On and off the horse: mechanisms and patterns of injury in mounted and unmounted equestrians

Injury. 2014 Sep;45(9):1479-83. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2014.03.016. Epub 2014 Apr 1.


Introduction: The purpose of this study is to determine whether discrepant patterns of horse-related trauma exist in mounted vs. unmounted equestrians from a single Level I trauma center to guide awareness of injury prevention.

Methods: Retrospective data were collected from the University of Kentucky Trauma Registry for patients admitted with horse-related injuries between January 2003 and December 2007 (n=284). Injuries incurred while mounted were compared with those incurred while unmounted.

Results: Of 284 patients, 145 (51%) subjects were male with an average age of 37.2 years (S.D. 17.2). Most injuries occurred due to falling off while riding (54%) or kick (22%), resulting in extremity fracture (33%) and head injury (27%). Mounted equestrians more commonly incurred injury to the chest and lower extremity while unmounted equestrians incurred injury to the face and abdomen. Head trauma frequency was equal between mounted and unmounted equestrians. There were 3 deaths, 2 of which were due to severe head injury from a kick. Helmet use was confirmed in only 12 cases (6%).

Conclusion: This evaluation of trauma in mounted vs. unmounted equestrians indicates different patterns of injury, contributing to the growing body of literature in this field. We find interaction with horses to be dangerous to both mounted and unmounted equestrians. Intervention with increased safety equipment practice should include helmet usage while on and off the horse.

Keywords: Equitation; Head injury; Safety equipment; Trauma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Injuries / epidemiology
  • Abdominal Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Accident Prevention
  • Accidents
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology
  • Athletic Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / epidemiology
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / prevention & control*
  • Facial Injuries / epidemiology
  • Facial Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / epidemiology
  • Fractures, Bone / prevention & control*
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Horses
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Protective Devices / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Trauma Centers / statistics & numerical data
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / epidemiology
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / prevention & control*