Many equestrians consider cuts, bruises, and the occasional broken bone part of the territory when it comes to working with and around horses. However a recent study revealed that a "disproportionately high accident rate" in the horse world as compared to other industries.
"Horses are extremely powerful animals, weighing about 500 kg (about 1,100 pounds), reaching speeds of 60 km/hr (nearly 40 miles per hour), and packing a 'punch' of 400 joules when they kick, which is approximately four times the test impact load of most equestrian helmet standards," said Craig Jackson, PhD, professor of occupational health psychology at the Birmingham City University School of Social Sciences, West Midlands in the U.K. "It is no wonder why so many accidents have been reported throughout the world among people working with Thoroughbred horses."
Most studies published to date on horse-related injuries focus on jockeys, whereas little to no data on such factors as accident severity or financial compensation exists for stable staff, grooms, and trainers.
"More information is available regarding the deaths of racehorses than the staff who train them," relayed Jackson.
To get a clearer picture of both the nature and cause of accidents in stable staff, Jackson and colleagues prepared a questionnaire asking for details regarding the number and type of accidents that occur.
Information from 2,293 racing staff revealed 665 accidents in 126 racing yards. An average of five accidents per yard occurred in 2008, and 50% of all accidents required treatment, most often at a hospital.
"The most common people to be injured by far were the staff riders followed by the grooms, yard managers, and trainers, and the most frequent injuries were caused by falling from the horse followed by being kicked, impacted, stood on, pulled, and bitten," added Jackson.
Despite having bruises, lacerations, cuts, and dislocations, less than half of all injured staff actually took time off following an accident, suggesting that a significant number of employees were among the "walking wounded," he said.
"This study supports the hypothesis that there is a disproportionately high accident rate in the horse industry relative to its size," Jackson concluded. "We also inferred that the industry is hesitant to discuss injuries among the workers, but do recommend that a formal system for accident reporting needs to be adopted, which would help health and safety agencies quantify the risk posed to such workers, and to measure if any subsequent interventions were effective in accident and injury reduction."
The study, "Only falls and horses: accidents and injuries in racehorse training," appeared in the July edition of Occupational Medicine. The abstract can be viewed online.
Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.