Rider Safety Program Releases New Booklet on Safe Return to Riding

UK HealthCare, in partnership with University of Kentucky colleges of Agriculture, Food and Environment and Public Health and in conjunction with nearly 50 community, equine and medical organizations, has released a new educational booklet within the Saddle Up Safely educational partnership.

“Safe Return to Riding” covers topics that include what to do immediately after an accident, preparing for an injury, and returning to riding after a significant injury or long illness. It contains a newly developed equestrian injury and concussion assessment tool and gives information about calories burned during 30 minutes of activity, safety and helmets.

The booklet was written by members of the Saddle Up Safely Auxiliary, a group of volunteers passionate about rider safety issues who serve to help create and disseminate the campaign’s educational messages.

“The auxiliary regularly met to discuss and debate each safety point to ensure the recommendations were grounded in good horsemanship and were realistic,” said Bill Gombeski, senior advisor, Office of the Executive Vice President for Health Affairs at UK HealthCare and Saddle Up Safely leader. “I really appreciate their dedication and vision.”

Auxiliary member and longtime core member of the campaign, Fernanda Camargo, an equine extension professor within UK’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences, shared what it meant to her to return to riding and why she felt the booklet was helpful.

“I was a little anxious to return to riding after having a child. But I did it slowly; I used a horse that I trusted; and I leaned on the solid equitation foundation I had built throughout the years,” she said “Those three elements together ensured I returned to riding successfully and gave me the confidence to start on new riding challenges.”

Saddle Up Safely was launched as a partnership in 2009 in advance of the 2010 World Equestrian Games in response to the number of riders admitted to UK’s Chandler emergency department. The national campaign aims to increase awareness and to educate riders about riding and horse handling safety. The campaign’s ultimate goal is to reduce the number and severity of rider injuries and to help make a great sport safer.

“Saddle Up Safely is an example of the type of collaborative effort that a land-grant institution strives for; it involves a number of colleges and draws on the expertise of industry participants to produce an educational product beneficial to the entire equine industry,” said Jill Stowe, director of UK Ag Equine Programs.

Statistics underscore the need for increased safety awareness. According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System’s 2014 estimates, millions of people ride horses each year, generating approximately 50,688 emergency room visits, with more than 16.6% =of those being admitted to the hospital.

While motorcycle riders experience a serious injury approximately every 7,000 hours of riding, horseback riders experience one nearly every 350 hours, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is estimated that one in five equestrians will be seriously injured during their riding careers. Novice riders, especially children and young adults, are eight times more likely to suffer a serious injury than professional equestrians.

The campaign features several tools to inform and educate, including a series of informational brochures; an interactive website featuring safety tips and stories from injured riders as well as Camargo’s horse rider safety blog; continuing education opportunities for medical personnel and first responders; education-based programs and an auxiliary comprised of volunteers.

To visit the campaign website, read one of several booklets, share tips about experiences involving horse and rider safety or to read the blog, go to

For a copy of the safe return to riding booklet, visit

UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, through its land-grant mission, reaches across the commonwealth with teaching, research and extension to enhance the lives of Kentuckians.






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