4-H clinic teaches riders how to safely fall from horses

·4 min read

Apr. 3—Tumbling mats and a mechanical horse consumed a chunk of the dirt floor of the Curtsinger Building inside the Daviess County Lions Club Fairgrounds.

Eight participants were there for Friday's session of the horseback riding safety clinic with Landsafe Equestrian.

The clinic was organized by Stacey Potts, Daviess County 4-H youth development agent, who secured grants from the Kentucky Ag Development fund and the Kentucky 4-H Foundation to reduce the registration fees in half for two age groups — ages 6-11 and 12 to adult. The three-day clinic began on Thursday and ends Saturday, April 3.

Potts said the 4-H Young Riders Horse Club does teach equestrian safety such as how to recognize a horse's body language and how to ride around with others.

However, the club does not instruct about how to properly react while falling from a horse.

"It's teaching us body positioning and tumbling skills to be able to fall off a horse more safely and to protect your head and neck," said Potts about the Landsafe clinic.

Potts said most riders will at some point experience falling from a horse.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of serious injury per number of riding hours is estimated to be higher for horseback riders than for motorcyclists and automobile racers. Nearly 50% of all sports-related traumatic brain injuries are equestrian-related, according to the CDC.

In 1992, Potts was hospitalized from a horseback riding accident.

And because of that, she was drawn to Landsafe Equestrian co-founder Danny Warrington when she heard him speak in 2019 at the University of Kentucky Equine Safety Summit.

"I've had a horse-related head injury and so I wanted to learn what (Landsafe) was all about," Potts said. "...I wear a helmet now but there's more that you can do than wear a helmet."

Warrington started Landsafe with his wife, Keli, in 2017. He is a former steeplechase jockey and she is a skilled gymnastics instructor.

During his career, Warrington said he had his share of bad falls. But there have even been fatalities in his sport that ultimately led to creating Landsafe.

"Some falls can be prevented and some can't," Warrington said. "It's a high-risk sport."

Warrington, who's headquartered out of Maryland, said his clinic teaches riders how to use their hands along with muscle memory and tumbling techniques that can be effective if a rider falls from a horse.

He added that people are also more open than they used to be about safety and learning how to prevent serious injuries regardless of the activity.

"...I think our society has changed over the last 30 years and that we've gotten away from the rough and tumble upbringings," Warrington said. "...This is an educational way of teaching the school of hard knocks. I learned it from jumping out of trees and crashing bicycles. But I come from a different generation."

Among the participants were Hope Ramming and Danielle Ezell.

Ramming, 17, said she's been riding for five years and is a member of the 4-H Young Riders Horse Club.

"I would like to be on the equestrian team when I get to college so I will have more opportunity to fall," Ramming said. "Kelli and Danny are more equipped to teach the actual (safety) movements ... it's hard to teach this in a club meeting."

Ezell rides and trains horses. She's also an event rider. Eventing is an equestrian sport where a single horse and rider combine and compete against other competitors across the three disciplines of dressage, cross-country and show jumping.

Ezell said she has suffered multiple injuries, which have required surgeries, from falls she's taken over the years.

"I train a lot of young horses and a lot of green horses," she said. "So the probability of me falling off horses is quite high. I also jump horses and that adds to the likelihood of me coming off. And if I can do that more safely, it behooves me so I don't get injured and miss work."

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

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