The increasing incidence of horse-riding accidents, which are often severe in nature, prompted a pilot study of a questionnaire designed to elucidate the cause of such accidents. It was hoped that, on a larger scale, the information gleaned would highlight possible preventative measures which might improve the safety of an important recreational pursuit enjoyed by young and old from many walks of life. A retrospective study of riders sustaining serious spinal injuries admitted to Stoke Mandeville Hospital was compared with riders sustaining minor but significant injuries as the accidents came to the attention of the authors. The detailed analysis paid particular attention to the setting and to the experience and task of horse and rider. It was found that 70% of the 20 accidents could be thought attributable to the behaviour of the horse at the time, and seven of these were in the spinal injuries group. Rider error was a significant contribution in seven cases, and in two instances the rider was under instruction at the time. There was also inadequate experience of the rider in seven cases, of which five were thought to show inadequate supervision. The limited number of cases studied precludes significant observations, but, as the majority of accidents seemed preventable, a larger study has been initiated in collaboration with the British Horse Society.
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