Horse Riding Accidents

Horse Riding Accidents

Last updated on March 24th, 2023 at 08:38 pm

Horse Riding Accidents

Horseback riding is a popular activity in America, but it can also be dangerous. Despite the common saying that “everyone falls off the horse,” it is important to take riding seriously and minimize risks. The latest research on horse riding accidents shows that the sport is more dangerous than skiing and motorcycle riding. 74.83% of equestrian deaths are caused by head and neck injuries, and the lifetime cost of acute head injury can be up to $3 million.

Wearing a riding helmet can reduce the risk of severe head injury by 50%. About 81% of equestrians will get injured at some point in their riding career, and over 100,000 horse riding-related accidents occur in the US each year. Of these accidents, 83.4% are caused by the rider falling off the horse.

One study found that the rate of hospital admissions for equestrian injuries is 11.8 per 1000 riders or 0.49 per 1000 hours of riding, which is higher than the injury rate for skiing or motorcycle riding.

Another study found that the risk of hospital admission from equestrian injuries is higher than for motorcycling, skiing, and football. Equipped with this knowledge, it is important to promote the use of appropriate safety equipment and education to minimize the risks of horseback riding.

Horse Riding Accidents and Statistics

Horseback riding is a sport and pastime that is very popular in many areas, including in the states. However, there is a bit of a price that can come attached to this— and we’re not talking about money. Many equestrians and horses get injured on rides and these injuries can be very severe, especially for inexperienced riders who may be just learning what they are doing. Riders should do what they can to minimize risks wherever they can. Horses can be unpredictable, but with riding knowledge, preventative measures, and proper helmets and equipment, some of these injuries can be prevented. Read on for some more information on the different statistics about horse racing and horse riding, where we will go into this in greater detail. 

Horse Riding Accident Statistics

The latest research has given us the following statistics about horse riding and equestrian injuries. These are some of the highlights of information on horseback riding injuries.

  • The sport of horseback riding is a more dangerous sport than even motorcycle riding or skiing.
  • 74.83% of horseback riding deaths are the result of head and neck injuries.
  • 2 out of 3 equestrian injuries can actually be prevented.
  • The sport of horseback riding is the one that is the leading cause of sports-related traumatic brain injuries.
  • The lifetime cost for acute brain injury can reach a sum of $3 million.
  • By wearing a riding helmet, you can reduce the risk of severe injury by half, 50%.
  • 81% of horseback riders will get injured at some point in their riding career.
  • More than 100,000 equestrian accidents occur every year in the United States.
  • 83.4% of the horseback riding injuries that occur are caused by the equestrian falling off the horse. 

1. Horseback riding is more dangerous than skiing and motorcycling.

There are different sports that are more dangerous than others, and a prime example is horseback riding. According to research done in 2002 on horseback riding injuries, the rate of hospital admissions for horseback riders is 11.8 out of 1000 equestrians. Assuming there is one hour of riding per day, the rate of hospital admission injury is .49 out of 1000 hours of riding. In comparison, though, for motorcycle riding, the rate of hospital admission is .4 for 1000 hours of riding, and for skiing, it is .6 for 1000 hours of skiing, or 2.91 for 1000 days of skiing. 

Of course, admission to the hospital is exemplary of more severe injuries than those that would warrant a visit to the emergency room. Based on this and on the above statistics, the study concluded that horseback riding is a more dangerous sport than either motorcycle riding or skiing is. 

There was also another study done in 2021. This study found that the risk of hospital admission for equestrians is higher than skiing, motorcycle riding, and football, too. The study came to this conclusion by analyzing the equestrian injury data in the U.S. National Trauma Data Bank from the years of 2007 to 2016. It found that 88% of all the patients that were presented to the hospital were then admitted. The number of horseback riding hospital admissions was 3.5 times higher than motorcycle riding. Then, when compared for hours of activity, horseback riding had a higher proportion of hospital admissions than skiing did. 

A third study, done in 2007, took a look at 10 years of major traumatic horseback riding injuries. From this data, it was concluded that the rate of a serious injury, per the number of riding hours, was higher— and therefore more dangerous— than motorcycling, skiing, or football. Motorcyclists experience injuries, on average, about once every 7000 hours of riding. Equestrians have a serious accident once every 350 hours, though. 

Clearly, the sport of horseback riding can be very dangerous, so it is important— now knowing this information— to be aware of the risks that come with the sport, and to promote the use of the necessary safety equipment and education so that any risks can be minimized!

2. 74.83% of equestrian deaths are caused by head and neck injuries.

The research that was conducted on equestrian injuries back in 2021 determined that it is head and neck injuries that are the most common contributors to the deaths of horseback riders. This 2021 study worked to analyze data from the National Trauma Data Bank data in a 10 year period— this period being from 2007 to 2016. The findings were that, during this study period, 74.83% of the equestrian deaths recorded were caused by either head or neck injuries. 

