Humans Might Be to Blame for Some Horse-Related Injuries

Humans Might Be to Blame for Some Horse-Related Injuries

Accidents involving poor handler judgement were considered 60% preventable by riders and experts.

Photo: iStock

Results from a recent study suggest that equestrians can reduce the number of injuries—and, thus, visits to doctors and emergency rooms and hospitalizations—through increased awareness and education about the role other people play in horse-related injuries.

“While we tend to be very aware of what our horse and other horses are doing, we tend to pay less attention to the riders and others around us, which can lead to unexpected accidents and more serious injuries,” said lead researcher William Gombeski Jr., MPH, MBA, senior advisor at University of Kentucky (UK) HealthCare.

In a 2007 study, researchers showed that horse-related injuries seem inevitable, even to the most safety-conscious equestrians. Out of 679 equestrians, 81% had experienced one riding injury while 21% had experienced a severe injury requiring surgery, hospitalization, or rehabilitation.

In their recent study, Gombeski and colleagues evaluated data collected through rider-submitted forms to SaddleUp SAFELY, an initiative from UK and 40 medical and equine organizations seeking to reduce the frequency and severity of horse-related injuries. Of 266 cases of injured equestrians, 16% were caused by other people; of those, 63% were considered preventable by riding safety experts and 51% were considered preventable by the injured party.

Because 44% of human-generated injuries led to hospitalization compared to 21% caused by other factors, the researchers theorized that human-generated accidents cause more serious medical problems than nonhuman-generated accidents. The team also found that advanced/professional riders were more at risk for human-caused accidents, possibly because they are more likely to provide lessons and supervise other riders with less experience.

The team grouped the injuries into five categories:

  • Not using equipment correctly (considered 90% preventable by riders and safety experts);
  • The handler using poor judgment (considered 60% preventable by riders and experts);
  • Poor public understanding of horse behavior (considered 33% preventable by riders and 25% by experts);
  • Misleading or no information shared (considered 75% preventable by riders and 100% by experts); and
  • Poor riding behavior/etiquette (considered 50% preventable by riders and 25% by experts).

To combat injuries caused by others, Gombeski recommended farms host training sessions and regular discussions to review common situations that lead to injury and that participants develop solutions to these scenarios.

The study, “Preventing horse-related injuries by watching out for other humans,” was published in the Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism

About the Author

Sarah Evers Conrad

Sarah Evers Conrad has a bachelor’s of arts in journalism and equine science from Western Kentucky University. As a lifelong horse lover and equestrian, Conrad started her career at The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care magazine. She has also worked for the United States Equestrian Federation as the managing editor of Equestrian magazine and director of e-communications and served as content manager/travel writer for a Caribbean travel agency. When she isn’t freelancing, Conrad spends her free time enjoying her family, reading, practicing photography, traveling, crocheting, and being around animals in her Lexington, Kentucky, home.

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