Equestrian Injuries: No “Horsing” Around

Through out history, the use of horses for work and play is well documented.Devastating injuries can result from horse-related injuries. According to the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention, over 100,000 people are treated for horse-related injuries annually. The majority of injuries occur after falling or being thrown from a horse, though horse kicks are known to cause serious injury to both adults and children. 

Jenita Mosier-Bishop and her family are the owners of the Double RR Ranch equestrian farm in Dowagiac. Working closely with horses is a way of life for the entire family, including then 4-year-old daughter Francesca. September 2, 2010 was a day that Jenita will remember as the start of a lifestyle change regarding the importance of equestrian safety for her family. 

Francesca’s love for horses started at a young age with exposure from her family’s business. Her mother recalls her first horse ride at only 3 months old. Last fall Francesca was at the stables with her older sister helping groom a horse that was relatively new to the farm and unfamiliar to the girls. When the horse suddenly became agitated, it kicked with its right hind leg striking Francesca in the face and throwing her to the ground. The extent of her injuries was not immediately known. She was taken to Borgess Lee Memorial Hospital Emergency Room by her family and admitted under the care of Dr. Robert Britton. Radiology studies showed Francesca had a significant injury to her face with multiple fractures including her eye socket, cheek bone, and the upper part of her jaw (an injury pattern known as a LeFort II) with a concern for damage to her right eye itself. 

West Michigan Air Care was called to airlift Francesca to the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor for specialized care of her injuries. She was taken to surgery to stabilize her facial fractures within four hours of arrival to U of M. She was discharged home just over 24 hours after her initial admission. Francesca returned for follow-up surgery and stitch removal one week later and was discharged the same day.    

Locally, both Kalamazoo hospitals have seen horse-related injuries that are consistent with the national averages. In the last 5 years, Bronson Methodist Hospital and Borgess Medical Center together have treated 115 horse injury victims. Falls account for 75-80% of these injuries while kicks account for 20-25%. Dr. Scott Davidson, Director of Trauma Services at Bronson, who has seen patients with serious head and abdominal injuries from horse kicks said, “The force behind a horse kick can result in an injury that is critical if not fatal. When it comes to children, supervision is the key to prevention.” 

The importance of safety near horses cannot be stressed enough. A few tips (see reference) that can help to prevent serious horse-related injuries include: constant awareness of a horses strength, nature and behavior; getting to know the horse you are working with, respect it and be alert to things which may frighten or spook it; be cautious around the hind legs of a horse (they are well designed for kicking); and most importantly, adult supervision of children around horses, especially one that is unfamiliar to them. Helmets for small children when they are around horses is also recommended (Localriding.com, 2011). 

Despite a small, nearly faded scar to her right cheek, Francesca is a happy, healthy 5-year-old with no permanent effects from her injury. She was back with her family’s horses one month after her injury though her mother said “We have had a lifestyle change when it comes to the horses and our safety.” Since the accident, Jenita states they have separated their home and  business locations, thereby separating horses that are there for training from their personal animals. This step alone has decreased the exposure to unfamiliar horses for the Francesca and her siblings. Jenita also said she has become more proactive when it comes to rules and supervision when her children are near the horses. “Francesca’s injury made me realize how important it was that I follow through as a parent,” said Jenita. “No matter how tired or busy I may be, my children’s safety comes first.”      

Tips references obtained from: www.localriding.com/prevent-equestrian-injury.html

By Sara Sturgeon
Flight Nurse
West Michigan Air Care

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