Robert O. Dawson
What kinds of injuries result from horse accidents? From what kinds of accidents do serious injuries result? Here are brief summaries of stories from English-language newspapers and similar sources throughout the world reporting on deaths and injuries to humans from accidents involving horses.
The full story is often available on the web site of the newspaper that reported the accident. Sometimes, those archived stories are available without charge and sometimes for a small fee. The name of the newspaper and the date of each story have been included in the summary to facilitate locating the full story.
Accidents While Mounted, Driving or Riding
BBC Monitoring reported on July 5, 2002 a story from the Russian news agency Interfax that a Chechen mercenary leader, Abu al-Walid, was drowned when he attempted to cross a river on horseback. He and his horse were swept downstream by a sudden wave.
The Canadian Press reported in July 1, 2002 that Sumner Dawn Bushie, a seven-year-old girl was killed when she tumbled off a horse-drawn wagon and was crushed by a wheel. She was riding in the wagon during the Dene Tha First Nation’s annual cultural assembly celebration when she fell.
The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin reported on July 8, 2002 that a horse drawing a carriage was spooked when occupants of a passing car threw firecrackers at it. The horse broke free of its tether and dashed ten blocks down the street through traffic pulling the carriage. A bystander boarded the runaway carriage but was thrown from it when the horse swerved and the carriage struck a curb.
The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, California reported on July 7, 2002 that Claude Stevenson, a 51-year-old Ventura woman, died from injuries sustained when she was thrown from her horse while riding in Norco June 21.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on July 19, 2002 that Denton County Judge Mary Horn suffered a broken back when she fell while trying to mount her horse at her family ranch. The horse trotted off while Judge Horn had her foot in the stirrup. She reported that the saddle tipped as she attempted to mount.
BBC Monitoring reported on July 16, 2002 that Egyptian news agency MENA stated on its web site that two British tourists were injured when they fell from their horses while touring the archaeological sites in Luxor, Egypt. One tourist fractured the lower part of her skull and the other sustained bruises and wounds.
Broadcast News reported on July 22, 2002 that a driver was injured in Edmonton, Canada during a Klondike Days chuckwagon race. Forty-year-old Doug Green was taken to a hospital after he was thrown from his cart and run over by another wagon. He is in stable condition but with undetermined injuries.
The Reno Gazette-Journal in Nevada reported on July 22, 2002 that 61-year-old Glenna Moore was killed after falling off her horse and being trampled. She and a friend were trail riding when the horse slipped on mud by the side of the road, the woman fell off, and the animal stepped on her several times. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Topeka Capital-Journal in Kansas reported on July 21, 2002 that John Emerson has filed a lawsuit against the Boot Hill Museum for injuries he suffered while driving a stagecoach owned by the Museum. Emerson said he fell when he lost control of the horses and the floor beneath him collapsed. He fell underneath the coach and a wheel ran over his right femur about two inches from his hipbone. There were no passengers in the stagecoach at the time.
The National Post in Canada reported on August 1, 2002 that a five-year-old girl was killed after being dragged by a horse on a farm. The girl, who was in the care of a babysitter, wandered into a field with the family horse. She grabbed a rope around the horse’s neck and was fatally injured when the animal started to run. Apparently, the little girl had wrapped the rope around her hand.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on July 30, 2002 that a jury has awarded damages of $675,000 against a doctor for injuries caused by his negligent driving of a carriage. Donald Rosato, 67, was driving a ten-passenger carriage through the aisle of a barn with a very close clearance on each side. A passenger, Debra Bill-Harvey, was injured when her head struck part of the barn’s structure. She spent two days in a hospital, where she was treated for head trauma, broken vertebrae and multiple lacerations. She also reported suffering from persistent back pain.
The Toronto Star reported on August 7, 2002 that a police constable was injured when the horse she was riding on patrol tripped, throwing her to the ground and falling on her. Constable Susan Aiken was returning to the barn on her mount Duke at a trot when the accident occurred. She radioed for help and was taken to a hospital in an ambulance. She was examined for chest injuries, but they proved not to be serious. Duke was uninjured and remained at the scene.
The New Zealand Press Association reported on August 12, 2002 that an Irish woman, on holiday, was injured while on a horse-trekking outing. The woman, who is in her mid-twenties, had been riding with the group on Mount Ngongotaha when she galloped ahead of the guide, lost her balance and fell off the horse. She was airlifted to a hospital where she was examined and released.
The Post-Standard in Syracuse, New York reported on August 23, 2002 that Arlene Ann Sabine-Sweet, 35, died while riding a horse along a public road. She had a skull fracture and bruising of the brain, but it is unclear how she sustained those injuries or what exactly was the cause of death. She was galloping ahead of a riding companion when she suddenly fell from the horse and struck her head on the gravel road.
