Horseback Riding Injury Prevention

It is estimated that up to 30 million people in the U.S. ride horses, although most ride infrequently. The rate of serious traumatic brain injury for horse riders is about 7 times greater than for motorcycle riders and racecar drivers (MMWR, 1988). Head injuries are the most frequent cause of horse-related deaths (Nelson & Bixby-Hammett, 1992). Head injuries account for over 25% of the total rider death (Bixby-Hammett & Brooks, 1990; Anthony-Tolbert, 2002; Sports-related head injury, 2005).

The annual combined costs of horseback riding injuries and fatalities are estimated at $89.7 million (SSN EDARC,1999-2003). The annual cost of non-fatal horse-related injuries to youth age 0 – 19 years of age treated at emergency departments is estimated at $945.6 million with females age 10 to 19 years accounting for $443.7 million of that total (MMWR, 1990).

Use of Riding Helmets greatly reduces these risks. However, only about 50% of youth who ride horses believe that a helmet increased their safety, even though about 21% reported having received a riding-related head injury. Only 20% of youth horseback riders report that they wear an approved equestrian helmet each time they ride (McKee & Brady, 2004).  The Heather on Horseback simulation and Cost Tools demonstrate safe riding decision making and show the high costs to everyone when a rider is injured.