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   Inside Out - Yorkshire & Lincolnshire: Friday March 23, 2007
Young horse riders
"You never think it's going to happen to you." Lucy Caley's mum
How safe is horse riding and are you safety conscious?

Riding dangers

Most children love horse riding, and there's no doubt that learning to ride can be a thrilling experience.

But it's one that can turn to tragedy - at any age.

Imagine a motorbike that does 180mph, 0-60 in three seconds.

In the wrong hands, a horse can be lethal - an accident waiting to happen.

Even Superman, Christopher Reeve, a gifted horseman, was left paralysed after a riding accident.

Inside Out reveals disturbing evidence that thousands of us are underestimating the risks of learning to ride.

Serious accidents

Air ambulance crews had to be scrambled to help the victims of serious riding accidents in rural Yorkshire and Lincolnshire nearly 150 times in 2006.

Falls from horses can result in broken bones, spinal injuries, even brain damage.

Horse riding can be a dangerous sport

In fact, our two air ambulances carried more riders to hospital last year than motorcyclists.

Our research revealed something else surprising - that you're actually 20 times more likely to have an accident on a horse than on a bike.

Unlike a motorbike, a horse isn't a machine - it hasn't got brakes, and you've got a lot further to fall.

And the injuries can be just as bad, if not worse.

Doctors say that injuries are an inevitable consequence of horse riding - especially in rural areas such as North Yorkshire.


Many patients escape serious injury and are released from hospital within days.

But others aren't so lucky.

Sarah Beal was picked up after a hunting accident - her injuries were horrendous.

She owes her life to the air ambulance crew - she was minutes from death when their helicopter arrived.

Injured rider
Sarah suffered horrendous injuries

Now she's back riding again on the same horse.

But for some, a fall means never being able to ride again.

Sally Wilson owns a stable of 30 racehorses near Louth.

But she wasn't racing when her accident happened - she was in her own stable yard when her horse threw her and she broke her neck.

Sally spent a year in hospital and is now paralysed - the accident has changed her life completely.

In spite of all she's been through, Sally says she would get back on a horse tomorrow if she could.

She's now learning to drive a horse and carriage, with the help of an instructor from Riding for the Disabled.

Safe ride

Over a million of our children ride - and most grow up to become real enthusiasts, passing on their love of the sport to the next generation.

But what danger are we putting them in?

Lucy Caley shared the family's passion for horses and riding.

Aged just 13 she was an expert horsewoman frequently competing in local show jumping events.

Lucy Caley
Lucy Caley loved riding but died tragically after a fall

Lucy was known by all her friends to be a stickler for safety.

Then one day while she was riding with friends near Beverley, she came off and the horse fell on top of her.

She died of her injuries.

Lucy had taken all the right precautions, but in the end they weren't enough:

"Lucy's accident was a complete freak - it shattered her liver… she was wearing a back protector.. nothing could have saved her.. it was one of those freak falls."

Her mum says it has been a great loss:

"You never think it's going to happen to you."

Safety first

Three million people ride in Britain - and riding lessons are as much a part of life for many families as piano lessons.

Emma Milne riding
Keen horsewoman and vet Emma Milne says always learn to ride at a reputable riding school

So are our riding schools up to scratch and is safety high on their agendas?

We asked Anne Pickles who runs a riding school near Keighley.

She has serious concerns that children aren't always being taught properly.

So if you've thinking about taking riding lessons, check out the credentials of the school you're going to first.

For some people riding is in their blood, but safety is something that increasingly we need to be concerned about.

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Riding lesson
Safe riding - take precautions and wear protective gear

Safe riding tips

Here are Inside Out's top tips for safe horse riding:

* Learn to ride with a fully qualified instructor.

* Always wear a riding helmet which conforms to current safety standards PAS 015 or BS EN 1384.

* Wear proper riding boots with a heel and instep to stop your foot slipping through the stirrup. Never ride in trainers.

* Ensure your horse matches your riding ability.

* Take a Riding Road Safety test.

* Read the British Horse Society's safety advice


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