The Science

Equestrian sport attracts 2.4 million riders in the UK alone. It is  a sport which is based on the skill of the rider and the interaction with the horse. This can take years of training and is combined with decades of horse breeding and development. It is by its very nature a dangerous sport as there are so many variables combined with speed, height and mass of the horse. Falling from the horse is almost inevitable either during training and competing, or even just when relaxing and hacking.

In Northern Ireland we have several District General Hospitals, one of which is the Ulster Hospital. This serves a population of 345000 and in 2018 it had 300 admissions due to horse fall injuries. The Air Ambulance in Northern Ireland also attended more than 30 call outs each year for the more serious injuries. The injuries sustained range from lacerations, bruises and sprains to life and limb threatening major fractures of neck and pelvis. Even “minor” injuries can lead to periods of weeks off work and not riding. Major injuries can require surgery with significant time out of the saddle and off work. Major injuries can be life changing and may result in huge burdens to the individuals family and society.

There is also a significant risk with riders falls of head injury and concussion, even with wearing appropriate helmets. These injuries are frequently underestimated, however there is now good evidence that repeated concussions can lead to early dementia.

It is important that equestrian governing bodies now take on board steps to try to reduce rider injuries. Competition organisers, pony clubs and riding clubs have responsibilities to minimise risk. By encouraging use of our rider falls safe classes they can be seen and commended for trying to reduce the risk of injury to their competitors and members.

Some Useful Links:

Topic: Preventing and Investigating Horse-Related Human Injury and Fatality in Work and Non-Work Equestrian

Environments: A consideration of the Workplace Health and Safety Framework.

Year: 2016

Source: Animals – MDPI

Topic: Analysis of Risk factors for cross country horse falls at FEI eventing competitions.

Year: 2016

Source: FEI Risk Management

Topic: Predictors of race-day jockey falls in flat racing in Australia.

Year: 2010

Source: BMJ – Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Topic: Study of improvements in international health protection standards for jockeys in the United Kingdom, Ireland, France and Germany. Fellowship report by Dr Caron Bridget Jander.

Year: 2009

Source: Churchill Trust