The equestrian magazine Horse and Hound reported last week on a study on how the risk of hospitalisation from horse and rider accidents may be severely under-appreciated by hospitals and thus may lead to inadequate treatment.

The study did however also highlight the need for participants in equestrian activities to take preventative steps to safeguard themselves by the use of body protectors and riding hats. This applies not only when horses are being ridden, but in other potentially unsafe situations on the ground, such as handling young horses who could be easily frightened and react, clipping,  bringing horses in from a field, especially where there are other horses to negotiate and handling horses in high winds or heavy rain, to mention but a few.

This does not mean that anyone around horses has to wrap themselves in body armour at all times. It’s basically about assessing situations and using commonsense to act accordingly.

At Ringrose Law, anyone who follows our blogs will know we have very keen cyclists as well as horse-riders and the principles would seem to apply to them as well.

The study originated in Texas and analysed data from the National Trauma Data Bank from 2007-2016, which admittedly seems a little out of date now and could be skewing the results.  The UK does not have a similar data base. The British Horse Society do however have a databank of horse related accidents which is kept up to date and to which riders are encouraged to add to, even with near-misses.  You cannot do realistic research of this type without data.  This is the link and we would encourage all incidents to be reported so as to build up a better picture:  https://www.bhs.org.uk/our-work/safety/report-an-incident/report-an-incident

The Texas study found that of 24,791 injuries analysed, 37.07% were chest injuries and 22.95% were head injuries.  This latter figure is rather startling.

The research concluded that a lot of those injuries could have been prevented by wearing protective equipment.

But Dr Diane Fisher, major trauma consultant and Chief Medical Officer for the British Horse Society said that comparisons between the USA and the UK were difficult, because in the USA, due to the different styles of riding-Western style-not wearing hats was acceptable.

She did however flag up an important and perhaps unusual point, which is the “mis-match” between medical knowledge of equestrian injuries and the potential for injuries in the activity.  The mechanism by which injuries are caused is not fully understood and therefore advising on prevention can be tricky.

Horse riders are also known for their stoicism (or stupidity!) in commonly ignoring possible injuries and just getting back on the horse again. Equestrian sport is trying to address this by eliminations for rider falls to try and prevent injuries becoming worse, but the private and leisure riders cannot be regulated in this way.

Dr Fisher raised the importance of nationally recognised figures such as Olympian dressage rider Charlotte Dujardin for leading the way in visibly wearing a visible a riding helmet and not the more traditional but less protective top hat in competitions and no doubt riding at home.  Safety precautions must become the norm and leading by example is a great way to get this message across.

Our point is that whatever data says, if you take part in any risk sport or activity, whilst risk and the possibility of injury cannot be totally excluded-and would we want to?-there is still a lot that can be done to reduce risk and serious injuries.

The Personal Injury team at Ringrose Law deal with head and spinal injuries and so we are only too aware of their often devastating consequences.

If you have suffered injury in a horse related or cycling accident, or indeed any sporting activity, we would be happy to advise. Contact wecanhelp@ringroselaw.co.uk

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