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Better monitoring of NZ horse accidents needed - report

February 5, 2007

Better surveillance of horse accidents in New Zealand would be an important step towards developing strategies to reduce high injury rates, a researcher says.

The recommendation is contained in a major review of literature dealing with horse-related injuries and safety strategies.

The review, conducted by Glenda Northey for the Accident Compensation Corporation, found that much of the available information on the effectiveness of safety measures was anecdotal, rather than properly researched.

Northey said her research highlighted the need for a national injury surveillance system to record more details of the circumstances surrounding accidents.

For example, one set of New Zealand horse-accident statistics quoted by Northey did not reveal the location of accidents in 70 per cent of cases.

Northey also proposed:

Northey noted that there had been very few formal evaluative studies to assess the effectiveness of helmets, body protectors, shoulder pads, safety stirrups knee pads, and the like in reducing the number of severity of accidents. However, anecdotal evidence certainly supported their use.

Northey's 100-page report traversed safety strategies proposed and adopted around the world, from certifying of riding instructors, to codes of practice, the need for role models, and mandatory wearing of safety equipment in certain circumstances, such as riding on the road.

One study that Northey quoted revealed that riding experience did not always equate to knowledge and skill. "It was suggested that training in safety measures needs to be given to all riders and horses."

While research showed that inexperienced riders needed educating on safety issues, it was also shown that those with the greatest experience have the greatest number of accidents as they are performing riskier activities, such as eventing, jumping or cross country, and this group was also in need of education on risk.

"There were some areas which need further investigation," said Northey, "such as a suggestion about riders using wrist protectors, like those used in preventing snowboarding injuries, because of the recent increase in arm and wrist injuries. It was also suggested that elbow and knee padding would reduce injuries during falls.

Strategies employed around the world included community-based injury prevention programmes, not just though the likes of pony clubs but in some cases schools in order to reach rural-based youngsters.

Retailers and manufacturers should be encouraged to offer discounts or subsidies for safety helmets and good boots, suggested one study.

If this option wasn't available, it was suggested that schools or service clubs could organise annual bulk purchases in order to get a discount.

"The success of a helmet programme was in its ability to sell the idea to riders that products are available that are safe, well designed and inviting to look at," said an investigation carried out six years ago.

The need for role models was stressed, with young people found to be more likely to wear protective equipment if their friends and family did, too.

One report suggested that sponsors of equine events should be insisting on the use of safety gear among participants.



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