A group of researchers from Australia recently conducted a study to investigate human interactions with horses, looking at tradition vs science. The results were shared at the 15th International Equitation Science Conference, held at the University of Guelph, August 19-21, 2019.

Following an online survey with 1,718 respondents from 25 different countries, this study attempted to determine the perception of risk (10.7% felt they could not control their risk around horses and 25.7% were willing to put their horse’s safety before their own), influences on safety behaviour and what has affected their safety actions and beliefs.

Trends included increased safety training and awareness in equine work environments over strictly social environments. English/European disciplines appeared to be more accepting of safety influences (although the main focus was on helmets), while Western/Australian respondents appeared to be more abrasive and vocal about their traditions.

In general, safety principles during horse interactions appear to be influenced by tradition, developed through training methods or failures that have resulted in severe injuries or fatalities.

Training methods were assorted, with entrenched generational training styles being less flexible to change compared to modern-researched or competitive influences.

Safety principles seem to be largely influenced by tradition, rather than science. Some of this may be attributed in part due to a lack of study and very little emphasis on education in this area.

Proceedings from all the sessions can be downloaded from the International Society for Equitation Science website equitationscience.com.