While the role of the horse in riding hazards is well recognised, little attention has been paid to the role of specific theoretical psychological processes of humans in contributing to and mitigating risk. The injury, mortality or compensation claim rates for participants in the horse-racing industry, veterinary medicine and equestrian disciplines provide compelling evidence for improving risk mitigation models. There is a paucity of theoretical principles regarding the risk of injury and mortality associated with human–horse interactions. In this paper we introduce and apply the four psychological principles of context, loss of focus, global cognitive style and the application of self as the frame of reference as a potential approach for assessing and managing human–horse risks. When these principles produce errors that are combined with a rigid self-referenced point, it becomes clear how rapidly risk emerges and how other people and animals may repeatedly become at risk over time. Here, with a focus on the thoroughbred racing industry, veterinary practice and equestrian disciplines, we review the merits of contextually applied strategies, an evolving reappraisal of risk, flexibility, and focused specifics of situations that may serve to modify human behaviour and mitigate risk.
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