Reasons for performing study: Traumatic injuries are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the horse and consequently pose a serious threat to horses' wellbeing. To date, there have been no published studies assessing the frequency of injuries in the general horse population of the UK.
Objectives: To obtain information regarding husbandry management strategies and injury prevalence in horses aged ≤15 years, with the aim of identifying predisposing risk factors for injury.
Methods: A postal questionnaire was distributed to a randomly selected sample of horse owners across north-west England, Midlands and north Wales. Factors associated with injury were assessed using univariable and multivariable logistic regression analysis performed with the binary outcome variable defined as whether or not the horse had sustained an injury within the previous 12 months.
Results: A usable questionnaire response rate of 68% (652/953) was achieved. Forty percent of horses had sustained a traumatic injury within the past year, of which 62% occurred in the field and 13% during ridden exercise. Factors identified as being associated with an increased risk of traumatic injury included the following: breed other than cob or pony (P = 0.001), shorter duration of ownership (P = 0.002), being turned out with an increasing number of horses (P = 0.001), being used for competitive (P = 0.001) or Parelli (P = 0.006) purposes. Stabling at all times during the spring (P = 0.005), the use of wood fencing in paddocks (P = 0.05) and being prone to becoming distressed if left alone in a field (P = 0.04) were also found to be associated with an increased risk of injury. Stabling at all times during winter was associated with a decreased risk of injury (P = 0.006).
Conclusions and potential relevance: Risk factors for sustaining injuries have been identified in association with management practices. This information may be used to educate owners regarding management of their horse(s) in order to prevent injury.