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Risk Management for 4-H Youth Development Work: Large Animals–Horses 1

Saundra TenBroeck, Wendy DeVito, Dale Pracht, Chad Carr, Brittani Kirkland, and Georgene Bender 2

This is one publication in the series Risk Management for 4-H Youth Development Work. This series is intended to equip UF/IFAS Extension county faculty, staff, volunteers, and youth for the important task of providing best practices in risk management strategies.

Our goal is to conduct educational events and activities that coincide with the 4-H mission and mandates while protecting the safety of participants, sponsors, property, finances, and the goodwill/reputation of the 4-H name. The inherent risk of events and activities can be mitigated through planning and preparation. This risk management guide has been created to outline ways to prepare for, and deal with, the specific risks associated with your program.

Early planning is key to conducting successful events and activities. A helpful tool in this process is the Risk Management for 4-H Youth Development Work: Pre-Event Planning Guide and Matrix which can be found within the Risk Management for 4-H Youth Development Work Series: As you work through this matrix, questions may arise that are unique to your situation and may not be completely answered by the series. Extension faculty and staff should refer these questions to appropriate personnel. Questions that require time for research punctuate the need for early planning.

When considering potential risks for youth at events which involve horses, a good place to start is breaking all of the foreseeable situations into groups of risk types. This publication will address risks in the following six categories:

  1. Injuries to People

  2. Injuries to Horse

  3. Risk of Property Damage

  4. Biosecurity – Diseases Transmitted to Humans

  5. Biosecurity – Diseases Transmitted between Horses

  6. General Precautions

Brainstorming the potentialities in each category will give you a "leg up" in being ready for anything.


Preparing for risks associated with horse events is similar whether the event is held at a horse show facility/gathering place or at a privately owned facility of a parent, leader, or volunteer. Both situations involve youth gathering at a facility that is not their own and likely bringing their horse. Even farm owners who invite 4-H groups onto their property to interact with their horses should be aware of the potential risks and have a risk management plan in place.

Creating a risk management plan for horse events does not mean you need to identify every possible risk; that would be impossible. However, it does force you to stop and think about the various situations that might arise and how to either lessen the chances of them occurring or how to react if they do occur. Having a plan in place demonstrates diligence to provide an event that is as safe as reasonably possible for the youth, public, and horses.

State Equine Liability Law Requirements

First and foremost, Florida Statute §773.06 requires that state Equine Liability Law notices be posted prominently by any equine activity sponsor or equine professional. The sign should state "WARNING: Under Florida law, an equine activity sponsor or equine professional is not liable for an injury to, or the death of, a participant in equine activities resulting from the inherent risks of equine activities." There is a lot of fine print between the lines of that seemingly simple statement. It would be prudent for any equine event host to read the full statute to understand who and what are covered and what exceptions are not. The statute also includes details for when and where signs should be posted.


As for any other 4-H event, accident insurance should be secured. A common vendor often used through Florida 4-H is American Income Life Insurance1, although there are additional vendors. You can apply for accident insurance at In addition to accident insurance, most facilities will require liability insurance to be purchased for the event. State facilities will likely be covered under the State of Florida umbrella policy. County and private facilities often require proof of a $1 million liability policy. For more information, refer to the Insurance document in the Risk Management for 4-H Youth Development Work Series and Florida 4-H Policies (

Additional liability insurance can be purchased from companies1 such as: K&K Insurance (, Advantage Equine Agency (, and Francis L. Dean & Associates (

Injuries to People

The safety of the participants and spectators is likely the overriding concern for event hosts. People who own, ride, and/or show horses should already be familiar with dangers involving horses and know how to work safely around them. However, youth or public spectators who have no experience with horses need more safety instruction and supervision. Regardless of a person's level of experience, horses are large animals with minds of their own and accidents can, and will, happen. An event coordinator's best approach is to hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

Injuries that could happen to people range from extremely minor, to very severe, up to and including death. You should plan for the worst scenario and know immediate care plans until an EMT arrives. Event coordinators/staff should know what emergency equipment is available, exactly where it is, and who may use it (fire extinguishers, AEDs, first aid kits, etc.). That said, the more likely situations will include bee/wasp/bug stings, heat issues, and minor cuts and punctures. When you factor in injuries that involve the horse, things start to get more severe—kicks, bites, head injuries, broken bones, etc. The potential injuries to people are too many to list here, or even to foresee. Refer to Appendix Table 1 for examples of risks to people and suggestions for avoiding or mitigating them. Please note that volunteers/agents should be familiar with youth health forms prior to administering any medication, sunscreen, etc. to a child.