Thoracic injuries were the second highest cause of equestrian deaths, at 18.44%, and then next came abdominal injuries at 5.31%. In addition, head and neck injuries were significantly associated with longer stays in the ICU and more days spent left on ventilators. The statistics that were found during the aforementioned study also found that head and neck injuries were connected to a ninefold increase in risk of death of horseback riders. Therefore, this finding confirms and coincides with the data that showed greater risk of fatality from head and neck injuries in horseback riding accidents.

3. 2 out of 3 horse riding injuries can be prevented.

There are many reasons that can lead to equestrian accidents. This can be the behavior of the rider, actions of the horse being ridden, or third party factors. The fact is that many horseback riding accidents can actually be prevented. For instance, a 2018 study on horseback riding accidents and the related statistics discovered that the majority of equestrian injuries could have been prevented, and these injuries were typically due to equestrian error. 

The aforementioned study analyzed data on different horseback riding accidents and injuries, then finding that 66% of these injuries had been preventable. Therefore, 2 out of 3 of horseback riding injuries can be prevented— which is good news! The top 3 of the most avoidable causes of injury were broken tack, slipped saddle, and absent safety check. 

It is a common occurrence for riders to feel overconfident in their equestrian abilities and then ride a horse that is green when they do not have the skillset necessary to handle this. This can then lead to injuries that could have been avoided if the rider had been more responsible, for example. Another fact is that professional horseback riders often have more serious accidents, though these accidents are usually less frequent. These accidents are typically due to more complex reasons and the increased level of difficulty of the activity being completed. All this is to say that riders who have more experience can actually have more of a chance of being injured.

The research that has been completed on this subject suggests that it is horse and rider suitability which is the main area that common horseback rider injuries can be prevented. The current finding of 66%, or 2 out of 3, of equestrian injuries being preventable echoes the data of 2 other similar studies. Studies by Mayberry and Ball in 2007 both reported that 64% of horseback riding injuries could have been prevented. 

4. Horseback riding is the leading cause of sports-related traumatic brain injuries.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC, states that sports-related traumatic brain injury, or TBI, affects 1.7 to 3.8 million people in the United States. This is an annual figure, meaning that many people are affected by TBI every year. A 2016 study by the Neurological Focus journal found that horse-related accidents account for the most traumatic brain injuries in America. 

The Neurological Focus journal study analyzed a 10-year period of data from the National Trauma Data Bank. This period was from 2003 to 2012, and covered 5 different sporting categories, these being roller sports, fall or interpersonal contact (FIC), skiing and snowboarding, aquatic sports, and then equestrian sports. 

Horseback riding was the sport whose injuries contributed the most traumatic brain injuries among adults. This number was 45.2% among adults. The next highest number was FIC, at 20.3%, and then roller sports at 19%. One of the ways to prevent TBIs is by wearing helmets and proper safety gear. It is also important for us to increase awareness about traumatic brain injuries in horseback riding and other sports. 

5. Lifetime cost for acute head injury can be up to $3 million.

Some of the research that has been done on horseback riding injuries and the ensuing statistics tells us that there has not been a lot of work done to measure the true costs of these kinds of injuries. Data shows that long-term rehab costs for horse-related injuries are very high. 

According to the research, the unemployment rate for an adult with a brain injury 2 years after diagnosis is 60%. This can then be compared to the national unemployment average of 5.1%. The high cost of treatment is what makes things so difficult. The lifetime costs for dealing with a traumatic brain injury, or TBI can run anywhere from $85,000 to $3 million. This sort of high-cost treatment can prove to be inaccessible to many people, who are then unable to get the treatment that they need. 

Another study that was done took a look at different horseback riding accidents that happened between 2001 and 2008. This research then found that the mean hospital cost or charge was $29,800 for a total of $6.9 million. Therefore, the studies came to the conclusion that horse-related injuries, especially traumatic brain injuries and head injuries, are costly and dangerous— in addition to often being preventable.

6. Wearing a riding helmet reduces the risk of severe head injury by 50%.

There has also been research done on horse helmet safety statistics. This research suggested that a very large amount of equestrians that were involved in horse-related injuries were not wearing their helmets when the incident occurred. In addition, 20% of all riders sustain a head injury, the most common being soft tissues or concussions. Horseback rider injury statistics tell us that the use of riding helmets is low, while the likelihood of head injuries is high. 

This begs the question of why riders do not like to wear helmets. After all, they are so important! By understanding this, we can understand how to better encourage riders to wear their helmets. Some of the most popular answers to this question, when researchers asked, are that they did not want to, they forgot, the helmet is too hot, or the helmet is too uncomfortable— in that order of frequency. 

The research has found that only 9% of adult riders wear their helmets regularly, meaning that safety headgear is seriously underutilized! Helmets that are approved by the Modern American Society for Testing and Materials/Safety Equipment Institute have been able to reduce riding-related head injuries by 30%, as well as severe head injuries by 50%! The New England Journal of Medicine also states that helmets are able to reduce brain and head injuries by 85 percent. Another study also found that helmets are able to reduce the severity of a head injury in a horseback riding accident. 

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7. 81% of equestrians get injured at some point in their riding career.

