It has been suggested that one in five riders will be injured due to a fall from a horse, resulting in severe head or torso injuries. Attempts to reduce injury have primarily focussed on low level risk controls, such as helmets. In comparison, risk mitigation in high risk workplaces and sports is directed at more effective and preventative controls like training, consultation, safe work procedures, fit for purpose equipment and regular Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) monitoring. However, there has been no systematic consideration of the risk-reduction benefits of applying a WHS framework to reducing horse-related risks in workplaces, let alone competition or leisure contexts. In this article, we discuss the different dimensions of risk during human–horse interaction: the risk itself, animal, human and environmental factors and their combinations thereof. We consider the potential of the WHS framework as a tool for reducing (a) situation-specific hazards, and (b) the risks inherent in and arising from human–horse interactions. Whilst most—if not all—horses are unpredictable, the majority of horse-related injuries should be treated as preventable. The article concludes with a practical application of WHS to prevent horse-related injury by discussing effective evidence-based guidelines and regulatory monitoring for equestrian sectors. It suggests that the WHS framework has significant potential not only to reduce the occurrence and likelihood of horse-related human accident and injury, but to enable systematic accident analysis and investigation of horse-related adverse events.
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