A retrospective survey has been carried out of 59 patients who suffered head injury related to horse riding out of 7172 cases of head and spinal injury admitted to a regional head injury unit in the 5-year period 1980-85. Most (85%) were female, against the usual 80% male predominance of head injury, 56 were minor injuries and 3 severe, of whom 2 died. Skull fracture was present in 10 patients (17%) of whom at least 5 had been wearing headgear at impact, and scalp trauma was noted in 22 (37%) with a predominance of occipital injuries. All the severely injured cases had an occipital skull fracture. One fifth of the patients suffered additional significant injuries. While most patients (90%) made a good recovery, 2 remained moderately and one severely disabled. Horse riding posed a significant risk of head injury to the population of riders, mainly young women. This survey suggests that the wearing of amateur riding headgear does not adequately protect the rider from scalp and skull injury, particularly in the occipital region.