The injury rate for horseback riding is 3.7 injuries for every 1000 hours of riding, according to some of the research that we have discussed previously. You may think this is not that high of a number, but many of the studies on equestrian injuries have shown that the equestrian injuries that are presented in hospitals are typically severe. For instance, if you compare horseback riding to hockey, it is equestrian injuries that are more likely to need hospitalization. 

Data also shows us that 81% of horseback riders experience an equestrian injury at one point during their riding career, and 21% of them are injured seriously and will require hospitalization. Some research does also suggest that experienced equestrians will have a higher likelihood of injuries, as we went over previously in the article. The cause of this is that more experienced riders may take more risks or perform certain techniques that then increase the risk of accidents or injuries. More experienced riders are sometimes more likely to avoid wearing their helmets, often due to confidence. However, this means that the risk of injuries that will need hospitalization or that cause permanent disability is heightened. 

8. Over 100,000 horse riding-related accidents occur yearly in the U.S.

We are all aware that horseback riding is a very popular sport and pastime in the United States, as well as in other areas. That being said, there is not an official number of horse-related accidents that we are aware of. Not all of these are recorded, so this is the reason for the lack of data. 

However, research on horseback riding accident statistics that we do have has shown that equestrian accidents have been found to affect about 35.7 people per 100,000 population in the United States of America. In 2020, according to the World Bank, the population in the United States was 329.5 million people.

With the above numbers and statistics, we can do the math to get a rough estimate of horse-related accidents. For instance— 329.5 million Americans / 100,000 * 35.7 persons = 117,631.5 horseback riding or horse-related injuries or accidents every year. 

Research has also shown that approximately 1 out of every 10,000 horseback riders die each year in a riding or horse-related accident. The Equestrian Chanel says that about 7.1 million people go horseback riding every year in the United States. 

Based on the numbers and statistics above, we can then do the math for another rough estimate. For example— 7.1 million Americans / 10,000 * 1 death = 710 horseback riding or horse-related deaths every year. This means there are about 710 equestrian or horse-related deaths each year in the United States alone.

It is still important to remember that these numbers are an estimate and are not hard and fast numbers. That being said, they help to give us an idea of the annual numbers of equestrian injuries or deaths. 

9. 83.4% of horse riding injuries are caused by the rider falling off the horse.

Many people say that when you are learning, you have to fall off the horse— or bike, or whatever it is that you are learning!— and then get back up. In the world of horseback riding, though, this can be a very dangerous belief! The sport of horseback riding and of handling horses is pretty dangerous in general. 

Some research that was published in 2018 states that the majority of horseback riding accidents or injuries are actually caused by a rider falling off the horse. The purpose of this 2018 research, though, was to evaluate the most commonly occurring causes of horse-related accidents, as well as their severity and how to prevent them. 

The study concluded that 83.4% of horse-related accidents occur after the rider falls off of the horse. These accidents and reasons include the following— being bucked off the horse, falling off the horse, the horse falling on the equestrian, the horse falling with the equestrian, and being dragged by the horse. In addition, being stepped on by the horse or kicked accounts for 19.5%. 

Horse Riding Accidents

The above results were also supported by a study that was published back in 2003. This study found that most of the injuries, or 67% of them, that were admitted to the hospital were caused by horseback riding falls. Next was being kicked by a horse, at 19%, and it was also confirmed that most accidents, or 55% of them, occur in public places.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most common horse accident?

When it comes to the injuries that a rider can sustain during horseback riding, there are unfortunately quite a few of these. This is why it is so important to be safe, responsible, and careful when riding horses— and to use the proper equipment! The most common injury that an equestrian may sustain is a head injury, which can be debilitating and very dangerous, depending upon its severity. These head injuries are also gaining visibility, due to the amount of research now being made by scientists about the effects and long-term consequences of multiple concussions.

What are the most common horseback riding injuries?

There are plenty of common horseback riding injuries that can be sustained by both horse and rider. For equestrians, the most common of these injuries are those that occur to the trunk, head, and upper extremities of their body. Some of the more common of these types of injuries are fractures, head injuries, and injuries to the soft tissue. In fact, head injuries are about 50% of equestrian injuries and those that lead to hospitalization. Clearly, the sport of horseback riding can be very dangerous. This is why it is important for equestrians to be confident on horseback before they start trying to tackle more difficult events or rides— or more temperamental horses! 

Why are horses accident-prone?

Horses and horseback riding can be dangerous and account for many injuries of varying severity. Horses can cause injuries to themselves and to their riders unintentionally. One of the reasons that horses have so many accidents or sustain so many injuries is because of their long gait. Their gaits swing more and cover more ground, and also make the animals move faster. Because of this, though, this also makes them more susceptible to traumatic injuries. When rolling, they also take up more room and can potentially bump into things and get hurt. 

How many deaths are caused by horseback riding?

Horseback riding is a dangerous sport, especially when a rider is inexperienced or is not paying enough attention. Due to this, it is possible to have fatal horseback riding accidents. Approximately 1 out of every 10,000 equestrians die every year in a horse-related accident. It is also estimated that about 710 horse-related deaths happen every year.