Horse riders doubled since 2000
Horse riding accidents
More than two million people regularly ride in the UK... and equestrianism is one of Britain’s most popular countryside pursuits.
The number of people taking to the saddle has nearly doubled since 2000.
But as the riding population increases, so do the fears that accidents are happening because not everyone taking part truly understands the risks of the sport.
Inside Out has learnt that in the Midlands alone, the air ambulance is now attending three horse riding incidents a week.
Air Ambulance attends three incidents each week
Accident numbers unknown
It is actually very difficult to know just how many riding accidents there are in Britain because - with the exception of top races and competitions - no-one is really keeping any detailed records.
But, after road accidents, paramedics attend more equestrian-related incidents than any other type.
So why are so many accidents happening?
It’s widely accepted there will always be a certain number of injuries and deaths when people are riding for pleasure or sport.
It is, after all, an active, and risky, pastime.
Ian Roberts: Down to riders approach to safety
And freak accidents will always happen.
Motorists are said to be to blame for some accidents – and the roads are indeed a dangerous place for riders.
But police statistics show officers in the Midlands actually attend very few incidents involving horses on the roads.
So there must be other reasons?
Helicopter paramedic Ian Roberts believes it’s simply down to riders’ approach to safety.
He says while many people do wear the correct safety gear, such as hats and body protectors, others do not.
Horse kick can lead to broken bones... or worse
"Generally speaking the standard could be a lot higher," Ian said.
"If they were to see what we see on a regular basis, I think they would certainly change their ways."
Some safety experts believe rider complacency, as well as a lack of knowledge about riding and horses, could also be to blame.
For example, some people are injured before they even get into the saddle. A stray kick from a horse can lead to broken bones, even worse.
And Karen Tolley, from Warwickshire College, says such accidents are more likely to happen as the riding population expands and more people take up the sport.
“There is an increased risk of an accident happening because people not from farming or rural backgrounds perhaps will not have the same understanding of horse behaviour and stockmanship.
“That can make them a little more vulnerable.”
Karen says the accident rate could be reduced by highlighting the risks and through better training and education.
But Andrew Finding, Chief Executive of the British Equestrian Federation, believes most riders are aware of the risks.
He says the riding authorities have worked hard to improve safety and ultimately, it is down to personal responsibility.
"First and foremost people need to take responsibility for themselves.
"But I think if you watch any equestrian event on television you’ll see someone fall over at least once.
"So I think people are alert to the fact there are risks associated with it."
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last updated: 09/10/07