or old--to wear an approved, correctly-fitting helmet."

Saddle Up Safely is one of a number of organizations that are trying to make the sport of horse riding safer. To learn more about what you can do to improve your knowledge of horse riding safety, go to or call 859/323-5508.


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More information on Gluck Equine Research Center and UK's Equine Initiative.

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