Helmet Use

When considering potential injuries to the mounted participants, it is a best management practice to require use of a helmet. You may check to see if your event requires helmet use by Florida Statute §773.06. Read the law and the exceptions closely, because many 4-H events involving horses fall into one of the exceptions. If helmet use is not required by state law, consider the policy for the Florida 4-H Area & State Horse Show Official Rules. This rulebook requires helmets to be worn at all times when mounted, and also when handling the horse on foot in congested areas (warm-up and class make-up areas). Although, this rulebook only applies directly to Area and State 4-H Horse Shows, county programs are encouraged to adopt these rules as their County rules. Good practices apply to all levels of the 4-H program.

Injuries to Horse

As an event organizer, your primary concern may be for the safety of the participants. But ask those participants and most of them will be more concerned for the safety of their horses. To prepare for the safety of the horses, meet with the facility manager well before the event and thoroughly inspect the grounds. Watch for things that could cause injury such as loose boards, exposed nails, uneven footing, roots or stumps in riding areas, etc. Give the manager time to rectify issues that can be fixed. Some events (such as jumping and barrel racing) require a specific type of footing in the arena. Confirm that the arenas you have chosen for these events have suitable, safe footing.

Before the event, riders should be familiar with how to ride safely in groups, understand the actions and reactions of horses, and be able to avoid putting themselves in dangerous situations. There are few things an event coordinator can do to prevent horses from hurting each other. But some of those precautions include limiting warm-up areas to those in specific upcoming classes, controlling how riders and horses gather in close proximity outside of arenas, and empowering staff to point out and stop potentially dangerous situations when observed in passing. Appendix Table 2 lists more examples of risks to horses.

Risk of Property Damage

Easy to overlook is the reverse situation of the horse or participant possibly damaging the facility itself. Minor damage that often happens without intention comes from innocent tasks such as hanging buckets or decorating barn areas. The facility will likely have methods of hanging buckets available that do not require nailing any new hardware to stall walls. Participants should also avoid using adhesives that leave permanent residue when decorating their stall areas (like liquid nails, etc.).

A more impactful risk to the participants involves threats to their personal property and to the facility. They should be reminded about the potential for theft and to keep their tack and other valuables locked in a tack stall or vehicle. More important is the risk of fire, especially in barns. "No Smoking" signs should be prominently displayed, and enforced, in all barns. If fans, clippers, or other power equipment are used, they should be unplugged when not in use. Those types of powered devices should not be used in such quantity to overpower the circuits. More examples of how property can be damaged are in Appendix Table 3.

Biosecurity—Diseases Transmitted to Humans

Animals, including horses, may carry microorganisms that can cause diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms in humans. These microorganisms are shed in an animal's feces and (sometimes) saliva. After shedding, they may also survive in an animal's environment. Organisms of concern include Salmonella, Campylobacter, E.coli, and Cryptosporidium parvum. Participants, staff, and the public should be aware of touching one horse then another. After touching animals, hand to mouth contact should be avoided until hands can be thoroughly washed. If there will be significant attendance by the general public, it is also a good idea to post sanitation reminder signs and even provide hand wash or sanitizer stations (see Appendix Table 4).

Transmission of equine disease directly from horse to human via insects is unlikely. As a general precaution, and for the comfort of both, people should use mosquito repellent on themselves and insecticide spray on their horses.

Biosecurity—Diseases Transmitted between Horses

Event organizers should check if there are any current outbreaks and gathering restrictions set by the State Veterinarian. Horse movement restrictions put in place by the State of Florida will override your planning and likely result in having to cancel the event. Even when there are no statewide restrictions, all horses traveling should be tested and negative for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), documented on a current Coggins test. Proof of "negative Coggins" within the past 12 months should be either collected at arrival to the event or submitted with the registration. In either case, the physical appearance of the horse should be compared with the description on the Coggins test to ensure a match. Show organizers may choose to contact their local FDACS inspectors to check Coggins upon arrival at the event.

The owner of a boarding stable or pasture, the sponsors of an event, or the person designated in charge of an event is responsible for ensuring that the report of the EIA test requirements have been met and must maintain records for a period of 2 years. These records must be available for inspection by a Department of Agriculture representative whenever requested and must include the following information:

a. The name of the horse;

b. The name of the owner of the horse or the name of the owner's representative;

c. The EIA test date, which is the date the blood sample was obtained to be submitted; and

d. The laboratory accession number of the report of the EIA test.

