As Winter approaches and the weather becomes even more treacherous, riding safety becomes even more of a concern. Hopefully most riders do ride safely, but even so horse accidents can always happen.
The youtube clip of a jockey falling rather spectacularly at the Wincanton races, went viral at the time and is a reminder as to what can happen even at the highest level of riding (spoiler alert – the jockey Lewis Ferguson was unharmed and the horse finished the race in third place, albeit without a rider).
Although Lewis Ferguson walked away from his accident uninjured others are not so fortunate. According to one research report horse riding is the third greatest cause of hospitalisation amongst children and the fourth for adults (beating bunjee jumping which was a mere 10th).
According to recent BHS figures, there are 3.5 million people (6% of the GB population) who have ridden a horse at least once in the past 12 months. Therefore the potential for accidents is obviously quite high, and in fact recent figures from the BHS show that there are an estimated 3,000 horse related accidents each year in the UK alone.
In response to riding safety concerns the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) in the UK have developed their own fact sheet for horse riding safety which can be downloaded here. In addition there is training available to BHS members through the BHS Riding and Road Safety as well as for younger riders through the Irish Pony Club Road Safety test.
As well as riding on roads and being aware of secondary dangers there are also the safety precautions that all riders can take. The obvious ones include;
- Clean and well kept tack that isn’t worn
- Safety equipment that meets the required standard and is undamaged, such as helmets and body protectors
- Wearing appropriate footwear and other clothing.
- Ensuring that young and inexperienced riders are accompanied by an experienced person.
- Carrying a first aid kit on longer treks.
One important thing to remember is to carry a mobile phone at all times with you (with credit). The difficulty though can be if you fall off and the phone is in a saddlebag on the horse how do you access it, or if you are injured trying to locate the phone from inside layers of coats and your visibility vest.
This invention available on Amazon is an ankle phone holder which can also carry your medical ID. It ensures that if you do get separated from your horse that your information remains easily accessible and within reach.
Visibility of Horse Riders and Horses
Visibility is one of the most important things to consider especially in winter. Increased visibility will give other road users greater time to react and avoid any last minutes braking and swerving.
The use of vests is and reflective bands on the horse is the minimum that should be used, and other options can include reflective nosebands, bridles, breast plates and leg wraps.
Safety on the Ride
There are then other precautions depending on the type and venue of the outing or ride.
- Checking equipment for wear and potential dangers.
- Safety of the arena, fencing and jumps (especially after storms or heavy weather conditions).
- Lighting and visibility (including the visibility of the rider to others)
- Having easy access to a phone and/or if trekking out alone and away from mobile phone coverage (- definitely a problem in rural Ireland!) ensuring that someone else knows the route and expected time back.
The lists mentioned above are not meant to take the fun out of riding or become scare factors. Instead they are reminders to all of us that our environment is constantly changing and that there are no guarantees in horse riding. By developing a routine of automatically looking for potential changes and safety issues, hopefully this can help towards minimising the number of potential horse accidents and injuries over time.
Horse Accidents – British Horse Society
Finally despite the entertainment value for some, riding safety is important and in order to ensure that accidents are recorded the BHS is collecting information. They are keen to hear about anything related to horse accidents so that they can lobby for changes where necessary, and monitor the types and frequency of horse related accidents. In fact they have an incident map which shows the breakdown of accidents according to type such as; motor, dog attacks, low flying aircraft or interestingly wind farms. The most common types seem to be multiple sources but the most interesting (for me) was definitely accidents caused by Chinese lanterns.