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    How common are injuries received working with horses?

    Published on: 23/04/2013

    Most riding schools, livery yards and other riding establishments possess an extremely fit for purpose health and safety regime. The British Equestrian Health and Safety Association’s mission is to ensure that health and safety advice is available to everyone who works in and interacts with the equine industry. According to the British Equestrian Trade Association, the equine industry employs over a quarter of million people in the UK today, with fifty thousand involved in the core activities of possession of, owning and using horses. However it is not just the employees of riding establishments who work with horses, but also many non-employees who frequent those establishments; hiring, riding and caring for horses stabled there.

    With approximately 4500 livery yards and riding schools and breeding stables in the UK, 1.6 million people riding each month (7% of the total population riding regularly) and a horse population that means that there are 17 horses per thousand people in the UK, the opportunity for injury to occur to people who work around horses is potentially very high. These injuries are not always the direct or indirect result of an employer being remiss in their legal duty of care to their employees and other users of their business, but occur, almost inevitably, when the sheer bulk, weight and power of an unpredictable animal such as a horse is put into the mix of constant and extensive horse-person interaction.

    The British Horse Society is officially notified of an average of eight horse related accidents each day. These are just the tip of a statistical iceberg. The number of riding accidents has remained constant at between fifty and seventy thousand per year for the last twenty years with approximately 3000 of them each year involving motor vehicles. The vast majority are categorised as ‘falls from height’, bearing in mind that a rider’s head can be 13 feet above the ground.

    Despite the almost universal use of hard hats, head injuries still represent the largest proportion of injuries to riders, outnumbering spinal injuries 5:1. Putting that ratio into perspective, a recent report from Stoke Mandeville Hospital stated that 3% of all spinal injuries reported nationally were the result of working with horses. For those equine workers who proportionally spent more time engaged in non-riding horse activities, the Health and Safety Executive’s latest statistics reveal that they are twice as likely to suffer an injury inflicted by a horse than to fall from height. The equine industry then, whilst not up there with heavy industry in terms of work-related injury risk, is still far from being the most risk-free.

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