Article in the globe and mail today states equestrians are injured more frequently than motorcyclists.
We need more articles like this:
Uneasy riders: Horses riskier than motorcycles
Hour-per-hour more equestrians are seriously hurt, study shows
From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
September 24, 2007 at 3:50 AM EDT
Hour-per-hour in the saddle, more riders are seriously injured riding horses than motorcycles.
That is the surprising revelation of a new study from researchers at the University of Calgary.
Equally surprising is that those being hurt and killed are not rookie equestrians but, in large part, veteran riders.
"If you're 47 years old, a good experienced rider and it's sunny out, you can still get seriously hurt or die," said Rob Mulloy, an assistant professor at the University of Calgary and co-author of the study.
The reason this happens, he said, is that "horses are independent beings with their own agenda." Not to mention that horses weigh up to 500 kilograms, move at a speed of up to 65 kilometres an hour, elevate riders up to three metres above ground and kick with a force of nearly one ton.
The research, published in the American Journal of Surgery, is based on a decade of trauma data collected at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary.
From 1995 to 2005, there were 7,941 trauma patients at Foothills, including 151 who were severely injured while horseback riding.
Seven per cent of the riders died of their injuries and 45 per cent required surgery, the study said.
"For many of the people we interviewed, their riding accident was a life-changing moment," said Jill Ball, an occupational therapist at Foothills and co-author of the study.
She said that, while she grew up riding horses, the research has changed her perspective on the safety of the sport and the need for protection.
"I now wear a helmet and vest when I go riding," Ms. Ball said.
The hospital admission rate associated with horse-riding injuries is 0.49 per 1,000 hours, compared to a rate of 0.14 per 1,000 hours of motorcycle riding, according to the research.
Among those treated for traumatic equestrian injuries, only 9 per cent had been wearing a helmet. Thirty-one per cent wore other protective equipment, such as Kevlar vests.
Almost half of all riders who were seriously injured (48 per cent) suffered head injuries, and 54 per cent suffered chest injuries. Most riders were hurt by falling or being thrown from the horse, followed by being stomped or kicked.
In Western riding there is a tradition of wearing a cowboy hat rather than a helmet. In English riding, a helmet is the norm.
Charlotte Hemstock, who at age 15 already has almost a decade of equestrian experience - show jumping, rodeo riding and trail riding - said a helmet is a must.
"The older generation is getting hurt because they don't think helmets are important," she said.
Ms. Hemstock was once thrown from her horse during a competition, landing head-first on the ground, and she credits a helmet for keeping her from suffering serious injury.
But, at the same time, she recognizes it's not a panacea: In July, she fell during a show-jumping competition and broke her collarbone.
Ms. Hemstock also balks at the suggestion that horseback riding is more risky than motorcycle riding. "We have dirt bikes and I can tell you that you're a lot safer sitting on a horse, which has a brain."
According to the article, there are more than 850,000 horses in Canada, half of them in Alberta.
It is not clear exactly how many riders there are, but 470,000 people are employed exclusively in the equestrian industry.
Dr. Mulloy, who is also a trauma surgeon, said he does not want to discourage people from riding, but hopes the study will serve as a wake-up call about the need to use protective equipment.
"You know, cowboy hats are pretty useless. They blow off in the wind," he said.
Dr. Mulloy said he takes comfort in the fact that about half of rodeo riders now wear helmets and a large number of cowboys who drive cattle out of the hills are also helmeted.
"Things are changing slowly, but we still have a long way to go."