The Stables

New Study Reveals Headcollar Hazards And Need For Improved Education

 A new research study published in Equine Veterinary Education – a journal of the British Equine Veterinary Association – which examines the usage of headcollars on horses and any associated safety issues has exposed some worrying statistics. While it is generally accepted that horse riding carries certain risks, the latest findings underpin the potential hazards for horses and humans, associated with handling horses on the ground.

The online survey was conducted by renowned equine scientist Dr David Marlin, Dr Jane Williams, Head of Research & Associate Professor at Hartpury University, and Dr Kirstie Pickles, Clinical Assistant Professor in Equine Medicine, University of Nottingham. It was carried out in 2020 and revealed that a third (31%) of the 5,615 respondents had experienced a horse being injured as a result of wearing a headcollar, with 15% of respondents reporting an additional injury to a person.

In addition, 134 headcollar-related incidents were referenced resulting in a horse sustaining a fracture, while a staggering 167 equine fatalities were cited which were attributed to headcollar usage. The risk of an injury increased by 70% when horses were tied up although 20% of incidents occurred whilst horses were turned out.

The frequency of injury was highest amongst owners using webbing headcollars and lowest amongst those option for a leather product. The use of either leather or synthetic safety headcollars significantly reduced the likelihood of injury.

Commenting on the study, Dr David Marlin said, “Headcollars are the most commonly used piece of tack, yet ironically, there is very limited information available to owners regarding how to fit them correctly, how to use them safely and which safety features to look out for at point of purchase. This is definitely a topic which would benefit from improved education amongst horse owners to help them understand and mitigate against the potential risks linked to headcollar usage. Owners also need to be made aware of the research which suggests that leather headcollars represent a safer option. As always, we should be guided by the science that provides the evidence to dictate the best choice of headcollar, rather than allow ourselves to be swayed by the latest designs. More studies are required on this subject and we are hopeful that further research will be undertaken relating to headcollar function, leading to industry-approved guidelines for headcollar fit and use.” 

 The study was funded by Equilibrium Products Ltd. Equilibrium Products Ltd had no involvement with nor influence over the survey questions, survey dissemination, the data analysis or the writing of the paper

by Dr David Marlin

May 2021