The Gainesville Times in Georgia reported on August 22, 2002 that Judy Lynn Knight, 49, died of severe head injuries when she fell from her horse. A trainer, she was riding a horse ponying another horse when her horse spooked and threw her.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on August 21, 2002 that Suzanne Krouse, 47, a practicing lawyer and former Assistant District Attorney, died of streptococcus infection following a riding accident. Her infection began after she jammed her left thumb while her jumping her horse during a riding session July 27. She aggravated the injury during a riding competition the next day. After the infection progressed and gangrene set in, doctors amputated her hand in an effort to save her life.
The Baton Rouge Advocate reported on August 21, 2002 that Jaclyn L. Garza, 20, died when she jumped from her horse as it was headed for a busy highway. Ms. Garza had just finished a pole bending event at a rodeo in Brookhaven, Mississippi when the curb chain on her reins broke and the horse ran out an open gate toward the highway. Ms. Garza struck her head on the ground as she jumped from her horse.
The South Bend Tribune reported on August 16, 2002 that in Bourbon, Indiana a runaway horse pulling an unoccupied buggy gave police a chase for about 15 minutes. At one point, a police unit attempted to block the horse’s path, but the horse swerved and the carriage wheels effectively “keyed” the police vehicle. The horse was captured uninjured. Police had no explanation for why he spooked.
The Evening Mail in the United Kingdom reported on August 28, 2002 that Tim Stockdale, member of Britain’s showjumping team for the World Equestrian Games, broke his collar bone when a novice horse he was trying out in Belgium left a hind leg on the fence and tipped over.
The New Zealand Press Association reported on August 28, 2002 that Blyth Tait has recovered from horrific facial injuries to ride once again in international eventing competition. While warming up a horse in England on July 27, the horse threw her head up into Tait’s face. Doctors said he would be unable to ride for four to six weeks after they reset his eye socket and put a plate in his fractured cheekbone. Yet, a mere two weeks later Tait finished second in a one-day event in Cherbourg, France--on a different horse.
The Australian Associated Press reported on September 5, 2002 that a 21-year-old woman was airlifted to a hospital after being thrown from her horse on her property near Goomeri, Queensland. The hospital has listed her in critical condition with severe head injuries.
USA Today reported on September 12, 2002 that Christopher Reeve, paralyzed in an eventing accident in 1995, claims a new treatment has restored some sense of feel in his extremities. Reeve’s fall compressed his spinal cord at a cervical vertebrae high in his neck, leaving him unable to move or feel below the injury or to breathe unassisted. About two years ago, he began to regain some feeling of touch and movement with the fingers of his left hand, his feet and right wrist. The recovery followed an experimental regimen of exercises in which his muscles move through electric shocks. Washington University in St. Louis, where his treatment is based, has established a web site to field inquiries about the treatment: www.spine.wustl.edu.
Broadcast News in Canada reported on September 9, 2002 that Adrian Veldman, 28, of Lethbridge, Alberta, an experienced equestrian, drowned while trying to cross the Oldman River on horseback. Witnesses say the horse panicked in the deep water and while trying to calm the animal, Veldman was swept underwater. His body was found about 100 metres downstream from where he was trying to cross and his dead horse was found on a gravel bar about 60 metres farther downstream.
The Florida Times-Union reported on September 7, 2002 that a
10-year-old girl was injured after falling off a horse.
Chelsee Simms was riding a horse on a public street in Mandarin, Florida
when the horse went out of control and ran into a parked truck.
The impact caused the girl to be thrown into a fence.
Accidents While on the Ground
The Times of India reported on June 27, 2002 that the horse being ridden by a bridegroom in a marriage procession ran amok crushing one person to death. The unruly horse created chaos as others in the procession ran helter-skelter. The horse finally came to a halt, but not before killing Mohan Rao Karu, 59.
The Irish Times reported on July 4, 2002 that 22-year-old Hazel O’Callaghan, an accomplished equestrienne, was killed in Kildare when the slipped and fell while attempting to load a horse into a trailer. She died of head injuries.
The Times of London reported on August 5, 2002 that Sarah Quick, who is in her 30s, almost lost her arm after she was bitten by a horse on her father’s Devon farm. Surgeons spent nearly four hours saving the limb. The RSPCA said this was Britain’s most serious injury from a horse bite.
Deseret News in Utah reported on August 10, 2002 that a 2-year-old child and his grandfather were taken to hospitals after they were run over by a spooked horse while they were attending a 4-H show in the Salt Lake County Fairgrounds. The horse was apparently spooked by a bag being placed on its mane. The child had lacerations on his head. Both child and grandfather were treated and released.
