Tuesdays with Tony

While doing a little late night reading on the computer, I came across a research paper titled, The demographics of equestrian-related injuries in the United States: injury patterns, orthopedic specific injuries, and avenues for injury prevention. It proved to be fascinating reading. It also led me down what you humans commonly refer to as a rabbit hole. I spent most of the night reading up on how horses hurt you humans, and had to spend the rest of the following day sound asleep on the bench in front of the Clinic. To save you from a sleepless night, I will share with you some of what I learned.


Keep your arms and legs inside the ride


About 15% of injuries happened while humans were on the ground. Of the non-riding injuries, the majority were to the feet. This made sense to me. If you stand in the Clinic long enough (and by that I mean about 15 minutes) you’ll see a horse stand on a human foot. Many of these foot injuries led to long-term pain. When it came to riding injuries, arms and legs were involved a whopping 46% of the time. This also makes sense if you think about what humans do when they fall off a horse. Arms go flailing, and legs usually get stuck in a stirrup.


Mind your melon


I’m going to get to the traumatic brain injury part of things, but first it seems if horses don’t stomp your foot, they whack you in the head. In one study around 25% of non-riding injuries were to the head (they also had a mid-facial area but that seems like another word for head if you ask this cat).

For riding injuries, the head came in first for reasons a rider showed up at a hospital. In this study it was 17.5% of the cases. However, head trauma was responsible for the majority of hospital stays, and increased the length of hospital stay. I will say nothing more than wear a helmet when you ride. I know it’s not cool in all disciplines, but horses and head injuries go together.


Your age and gender as a factor


This should come as no surprise to anyone involved in horses: women and girls were massively over-represented at 89.5% of injuries! Turns out you also don’t get smarter with age. One study found the peak incidence of injuries at 14 years old. However, another found early 20s, followed by late 40s and early 50s to be additional bumps in the injury incidence.


Wild Horses


There were multiple studies that looked at the human’s level of horse experience, and personality matching of horse to human. Now this is a tough thing to do. However, they found some interesting stuff. The more you actually know about horses, as defined by hours spent with horses in formal training environments, the less likely you are to have serious injury. When humans described themselves as “self-taught” they were more likely to have horse related injuries. Even more fascinating to this cat was this entire paragraph:

Similarly, humans tend to devalue the importance of equine safety at point of sale, possibly where sellers can be seduced by financial return. For example, human desire for financial benefit might result in knowledge of undesirable horse traits and/or dangerous behaviours being withheld from a buyer. Alternatively, it may result from a buyer’s desire to own a horse regardless of such concerns (perhaps due to high self-efficacy in addressing them). More naively, selling unsuitable horses to riders may be facilitated by a lack of buyer expectation and devaluation of safety.1


How do you avoid injury?


Be aware of the fact that horses are big, and have a major flight or fight response. Look at situations from a horse’s point of view, and try to anticipate your horse’s response. This will give you some advanced warning. Speaking of your horse’s point of view….working with your horse to acclimate them to this weird human world will help reduce those fight or flight moments.

Work your brain, too. “The more you learn about horses, the less you know.” – George Morris. This George guy is somewhat famous in some horse circles, but he speaks the truth. Seek out great horse people to teach you more about horses. Then protect that knowledge by wearing a helmet.


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  1.  Preventing and Investigating Horse-Related Human Injury and Fatality in Work and Non-Work Equestrian Environments: A Consideration of the Workplace Health and Safety Framework

Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!

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