It’s no secret: Riding and handling horses can be risky business. Equestrians knowingly accept the risk each time they step in a barn.

But being aware of the risks associated with horse care and handling and using protective gear to help prevent injury are two different things. Some equestrians use safety equipment daily, while others rarely or never do. So what’s behind equestrians’ decisions to use (or not to use, as the case may be) safety equipment? A team of researchers from Germany’s University of Gottingen recently sought to find out.

“Previous research has tended to focus on the adoption of specific protective equipment (e.g., either helmets or safety vests) or the risk of injury rather than the overall adoption of safety-oriented behavioral practices by equestrians,” noted Christina-Maria Ikinger, MSc, lead researcher on the study and a PhD student at the university. “Our study aims to fill this gap by identifying potential influencing factors and quantifying their impact on the more general safety behavior of equestrians.”

To gather data, the researchers used an online survey in which 2,572 German equestrians participated.

The survey garnered several interesting results, Ikinger said, including the finding that gender had no influence on safety behavior (though males were more likely to wear a protective vest while females were more likely to wear a helmet) and that the severity of a witnessed riding accident had no impact on safety behavior.

The factors that influenced safety equipment use most were the respondent’s attitude toward safety equipment and the safety-rela