Horse safety: It’s not only riders and stable workers who get hurt

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Spacious and bright stable corridors are important. An example of good safety management practice in horse facilities presented in the InnoHorse web tool. Photo: Christina Lunner Kolstrup/Animals
Spacious and bright stable corridors are important. An example of good safety management practice in horse facilities presented in the InnoHorse web tool. Photo: Christina Lunner Kolstrup/Animals

If you think only stable workers and riders get injured around horses, think again.

Scandinavian researchers who set out to develop an online safety management tool for horse stables delved into insurance statistics as part of their research.

Lead author Jarkko Leppälä and his colleagues, writing in the special “Horses and Risk” issue of the journal, Animals, provided a breakdown of statutory accident insurance statistics from Finland concerning the total number of injuries to persons related to occupational horse activities between 2003 and 2010.

While students and stable workers dominated the list, with more than 1500 injury claims between them during the eight-year period, sports coaches, farm employees and farm relief workers each accounted for about 100 claims each.

Veterinarians, teachers, social workers, police officers, farmers and even corporate office workers rounded out the list.

Statutory accident insurance statistics from Finland concerning the total numbers of injuries to horse stable workers and other persons related to occupational horse activities during 2003–2010.
Statutory accident insurance statistics from Finland concerning the total numbers of injuries to horse stable workers and other persons related to occupational horse activities during 2003–2010. Graph: Animals journal

The researchers noted that, in Finland, about 170 injuries occurred per year among riding professionals, described as “horse entrepreneurs”, with claims among those in other professional sectors working with horses totalling about 300 a year.

“Leisure time injury statistics are still largely unknown,” they noted.

“In Sweden, the exact number of horse-related injuries is uncertain because of under-reporting.

“Nevertheless, in 2012, nearly 12,900 persons went to an emergency centre after being injured in riding accidents or other activities related to horse handling. Nearly nine out of ten injured persons were females and 40 percent were children younger than 18.

“Injuries were more frequent among girls aged 10 to 19 years compared to other age groups.

According to the statistics of the Finnish Farmers’ Social Insurance Institution, Mela, almost 35 percent of human injuries in horse activities were serious incidents that have resulted in over 30 days of sick leave.

The InnoHorse web tool, part of the wider InnoEquine project, was developed to support horse stable managers in business, safety, pasture and manure management.

The aim of the safety section is to raise awareness of safety issues in daily horse stable activities. The study team developed it through a review of literature and statistics, horse stable case studies, expert panel workshops and stakeholder interviews.

“Managing a horse stable involves risks, which can have serious consequences for the stable, employees, clients, visitors and horses,” Leppälä and his fellow researchers reported.

“Existing industrial or farm production risk management tools are not directly applicable to horse stables and they need to be adapted for use by managers of different types of stables.

Their resulting web tool includes a safety section containing a horse stable safety map, stable safety checklists, and examples of good practices in stable safety, horse handling and rescue planning.”

Discussing the research, the study team said: “The application of good safety practices needs to be as easy as possible and every worker needs to be trained beginning from the first day in the stable.

“The stable manager’s own commitment to safe behaviour in stable work is also important.

“The Innohorse web tool may not solve all the safety problems in horse stables, but hopefully they help some horse stable managers to improve their stable safety management.

“It is intended to provide tools for the equine sector to inspire, motivate and encourage people to act and behave more safely around horses in order to prevent horse-related injuries.”

Leppälä was joined in the study by Christina Lunner Kolstrup, Stefan Pinzke, Risto Rautiainen, Markku Saastamoinen and Susanna Särkijärvi.

Development of a Safety Management Web Tool for Horse Stables
Jarkko Leppälä, Christina Lunner Kolstrup, Stefan Pinzke, Risto Rautiainen, Markku Saastamoinen and Susanna Särkijärvi.
Animals 2015, 5(4), 1136-1146; doi:10.3390/ani5040402

The full study can be read here
The research was published under a Creative Commons License

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