Diseases that are transmitted via direct contact or contact with objects are more of a concern to a facility host than those transmitted by mosquitoes or other vectors. Mosquitoes typically do not transmit diseases from one horse to another (EIA being an exception). They carry it from an intermediate host (such as birds) to horses, and sometimes people. Therefore, a horse with a vector-transmitted disease usually does not put other horses at immediate risk. However, if horses are in an area where mosquitoes carried a disease from infected birds to one horse, then there is a possibility for the mosquitoes to carry it to other horses, and sometimes humans. Please note that EIA can be transmitted from horse to horse by mosquitoes, which is why all horses should be tested and negative for carrying EIA before mingling (negative Coggins).

The more likely threats when assessing potential for communicable diseases are those that are transmitted by direct contact, aerosol, or communal contact with objects. As horses are being visually compared to the Coggins test description, they should also be observed for signs of illness (non-clear nasal discharge, fever, lethargy), and, if present, isolated or turned away. Buckets should be cleaned and sanitized between uses by different horses and communal water troughs should be avoided. Stalls should also be completely stripped of bedding and sanitized between groups of horses. Refer to Appendix Table 5 for more thoughts related to communicable diseases.

General Precautions

Many of the risks you will most likely face do not fit into one of the above categories. One of the greatest risks involves weather. At most outdoor events in Florida, you can count on either heat and humidity, rain and thunderstorms, or both. Any good risk management plan should have contingencies for the weather. For the heat, that could be as simple as having an air conditioned space available to bring someone who is having issues with the heat. For thunderstorms with nearby lightning, there should be a plan defining when activities should be paused and when they should be resumed. Refer to Appendix Table 6 for more details about planning for severe weather.

One of the most unpredictable situations that might be encountered is the impulsive reactions of upset participants, parents, trainers, etc. The significant majority of youth who show at horse shows and their 'entourage' take the ups and downs of horse shows in stride. However, there might be that one unusual situation that causes someone to react emotionally and persistently. In such cases, there should be one 'authority' who is tasked with handling the situation. If attempts at calming the upset person fail and it is causing a disturbance to the others, there should be a plan in place for asking that person to leave. General 4-H Code of Conduct procedures apply in this case, as well as any other standard operating procedures you have in place for the specific event. Similarly, on the occasion that protesters come to the event, there should be one person tasked with handling them as well as any media response.


Creating a risk management plan for horse events does not mean you need to identify every possible risk. Reviewing the examples in the tables and completing your own risk management plans encourages you to slow down and think about various situations that could arise and how to mitigate the associated risks. After due diligence when planning educational events and activities, you will find the benefits of youth programming almost always outweigh the risks. Finally, as with all Florida 4-H programs, you should review and adhere to the policies found on the official Florida 4-H Policy page,, which will always take precedence over any printed materials.

More Information

Analysis of Florida's Equine Immunity Act:!OpenDocument&Highlight=0,*

Safety Articles from eXtension:;

Biosecurity Toolkits:

Moving Horses Into and Within Florida:

Horse Show Planning & Management:

Cornell Extension, Animal Project Participation:

Equine Liability Statute and Helmet Law:

Equine Infectious Anemia Statute:


Advantage Equine Agency Inc. (n.d.). Welcome to K&K Insurance. February 17, 2017. Retrieved from

American Income Life Insurance. (n.d.). Special Risk Division of American Income Life Insurance. February 17, 2017. Retrieved from

American Income Life Insurance. (n.d.). Submit 4-H/CES Activity Report. February 17, 2017. Retrieved from

Florida Statutes § 773.06. Equine Activities. February 17, 2017. Retrieved from

Francis L. Dean & Associates, Inc. (n.d.). Special Events. February 17, 2017. Retrieved from

K&K Insurance. (n.d.). Welcome to K&K Insurance. February 17, 2017. Retrieved from

University of Florida, Department of Animal Sciences (n.d.). Area and State 4-H Horse Show Rules. Retrieved from February 17, 2017.