The Canadian Press reported on August 23, 2002 that nine children were injured when they were thrown from their horses during a trial ride at a summer camp in Alberta. The children, aged 8 to 10, were riding when their horses spooked and went into a gallop. They were taken to a hospital where a spokesman said that three suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries, while six were treated for minor cuts and bruises and released. Heritage Ranch, which hosted the trail ride, requires that children wear helmets while mounted.
The St. Petersburg Times in Florida reported on August 27, 2002 that Ben Frisbie, 25, of Brooksville was injured by being kicked by a sick horse he was attempting to treat. He was endeavoring to keep the ailing horse on its feet when the horse kicked him in the jaw, inflicting a severe tear. Frisbie was airlifted to a hospital.
The Press Democrat in California reported on September 5, 2002 that a Gary Cunningham, 47, originally believed to have died from a horse’s kick, may instead have been run over by a horse trailer. Cunningham died after he and his wife stopped their truck and trailer to check on an agitated horse. He was found on the ground with injuries to his head. His wife, Sandra Bonelli, who was driving, believed he had been kicked by one of four horses in the trailer. An autopsy showed tire tracks on his back and that he could have died from either head or chest trauma. The accident occurred as the two were near their home. Cunningham told his wife to keep driving while he stood on the right wheel fender attempting to calm the horse.
The Sunday Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania reported on September 15, 2002 that Maynard Long, 49, was found unconscious on his barn floor after apparently being kicked by a horse. He was flown by helicopter to a hospital for treatment of severe head injuries.
The Charleston Gazette reported on September 9, 2002 that actress Patty Duke, 55, was hospitalized after suffering a concussion and skull fracture when she tried to apply fly spray to a two-year-old filly in her barn. The hospital listed her in fair condition.
Accidents Involving Motor Vehicles
Florida Today reported on June 22, 2002 that Rebecca Day, 15, was seriously injured when she and her Belgian quarter horse, Rob, were struck by a pickup truck in West Melbourne, Florida. Ms. Day suffered serious head and leg injuries and was taken to a hospital, but the impact killed her 2,300 pound horse instantly. Rebecca’s mother was riding along the north side of the road when Rebecca attempted to cross to her side when she was struck.
The Intelligencer Journal in Lancaster, Pennsylvania reported on June 29, 2002 that a fire station is holding a fund-raising event to benefit the family of Samuel and Anna Mary Ebersol. The Ebersol’s infant daughter, Rebecca Sue, and Ms. Ebersol’s 12-year-old sister, Rachel Ann Stoltzfus, were killed when the buggy in which all four were riding was struck by a motor vehicle that was driven away from the scene. Mr. Ebersol has been a volunteer fire fighter for over 10 years.
The Lancaster New Era in Pennsylvania reported on July 11, 2002 that a hit-and-run vehicle slammed into a horse and buggy requiring the hospitalization of three of the buggy’s occupants. The injured passengers are listed in fair condition at an area hospital.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on July 17, 2002 that the driver of an Amish buggy was injured when his horse inexplicitly lurched in front of a tractor-trailer. The collision required the horse to be euthanized and the driver of both the buggy and the tractor-trailer to be hospitalized.
The Waikato Times in New Zealand reported on July 24, 2002 that a criminal charge against the owner of a horse that escaped from its pasture and collided with a motorist, killing him, was dismissed during trial. The judge ruled there was insufficient evidence that the owner had breached her legal duty to confine the horse. The claim was made that the fence was inadequately maintained, but the judge said that charge was not sustained by the evidence.
The Bangor Daily News in Maine reported on July 23, 2002 that the driver of a motor vehicle that struck a horse on the highway suffered only minor injuries, but that the horse was killed instantly. The accident happened at night and the driver could not see the dark-colored horse in time to avoid the collision.
The Cincinnati Post reported on August 22, 2002 that three occupants of a horse-drawn buggy were seriously injured when a pickup truck rear-ended the buggy. The youngest victim, Anna Hershberger, 1, was flown to a hospital in critical condition.
The Agence France-Presse reported on August 28, 2002 that in Johannesburg, South Africa a police horse on duty at the United Nations Earth Summit escaped from its handler and struck a car being operated by a delegate at the Summit. It struck the left side of her car, breaking off the side mirror. Later, it hit another car, causing its saddle to fall off. The runaway horse was pursued by an officer on another horse and was captured.
The Press-Enterprise in Riverside, California reported on September 7, 2002 that Ellen Nash, 50, was injured when the car she was driving collided with a horse. She was taken to a hospital for treatment of back pain. The horse, with no rider or saddle, was dead at the scene.
