Like bicycles, skateboards, and dogs, horses supply fun and risk. Riding bikes or skateboards can lead to falls, and dogs can bite. Handling and riding horses can mean falls, bites, and kicks, but like other leisure pursuits, the pleasures outweigh the pitfalls. Associating with horses requires recognizing the hazards. When humans and horses interact, accidents can happen merely because of the animal’s size. Another way mishaps can occur is through misunderstandings in interspecies communication.

Among companion animals, the horse’s appeal is its size and power. Its behavior can threaten you because of its larger body mass. Even a newborn foal can outweigh many of the people it encounters.

"Be aware of your own limitations," said Julie Ballard, Chair of the U.S. Combined Training Association (USCTA) Safety Committee. "You deal with a large animal that can inflict injury, even if it doesn’t mean to."

Besides the horse’s size, its behavior compounds the dangers. Few horses deliberately attack humans. Horses tend to react suddenly and, to many people, unexpectedly.

That sudden motion can be dangerous if you’re in close range. Here are a few real-life examples of collisions:

  • A handler leads a horse through a group of spectators, who line both sides of an aisleway. The horse bounds to the side in one jump, and steps on a bystander.

  • A horse flings up its head, and the top of its neck hits the rider in the forehead. The impact knocks the rider off the horse.

  • In an indoor arena, a horse bucks, and the rider’s head collides with a