University of Florida. (2016). Florida 4-H Participation Form. February 17, 2017. Retrieved from

University of Florida. (n.d.). Florida 4-H Policy. February 17, 2017. Retrieved from

University of Florida. (n.d.). Pre-Event Planning Guide. February 17, 2017. Retrieved from

University of Florida. (n.d.). Pre-Event Planning Matrix. February 17, 2017. Retrieved from

University of Florida. (n.d.). Risk Management Checklist. February 17, 2017. Retrieved from


1 The use of trade names in this publication is solely for the purpose of providing specific information. UF/IFAS does not guarantee or warranty the products named, and references to them in this publication do not signify our approval to the exclusion of other products of suitable composition.

Appendix Tables

The following tables list a variety of potential risks and suggestions on how to prevent or mitigate them. Obviously, all potential risks are not listed because it is impossible to foresee all potential circumstances, especially when animals are involved. The average risk level for each group of risks is shown on a chart from the Pre-Event Planning Matrix document ( The majority of the risks listed could result in injuries anywhere from very minor to severe or death. The chart reflects the level of injury most likely to occur. As a reminder, the key to the matrix headers follows.

Levels of risk...

I. May result in death.

II. May cause severe injury, major property damage, significant financial loss, and/or result in negative publicity for the organization and/or institution.

III. May cause minor injury, illness, property damage, financial loss and/or could result in negative publicity for the organization and/or institution.

IV. Hazard presents a minimal threat to safety, health and wellbeing of participants.

Probability that something will go wrong...

A. Likely to occur immediately or in a short period of time, expected to occur frequently.

B. Probably will occur in time.

C. May occur in time.

D. Unlikely to occur.

Please note that that the suggestions given on how to prevent and/or mitigate the risks listed are not official 4-H policy. They are simply best practices you may consider as you tailor your own risk management plans.

Figure 2. Mounted injuries.
Figure 2.  Mounted injuries.

Figure 3. Non-mounted injuries related to horse.
Figure 3.  Non-mounted injuries related to horse.

Figure 4. Non-mounted injuries related surroundings.
Figure 4.  Non-mounted injuries related surroundings.

Figure 5. Injuries in vehicles.
Figure 5.  Injuries in vehicles.

Figure 7. Risks at parades.
Figure 7.  Risks at parades.

Figure 8. Injuries from other horses.
Figure 8.  Injuries from other horses.

Figure 9. Injuries from facility.
Figure 9.  Injuries from facility.

Figure 10. Injuries while riding.
Figure 10.  Injuries while riding.

Figure 11. Facility damage by people.
Figure 11.  Facility damage by people.

Figure 12. Facility damage by horses.
Figure 12.  Facility damage by horses.

Figure 13. Personal property damage.
Figure 13.  Personal property damage.

Figure 14. Basic sanitation.
Figure 14.  Basic sanitation.

Figure 15. Diseases that can be transmitted to humans via mosquito or tick.
Figure 15.  Diseases that can be transmitted to humans via mosquito or tick.

Figure 16. Common Aerosol/Direct/Oral Transmitted Diseases
Figure 16.  Common Aerosol/Direct/Oral Transmitted Diseases

Figure 17. Common Vector Transmitted Diseases
Figure 17.  Common Vector Transmitted Diseases

Figure 18. Internal Parasites and other infectious diseases that can be spread through fecal matter.
Figure 18.  Internal Parasites and other infectious diseases that can be spread through fecal matter.

Figure 19. Severe weather.
Figure 19.  Severe weather.

Figure 20. Difficult people/protesters.
Figure 20.  Difficult people/protesters.


Table 1. 

Injuries to people.

Table 2. 

Injuries to horse.

Table 3. 

Risk of property damage.

Table 4. 

Biosecurity—diseases transmitted by humans.

Table 5. 

Biosecurity—diseases transmitted between horses.

Table 6. 

General precautions.


1. This document is 4HFSV372, one of a series of the 4-H Youth Development Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date February 2018. Visit the EDIS website at
2. Saundra TenBroeck, associate professor, Department of Animal Sciences; Wendy Devito, youth programs coordinator, Department of Animal Sciences; Dale Pracht, associate professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences; Chad Carr, associate professor, Department of Animal Sciences; Brittani Kirkland, student, Department of Animal Sciences; and Georgene Bender, regional specialized 4-H youth agent III; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Publication #4HFSV372

Date: 2/12/2018

Related Experts

Tenbroeck, Saundra H.

University of Florida

Pracht, Dale

University of Florida

Carr, Chad

University of Florida

Bender, Georgene

University of Florida

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