When compared to motorcycle riding, horse riding activity has a higher hospital admission rate of 0.49/1000 hours versus 0.14/1000 hours. These were the results found in a research paper published in The American Journal of Surgery back in 2007. Not only is horse riding statistically more dangerous than riding a motor cycle, but it’s also a more dangerous sport than skiing, automobile racing, football, and rugby. It’s partly due to the elevated riding position (a rider’s head is generally about 9 feet above the ground), but also the fact that horses can weigh over 1000 pounds, kick with a force of nearly 1 ton, and can run at speeds of 40 mph (65 km/h). One of the biggest reasons horses are more dangerous than say a motorcycle or race car is because they are less predictable. Keep an eye out for a future FillyGirl post where we will discuss that unpredictability (as it relates to a horse and rider’s fear connection), but I’m sure for now, we can all agree that “horses have a mind of their own!”
The interesting part of many of the studies related to horse injuries, including the one from Journal of Trauma Management & Outcomes 2009, is that of the injured riders who were studied, the majority had a significant amount of riding experience. In fact, in the study cited above, the average injured rider had 27 years of riding experience under their belt! One would have thought the majority of injuries came from newbies to the sport, but that’s just not the case (which makes the statistics even more scary). Most of the injured horse riders were not wearing a helmet, and the majority were Western style riders, riding their own horses. The average horse being ridden at the time of injury was 7 years old.
If they could only make cowboy hats with some sort of safety protection built into them! I mean what’s a cowboy to do? The typical equestrian “riding helmet” just wouldn’t look right on a rancher. I’m the first one to admit that. But are looks everything? Is it time we started questioning style over safety? These are personal decisions dictated by our egos, what we consider “normal,” and what society considers “normal” (which goes back to our egos). When you study the rates of injury related to all types of horse riding, it’s astonishing and quite frankly, downright scary. It doesn’t mean we should give up the sport, or the use of horses for our work, but it does mean we should wear helmets and body protectors. There’s just no reason not to. Body protectors aren’t just for rodeo riders and show jumpers. Everyone should be wearing one. And as for helmets and hats…maybe those big 19 gallon hats will make a comeback or someone can design one to fit over an “equestrian helmet.” The Marlbro Man and the rancher in the Whole Foods commerical can wear “just” the cowboy hat….they get paid enough to risk their bodies and/or lives. The rest of us working folk “just” shouldn’t!