Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The physics of falling

You can find anything on the Internet! And I love it. Check out this link from Lorien Stables, and their horse fall impact calculator. Using this calculator, I figure I hit the ground at about 14 miles per hour when I fell off Riley.

BTW, if you calculate a fall from 17.1H versus 15H, it makes a small difference but not nearly as much as the speed you're going or the force of the buck.

If that sounds true, this does not...
I think the research below is junk science.

The Book of Odds quotes these stats:
In a landmark 1985 study, Dr. J.L. Firth estimated that while "a serious incident can be expected at the rate of 1 per 7,000 hours of motorcycle riding, serious injury rates exceeding one per 350 horse riding hours have been described, making horseback riding 20 times more dangerous than motorcycling."

Granted, motorcyclists spend more time riding their vehicles than we do our horses, but still this statistic seems skewed. If this were true for the average competitive dressage rider, there would be a serious accident every couple of years...


  1. Actually, the Odds quote is probably right. It isn't true for the average dressage rider, but for the average rider, which includes eventers, polo players, people who break horses and pleasure riders. That said, serious injury is much different than death and I suspect, you are much more likely to die in a single motorcycle accident than a single serious fall, which usually includes broken bones that require the ER.

  2. When I had to go to the emergency room with a broken wrist from a fall off my horse, the orthopedic surgeon said horseback riding was considered one of the most dangerous sports. Again, not fatal injuries, but, as HopefullyGrowing suggests, broken bones and such. Have to wonder if getting bitten, stepped on, kicked, and generally knocked around by handling unruly horses is included in the estimate?

  3. I was thrown off on Saturday. I hadn't ridden for two weeks because of weather, vet, farrier appointments. The heat wave had broken, so I thought it would be a great time to go for a lovely gallop through the hayfields...

    I failed to keep my heels down. When I'm in two point my horse tends to bore downwards on the bit. So I threw him some slack, bridged on his crest and... he did it anyway.
    The load shifted. It was all my fault. Well, the dirty bucking when he got a heel in his flank was not my fault, but it was the standard, predictable response.

    So there I sat in the hayfield, trying to phone the barn. No signal. I remember the hike back. I remember seeing a neighbor leading my horse towards the barn. I remember registering that my near side stirrup was missing. I remember thanking the neighbor. I remember rehanging my remaining leather on the near side and trotting back to the scene of the crime with one stirrup, but not remounting from the ground. I do NOT remember spotting my lost stirrup. I do remember remounting in the hayfield. I think I got my bell rung pretty well, but the real casualty was my right ankle which I distinctly remember hitting on the cantle while I was in orbit up there. It is bright purple. I did have the moxy to go back to the outdoor and do some canter cavaletti's so I guess my psyche is still in tact.

    Consulting historical averages, I think I'm good now until the summer of 2015.

    1. Wow, we had the same fall for almost the same reasons. I have a bad habit of letting my leg swing too far back. I was in two point galloping up the side of the hill -with my POW spurs I had contemplated taking off but didn't -goosed my horse, he bucked, I was in a crappy 2 point (weak, too far up his neck) and I came right off over his left shoulder. Hit the ground like a bag of rocks!

  4. Unfortunately according to the CDC data horseback riding results in more ER visits than motorcycle riding.

  5. That motorcycle info has to be skewed the wrong way because my husband dirt bikes and he comes back with a crash story EVERY time he rides on the trails.

  6. I remember reading similar studies put out by insurance companies (I think they were Australian or British). Anyway, further in one of the studies they broke it down to what type of riding you do, and the types of injuries that are most common for each type of riding. No surprises: eventing had the highest rate of most serious injuries and dressage the lowest rates. Just like in car accidents, speed matters!

    However, what surprised me about the different scenarios was that there were a small percent of "non-riding" serious accidents too -- the horse's mass and ability to move quickly means that there is always the potential for injury when handling or being around them. As riders, we need to practice/think safety and awareness all of the time. Not that I would ride a motorcycle, but at least a motorcycle, when parked, remains parked! :)


  7. In my 30 years of riding I have come off 10 times, and it was a stupid fall where I shouldn't have come off and my horse certainly didn't do enough to have thought I would come off that was the only truly bad fall. Well, the horse who fell off the ground and landed on me should count, too. Other injuries were all minor - but the concussion from the falling horse resulted in an urgent care visit, and the back sprain last year resulted in many Dr visits and 6 months of pain.

    I probably averaged 10 hours/week in the saddle for 7 years prior to college, 4 hours/week for 4 years of college, a break, and over the last 3 1/2 years probably about 5 hours/week. At 5382 hours and 2 serious injuries, I'm more in the motorcycle range. And that's without counting all the other years of varied number of hours of riding I don't want to bother calculating.

    I'd say maybe those numbers are right depending how you define serious, and also if you take into consideration those who are more fragile or injury-prone.

  8. I know I'm late to these comments, but I think the statistic probably is true. Horses are super unpredictable and I've had tons of falls off horses compared to zero accidents that my bf has had with his motorcycle. As someone already mentioned though, when people do have accidents on motorcycles I'm sure they're much more fatal. It would probably be more accurate to compare deaths in people riding horses vs motorcycles, since I'm sure a lot of motorcycle accidents go straight to the coroner and bypass the ER completely. I've been really lucky with my falls and I think it can be really easy to forget the risks we take when riding and working with horses. Obviously I think it's worth it, but just a good reminder to be sensible and wear a helmet and to avoid riding when totally alone/no one knows where you're going.


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