Preventing Injuries from Horse Accidents
The National Post in Canada reported on July 13, 2002 on the research by University of Calgary lecturer Dale Butterwick on rodeo injuries. His research focuses on a protective device that will prevent deaths and serious injuries by rodeo participants. He had made a career of treating rodeo injuries and has published two of his studies in the American Journal of Sports Medicine and in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine. His rankings of risk is that bull riding with 32.2 injuries for every 1,000 rides is the most dangerous while ladies’ barrel racing with 1.5 injuries for every 1,000 rides is the safest.
Butterwick is doing research to design protective gear for bull riders by first measuring the force exerted by the feet of a bull while bucking, since most injuries to bull riders occur when the bull stomps the rider he has just bucked off. Once the force has been measured, Butterwick hopes to design a thoracic compression protective device that will save the lives of the cowboys. He is confident that with funding he can accomplish his objective in about five years.
The British Medical Journal reported on July 20, 2002 that research in the United Kingdom shows that horseback riding is more dangerous than motorcycle riding. A motorcyclist can expect one injury for each 7000 hours on his or her bike, while an equestrian can expect one injury for every 350 hours—a frequency 20 times greater. The British Horse Society is aware of about 8 incidents a day, and one third of these result in head injuries.
The Tennessean in Nashville reported on August 22, 2002 that a new ordinance will if passed regulate the urban horse carriage industry to improve its human safety record. The ordinance will require carriage companies to hold an operating license that would be renewed annually and to have insurance coverage. It would also require a driver’s permit for horse-drawn carriages and that owners must keep records of the maintenance of their equipment and the care of their horses.
The Evening Mail in the United Kingdom reported on September 12, 2002 that October 12, 2002 will be National Horse and Road Safety Awareness Day. The motto will be for motorists to pass horses “wide and slow,” to keep their distance and not make sudden or loud noises.
The Western Daily Press in the United Kingdom reported on September 13, 2002 about a plan to deal with an accident to an equestrian riding in a group along a public road. First, take care of your own safety. You will be no benefit to anybody if you also become injured. Second, catch the loose horse and stop moving motor traffic. If you catch the horse, should you lead it and your own horse from the ground or while mounted? The writer prefers to lead while mounted for safety reasons. The captured horse should be led away from the scene of the accident. If there are not enough people in your trail riding group to stop traffic, then you will have to rely upon passing motorists to do so. Do not move the injured equestrian or remove his or her helmet while awaiting the arrival of medical assistance. Of course, the trail riders should have come prepared by wearing fluorescent and reflective clothing and with their horses appropriately flagged as well.
The Western Daily News in the United Kingdom reported on September 7, 2002 on the issue of equestrian road safety. In the United Kingdom, each year 3,000 horses and riders are involved in road accidents and in the last year seven riders and 21 horse fatalities have been reported in road accidents. The five rules for motorists to obey are (1) Pass horses wide and slow; (2) Keep your distance; (3) Don’t make any sudden or loud noises; (4) Expect to see a horse and rider around the next bend; and (5) Respect a rider’s signals.
The Daily Oklahoman reported on July 31, 2002 about a movie to be made about Christopher Reeve, who was paralyzed in a horse accident in 1995. Reeve’s horse stopped before a jump, sending him off the horse head first. How dangerous is horseback riding? In showing, most accidents occur in combined training, and of those most occur in the cross-country phase of the competition. Dr. John Stemple, Medical Editor of the American Medical Equestrian Association News, said between 150 and 200 deaths are caused each year by horse accidents. However, we are making safety progress. In hunter jumper shows, riders under age 18 are now required to wear safety helmets while competing. Dr. Doris Bixby Hammett wrote a report detailing the cause of horse-related accidents in North Carolina from 1978 to 1999. The report is published in the AMEA News web site: www.law.utexas.edu/dawson/. From 1978 to 1999, 85 horse-related deaths occurred. Of those, 55 percent were caused from head injuries. Fifteen percent of the deaths were from chest injuries and 10 percent from abdominal injuries. According to the National Injury Information Clearinghouse, head injuries make up less than 12 percent of horse-related injuries, but over half of the fatal injuries. Dr. Stemple is optimistic proper education will start to eliminate some of the horse riding accidents: “Safety has become higher on the conscious level, but there is still a long way to go.”
The Reno Gazette-Journal in Nevada reported on July 27, 2002 about a novel device to keep wild horses off public roads. Along a single stretch of highway in Nevada from 1996 to 2000, about 24 horses and 13 deer were reported struck by vehicles. Then the government installed the experimental Strieter-Lite Wild Animal Highway Warning Reflector System. Since then there have been no horse, burro or deer mortalities along that stretch of highway. Light entering one of the devices from vehicle headlights isn’t seen by motorists, but is reflected onto areas alongside the road where animals cross. The 600 reflectors mounted on highway posts bounce light from headlights out to the side in the form of moving patterns. Tests have shown that these patterns deter animals from crossing the road from dusk to dawn when vehicles approach.
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