A 2020 study into the use of headcollars has found that frequency of injury to horses was much lower in those wearing headcollars made from leather.
The online survey was carried out by equine scientist Dr David Marlin, Dr Jane Williams, head of research and associate professor at Hartpury University, and Dr Kirstie Pickles, clinical assistant professor in equine medicine at the University of Nottingham.
Of the 5,615 respondents, a third (31%) had experienced a horse being injured as a result of wearing a headcollar, with 15% reporting an additional injury to a person.
In addition, 134 headcollar-related incidents resulted in a horse sustaining a fracture; 167 equine fatalities were cited and attributed to headcollar usage.
The risk of an injury increased by 70% when horses were tied up, although 20% of incidents occurred while horses were turned out.
The frequency of injury was highest among horses wearing webbing headcollars and lowest among those wearing a leather headcollar. The use of either leather or synthetic safety headcollars significantly reduced the likelihood of injury.
‘More studies required’
“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,” said Dr Marlin.
“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.”
Dr Marlin added that “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,” he said.
“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.”
Read the full research findings