Sometimes dangerous things can be worth it, especially when they involve horses.
It's no secret that riding is dangerous, but for most equestrians, the benefits outweigh the risks. At least that is what Associate Professor Kirrilly Thompson suggested in her recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Thompson, principal researcher and cultural anthropologist at Central Queensland University's Appleton Institute in South Australia, notes that humans have been partnering with horses for around five and a half thousand years.
"Horse-riding has been good to humans, making them faster, stronger and taller than they could ever be on their own two feet. Raised on the backs of horses, horizons have been broadened, borders have been crossed, wars have been won, cultures have been spread, classes have been established and harsh environments have been defeated. Of course, what was a win for the mounted was usually a loss for everyone else."
Though we ride them for different reasons now -- mainly competition and pleasure -- horses still play a huge part in the lives of humans all over the world. And along with any equine interaction comes the potential for serious injury.
All horses can buck, rear, bolt and even just trip and fall, injuring the rider in the process. An Australian study found that there were 98 horse-related fatalities between July 2000 and June 2012, or an average of 8.2 deaths per year. Of these deaths, 74 percent were caused by a fall.
"Using Bird's Triangle Theory, each death can be seen to represent 600 near misses. That's 4920 near misses each year. Such figures would cause widespread outrage if they represented shark attacks or mining incidents."
With numbers like that, it's a bit incredible that people continue to ride horses. But Thompson believes that riders know the risks, and choose the activity anyway.
"Most - if not all - horse riders are aware that horse-riding is dangerous, so they often consider they are taking calculated risks when they ride," she said.
Why? Because of what horses provide for their riders. Thompson said these things include an opportunity for social interaction, taking responsibility, working collaboratively, character building, psycho-social resilience, connecting with nature and being active in the great outdoors. Not to mention the mental benefits horses provide for those suffering from Autism Spectrum Disorder, PTSD, depression, and anxiety.
In fact, she said even the inherent risks of riding may come with benefits:
"Some people have hypothesised that the element of danger in human-horse interactions provides particular therapeutic benefits, through self-mastery, emotional regulation, learning how to take calculated risk or overcoming fear."
With all these benefits, it's pretty clear that equestrians won't be giving up riding any time soon. While safety precautions should always be taken, it seems that the benefits, when it comes to horses, are definitely worth the risks.
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