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Accidents in the Racehorse Industry

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The study was carried out from the point of view of occupational health medicine.

There are 716 training yards registered with the British Racing Authority and they were all asked to provide information about accidents and injuries occurring during 2008. The report used information provided by 256 of them. Across those yards 665 accidents occurred, of which 96% were horse related, and 50% required medical attention. Of the horse related accidents approximately half were riding accidents (53%) and half were at ground level (47%).

The report recognised the hazardous nature of working with racehorses, which can be unpredictable as well as large and powerful. However, more information is available about accidents during races themselves than at training yards. This is despite the fact that riders in the yard spend more time riding than the jockeys do during actual races. A serious injury to a member of the stable staff can be just as career threatening as it is to the jockey themselves.

Because of the large numbers of accidents and the risks to workers in the industry, the report recommended that the rules of racing should require yards to keep records of accidents in a standardised form as it is in other countries.

The report also recommended enforcement of the wearing of personal protective equipment such as hard riding hats, not just when riding but at all times when on the yard, bearing in mind that 17% of injuries were to the head and face, and that head injuries were the most common career ending injuries. I was surprised to read that the kick strength of a horse has been estimated at 4 times the impact load of most riding hats. Provision of protective equipment (PPE) is of course common practice in other industries such as factories or building sites where hard hats or proper protective boots are common place.

The report concluded that based on the limited data provided, there is a need to research the issues further. Quality of training including the NVQ qualification process is an area which could be reviewed, and the research could be extended to include riding schools as well. The fact that yards were reluctant to provide data could indicate an under-reporting of accidents and suggest that this is a significant problem.

Julia Prior

Associate - Personal Injury team

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