Can the LandSafe Program Save Your Life? This Event Rider Says It Did

Leah Lang-Gluscic and AP Prime at Kentucky CCI4*. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Since launching the LandSafe Rider Fall Safety System in 2016, Danny and Keli Warrington have traveled the U.S. on a mission to increase the safety education of event riders, reduce falls and ultimately save lives. Nearly 600 event riders in the U.S. have taken a LandSafe clinic.

The 2018 FEI Eventing Statistics Report notes that horse falls at international levels are currently happening at a rate of one fall for every 63 starters on cross country. A serious injury occurs to the rider in one out of every 55 horse falls. Rotational falls occur one in every 572 starters, with the risk of a serious rider injury skyrocketing to one in every five rotational falls.

Can a program like LandSafe train riders to learn what to do in that “heart moment” when you know you’re going down? Four-star event rider Leah Lang-Gluscic not only says “yes,” but believes the LandSafe program saved her life.

Leah has evented for much of her life and started competing at the three-star level in 2014. She has twice conquered the cross country course at the Kentucky CCI4* with clear rounds aboard her talented off-track Thoroughbred AP Prime.

As a big proponent of safety in eventing, Leah had been wanting to take a LandSafe clinic ever since she heard about the program, and she signed up when Jon and Jenn Holling hosted a clinic at their farm in Ocala, Florida in March. Leah also hosted a LandSafe clinic at her own farm in Illinois in July, and she is one of only 25 eventers in the country who have taken the Level 2 program.

For all the years she has competed at the upper levels, Leah had never experienced a rotational fall — until last month.

She was moving her Thoroughbred gelding The Duck of Reed up to Intermediate level at Otter Creek Fall Horse Trials in Wisconsin. Leah found “Ducky” as an 8-year-old with 64 starts through CANTER Illinois, and he made his first Beginner Novice start in January 2017.

After a steady 2017 season at Novice and Training level, Leah moved Ducky up to Preliminary level in February 2018. After seven starts at the Preliminary level — all of them without cross country jumping penalties — Leah decided Ducky was ready to make the move up at Otter Creek.

Leah Lang-Gluscic and The Duke of Reed at Champagne Run Horse Trials in July. Photo by Rachel Sowinksi.

“He was very ready to move up,” Leah said. “I think I was a bit nervous to move a horse up to Intermediate again, and I overrode him to a very upright table that was on a downhill slope. He did exactly what I told him to and waited, and the last stride got too snug.

“In that last stride where he would normally compress his body a bit, he didn’t. I knew it was happening.”

Ducky rotated over the table.

“The first thought I had was I was on the ground and I couldn’t breathe because of my air vest.”

Ducky and Leah both walked away from the rotational fall without any injuries, but she says it wasn’t by chance. Video footage of the fall shows Leah doing exactly what she was taught in the LandSafe clinic.

“In the moment Danny refers to as ‘the point of no return,’ I am upright with my hands in brace position. My horse is clearly going to the left and I am clearly orienting myself to go to the right,” Leah said.

“I fell successfully because I stayed out of his center of rotation and went away from him. Had I stayed in that center of rotation, he would have fallen on top of me.”

Leah had already recommended that all of her students take a LandSafe clinic prior to her fall. Now she is adamant that the LandSafe program is a safety tool she believes all event riders should utilize.

“For me the most daunting thing about doing the clinic was seeing people falling off the mechanical horse. But what I didn’t realize is you do two hours of gymnastics first that breaks everything down, and you create so much muscle memory,” Leah said.

“When I did the second clinic in July, I did a lot more on the mechanical horse. Your body does remember, and you practice it so many times. Danny and Keli are so particular about your technique, so you do it over and over until it’s right.”

Riders also learn far more than what to do during a rotational fall in a LandSafe clinic, as the program addresses all types of falls and other potential dangerous situations while mounted.

“Eventers have this incredible proclivity to ride naughty horses,” Leah said. “Danny and Keli take you through rearing, bolting, emergency dismounts, bucking — every scenario of what could go wrong with a horse,” Leah said.

“The program is progressive and grows, so you learn more and more skills if you take more clinics. It’s incredibly helpful for anyone who is going to ride anything with more attitude than a saintly school horse.”

Leah believes taking the second clinic for the Level 2 program at her farm in Illinois over the summer is ultimately what made the difference in her fall.

“We only had eight people sign up in Illinois, which was really frustrating. I fully expected Danny and Keli would cancel. It was half the number we wanted, but they said they absolutely wouldn’t cancel — ‘We’re going to grow it and plant the seeds.’ Had they not done that, my fall might have gone very differently,” Leah said.

“To be so committed to sharing what they are doing with anyone who will take the information shows how dedicated Danny and Keli are to improving safety.”

Click here to see the upcoming LandSafe clinic schedule. Danny and Keli next head to Equine Affaire in West Springfield, Massachusetts on Nov. 8-11, followed by Copeland Farm in Independence, Minnesota on Nov. 15-18.

LandSafe will also host a special clinic called “Bringing Safety to the Forefront” with Buck Davidson and certified athletic trainer Mike Pilato in Ocala on Dec. 28-30. Click here for details.

Only 10 riders in the U.S. have taken the Level 3 program through LandSafe, and Leah plans to become the next one over the winter season in Ocala. She encourages all event riders no matter what level they are competing at to take a LandSafe clinic.

“I wasn’t injured physically in my fall, but it did affect me emotionally,” Leah said. “I’ve had a lot of time since then to think about what could have happened to me. I know the LandSafe program saved my life. The only thing that bothers me still is that I’d competed at such a high level without having done the program sooner.”

Have you taken a LandSafe clinic, EN? Share your thoughts and experience in the comments below. Go Safety. Go Eventing.