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Horse Related Risk

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Australian researchers suggest there is widespread recognition of the risks posed by riding horses, but a high degree of acceptance, complacency or inaction around accidents.

The researchers, Kirrilly Thompson, Paul McGreevy, and Phil McManus, said the recommended strategy for encouraging behaviors that cut horse-related risk would be to reduce the risks.

“With very little exception, a focus on the causes and consequences of horse-related injury rather than prevention, could lead to researchers being accused of ‘shutting the gate after the horse has bolted’,” they wrote in the journal, Animals.

Horse-related risks were generated through a complex socio-technical network of risk, horses, humans and culture, they said. They wondered whether
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However, risk reduction required changing the attitudes and behaviors of participants in risky activities, they said.

The trio, who conducted a critical review of horse-related risk, said that while the importance of improving horse-related safety seemed self-evident, no comprehensive study into understanding or reducing horse-related risk had been undertaken. This, they said, may be due to a historical legacy of horse-riding being a pre-modern sport with a robust culture that accepted the dangers of riding.

It may also be due to the difficulty of analyzing and reducing the risks in the complex relationship between horses and riders. “Nonetheless, complexity must be addressed to enhance the safety of millions of equestrians around the globe.”

The researchers explored four dimensions: the risk itself, the horse, the rider, and the culture in which equestrian activities take
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This is particularly encouraging, given that a taken-for-granted assumption that horses are irrevocably unpredictable may contribute to a lack of outrage about current levels of horse-related accident, injury and death.”

The unpredictability of horses suggested that risks may be higher among those with low levels of knowledge of horses.

Researchers have questioned whether the equestrian community is too accepting of riding mishaps. © Mike Bain
Researchers have questioned whether the equestrian community is too accepting of riding mishaps. © Mike Bain
Looking at issues in respect of riders, the researchers said most were aware of the risk of equestrian sports and were mindful of their own safety. Pony club manuals were full of references to safe practices around horses, and the pony club movement itself had a “safety first” attitude, they noted.

“However, from a risk management perspective, the most common strategies for improving safety around horses can be characterized as avoidance strategies — keeping out of harm’s
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