Oct 11, 2019

Featured Clinician: Landsafe Equestrian

By Natasha Sprengers-Levine - Event Clinics
Photo courtesy of Landsafe Equestrian.

The Landsafe Equestrian program enhances all equestrian disciplines by providing accessible fall prevention techniques and education for riders of all levels. Since the program’s launch in 2016, co-founders Danny and Keli Warrington have traveled coast to coast teaching multi-day clinics focused on reducing risk and injury associated with rider falls.

Event Clinics caught up with Danny and Keli shortly after the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) where Landsafe was title sponsor of the Event College educational tent. As the dynamic duo headed west to kick off their fall clinic tour, they shared some little-known facts about themselves and their incredible program, plus insight about the importance of having conversations regarding rider falls for the future of equestrian sports.

“Nobody is having conversations about falling, but there’s a void between riding and hitting the ground. There is time for a rider to react, but if you don’t know what to think, or how to react, then, how can you react?”

The Landsafe Equestrian program was very much founded upon this question. “I thought a lot of rider reaction was lacking during falls. When you watch a fall with a lack of reaction, and then you watch someone fall with a thought process . . . there’s a big difference. We play a high-risk sport. I don’t say that to scare people, but as a reminder to give that some consideration.”

Photo courtesy of Landsafe Equestrian.

As a former steeplechase and race jockey who has competed through the four-star level in eventing, Danny knows a thing or two about high-risk sport. An ICP Level III Instructor, Danny also truly values rider education. When the Landsafe Program was first thought of, Danny and Keli were both actively competing and successfully operating their training business, Warrington Eventing, in Maryland. Keli has competed through the two-star level, and was a nationally ranked gymnast for over 10 years who is also a certified USA Gymnastics Instructor.

With backgrounds in high performance sports, Danny and Keli have been able to emphasize education as a tool to reduce some of the risk associated with equestrian sports. “I won’t ever forget my very first fall racing. I’d been taught to curl up in a ball get small to avoid getting stepped on. I was in front in a race and I fell, and it seemed like everything got so slow, I watched every horse’s foot. Knowing what to do in that moment and getting up and walking away . . . it just instilled confidence. If you know what you’re doing and how to get small, the outcome probably won’t be as bad,” Danny said.

“The idea for the program happened about 10 years ago, but it really took some time to develop. I was doing a lot of studies, looking at photographs and videos of falls, but I was also riding at the time so I couldn’t focus my attention on the program. There was a time when I thought I was going to get away from the horses altogether but it didn’t work out that way and I’ve signed on for another 10 years it looks like!”

A purposeful blend of gymnastic skills, confidence building, and falling practice on Landsafe’s customized Simulator are at the core of the unmounted workshops. Danny also credits Keli’s unique teaching abilities as a key component of the program’s success. “She’s a great coach and has a ton of confidence plus knowledge about body shaping and awareness. [Keli] has made the program so tangible and teachable. She can take someone who has never done a somersault before starting the program and have them comfortably doing tons by the end.”

Are you wondering just how accessible the Landsafe program is? “We’ve run the gauntlet with who has done the program. We get everyone from 12-year-olds and the eldest participant we’ve had was 70! To be honest, the program was designed for high performance riders, but it has turned out to give adult amateur riders a new lease on confidence.”

“We’ve had riders of every shape, size, and level of coordination successfully complete the program. If everyone came in like a ninja, I would be out of a job. I have to make you the best ninja you can be,” Danny joked.

Landsafe workshops take place over two days, with groups of up to 10 participants training for approximately four hours each day to work through the levels. These small groups allow for personalized instruction and enable participants plenty of time to develop their skills. “There’s only so much you can do in one day because it’s a physical program. Muscles get tired, and we don’t want people to make mistakes.”

“We love to help people. We had 15 people come up to us at the AEC and thank us. We’ve worked very hard for the last three years and in that time we’ve reduced enough injury to put a little smile on our faces. If I save one life in the next 20 years I’ve done a lot more than tons of other people have done for the sport,” said Danny.

Photo courtesy of Landsafe Equestrian.

That hard work is certainly paying off for Danny and Keli, who are rewarded for their efforts when riders are able to walk away from falls that might have been worse had they not experienced Landsafe training. “We had a rider have a pretty good rotational at Stable View last year. She came up to us and said, ‘Sorry, I didn’t do the Landsafe stuff.' Sure enough, we watched the video, and she did exactly what she was trained to do, it had happened so fast she just didn’t realize it.”

Landsafe has upheld the commitment to improving the safety of equestrian sports and to reducing some of the risk in the sport of eventing. “What we’re finding is that this is a new safety measure. We are realistic and understand that we aren’t going to avoid/reduce/save every injury. The time when you’re in the air is the worst 500 milliseconds of your life. Landsafe can help you slow that down and educate you through that process. We are not claiming that this is the only answer, but we’re saying this can help.”

“I was asked a long time ago, ‘What is safety?’ and I truly believe education is safety. The more educated you can be about the horses you ride, the levels you compete, and how to adapt to new situations, the better. This program will help riders stay on. [Landsafe] will help you learn to think your way through, and give you some extra time to react. But, that’s something you often don’t realize until after the fact.”

“I want people to look at this from an athletic standpoint. Look at what other sports are doing for concussion training and prevention. For equine sports as a whole, all that we are doing is putting on a helmet. We know from football that’s not enough; you need to learn to be more stable in your body so you don’t get whiplash and you can use your hands and body to absorb impact.”

Danny and Keli’s 2019-2020 clinic tour stretches from coast to coast. You can find and register for an upcoming Landsafe Equestrian opportunity on Event Clinics by clicking here. For more details on the Landsafe Program, head to www.landsafeequestrian.com.

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