Global equestrians were shocked by the March death of Olivia Inglis, a 17-year old horse rider. The hashtag #rideforolivia became a viral sensation. Two months later, Caitlyn Fischer, 19, died in an identical event. Both girls were skilled riders and specialized in event, an Olympic equestrian event in Australia in which Australian horses compete internationally. It consists of three phases: cross country, dressage and showjumping.
Both girls were killed in a series of rotational falls while on the cross-country course. Cross-country is especially dangerous because it involves galloping across solid obstacles on mixed terrain. This phase is known for its high speed and frequent falls.
- A horse that clips a solid fence or falls on its side can be fatally injured.
- Wayne Roycroft of the International Equestrian Federation called them freak events.
- Their deaths are tragic. How risky is horse riding and event?
There Horse Are Risks
One researcher tracked down rider deaths at all levels of event around the world. Between 1993 and 2015, she identified 59 confirmed riders who died. This is an average global death rate of 2.68 per year in event. In 1999, Dr Bruce Paix, an Australian trauma specialist, published a highly-cited article claiming that event is more dangerous than car or motorcycle racing. Paix concluded that event was 70 times more dangerous than horse riding, and 180 times more dangerous at the highest levels.
However, can event compare with other forms of horse riding or even motorcycle racing? Paix calculated injury rates per hour spent in the saddle. Recent research suggests that the risk of injury is not equally distribute in an event competition. This is why the water jump is so popular. Another option is to examine injury rates per field starter. This data doesn’t distinguish between falls at obstacles and those on the ground.
Denzil O’Brien recently criticized the method of measuring injury. He suggested that it was more accurate to calculate injury rates per jump attempt. It is at these jumps that both horse and rider are most at risk for a rotational falls. Event may not be as dangerous as motorbike or car racing, but are they more likely to cause death than other forms of injury?
An estimated 20 horses-related injuries cause death each year in Australia. This compares to the average of 1.7 shark attacks-related deaths. There is always a chance that a rider may lose control of a horse they are riding. There is always a chance that a beachgoer will be expose to sharks if they swim in shark-infested water. These events are freakish This isn’t semantic quibbling about terminology. Freak events are often regard as those that cannot be prevent. They might not have been possible to predict.
There is a concern that the horse-related death of a horse could be view as a rare event and lead to an indifferent attitude towards safety for those most at greatest risk. The freak factor is not only applicable to rock climbers, base jumpers, motorcycle riders and base jumpers, but it also applies to anyone who is astride or handling a half-tonne animal that can run 50 km/h, has its own mind and teeth, and doesn’t fear using them.
Safety apathy is a risk for equestrians. This is compound by the acceptance that horses can be dangerous due to their unpredictable nature as herd animals. Their flight instincts are always ready to kick in when their riders are kick off. Horse-related injuries can be cause by horses being unpredictable. If it activates complacency, that is.
Technical Horse Controls
Although no sentient being (human include) can predict the future, there are technical controls that can be use to decrease the chance of an accident, injury, or death. Are we missing the point? Instead of focusing on how unpredictable horses can be, how about how humans read horses and interpret them? Are we able to improve our ability to predict horse behavior?
There is a fine line between confident-aggressive, shy-afraid or quiet-sick, as any recipient of a dog bite or horse kick might know. Some tools have been develop by animal scientists to allow us to communicate with the animals. The Horse Grimace Scale was create by researchers to allow for the scoring of horses’ pain faces. The assessor is require to carefully examine the horse’s ears and facial features.
This chart was create to assist horse owners in interpreting their horses. Although it is not a cure-all for horse-related fatalities, understanding the horse’s facial expressions is a good idea. A lot of experienced riders and trainers who are keenly observant and sensitive to horses will often claim that they can see things from a mile away.
However, the question should not be about whether horses are unpredictable but rather how we can better understand and interpret horse behavior. Talking to horses might be more common than getting injure by them.