Horse riding and equestrian


​Guideline review date: 28 October 2021

This guideline is provided to support schools in implementing the managing risks in school curriculum activities procedure.

The CARA planner (DOCX, 600KB) must be used for the specific school context in conjunction with this guideline considering additional risks, hazards and controls and including environmental, facility, equipment and student considerations

For activities beyond the scope of this guideline, complete a CARA record using the CARA generic template (DOCX, 488KB).

Activity scope

This guideline relates to student participation in horse riding, including equestrian and trail riding, as an activity to support curriculum delivery.

Information for school staff about horse sport events and activities including dressage, jumping and cross country for training, skills development, equestrian competitions and rodeo activities, please search 'horse sport events and activities' on OnePortal.

Trail riding involves organised recreational horse-back riding that can be short (an hour) or long (multi-day) rides. It may occur in diverse environments where the participants are led as a group outside of enclosed areas in the natural environment.

Depending on the scope of this activity, other risk assessments may be required when planning. Curriculum activities encompassing more than 1 CARA guideline (e.g. animal observation and handling guideline while camping) must comply with the requirements of all CARA guidelines appropriate to the activity.

Note: This activity does not include activities involving rodeo, driving, vaulting, reining, riding for the disabled activities or working with stock animals (e.g. mustering, Western riding, team penning, cutting, roping) as part of a curriculum activity. A separate risk assessment should be undertaken (e.g. CARA generic template (DOCX, 365KB), agricultural activities (stockyards) guideline) for these activities.

For activities conducted at an external venue, and/or when engaging external expertise, request written risk assessment advice and attach it to this CARA record.

For activities conducted off-site, schools must comply with the school excursions procedure.

Risk level

High risk
Horse riding and equestrian activities undertaken at a recognised riding school with hired horses and equipment from a horse-hire service and/or with student-provided horse and equipment.

Activity requirements

If any requirement cannot be met, the activity must not occur.

If any other safety recommendation cannot be met, modify the activity (or elements of it) and/or identify and use the hierarchy of controls to implement alternative control measures to meet or exceed the minimum safety standard.

All risk levels

Reference to the Safe Work Australia—guide to managing risks when new and inexperienced persons interact with horses (PDF, 2.9MB) is required when planning this activity.

Reference to Australian Adventure Activity Standard, Horse Trail Riding Australian Adventure Activity Good Practice Guide (PDF, 577KB), animals in Queensland state schools procedure (PDF, 871KB) and animal welfare legislation is required when planning this activity.

Reference to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website and Equestrian Queensland is required for duty of animal care information and whether approvals or permits are required for the activity (e.g. horse registration and movement records when appropriate).

Appropriate handling and protective measures (e.g. ensure horses vaccinated) relevant to the route of transmission of potential zoonoses as outlined in Appendix 1 of animal contact guidelines (PDF, 1.8MB) must be implemented.

Prior consultation is required with local authority (e.g. Department of Environment and Science (for track closures and relevant permits for access to trails) and Rural Fire Service) for local advice, emergency support mechanisms and additional supervision requirements to ensure participant and public safety.

Permission/permits are required to be obtained from land managers (e.g. Department of Environment and Science, local councils or private landholders), if applicable.



Principals make final supervision decisions for the activity. Sufficient adult supervision must be provided to manage the activity safely (including emergency situations).

For activities with students with a medical condition or disability that may impact on safety during the activity, consultation with parents is required prior to allocating supervision to determine the impact of students’ medical condition or disability on safety during the activity.

The number of adult supervisors required to fulfil emergency and supervision roles must consider the nature of the activity, students’ ages, abilities and specialised learning, access and/or health needs. The Horse Trail Riding Australian Adventure Activity Good Practice Guide (PDF, 577KB) and Safe Work Australia guide to managing risks when new and inexperienced persons interact with horses should be consulted for supervision ratios.

Before the activity, all adult supervisors:

  • must be familiar with the contents of the CARA record
  • must assess weather conditions and obtain accurate information on expected water conditions prior to undertaking the activity, inspecting the intended location in order to identify variable risks, hazards and potential dangers.

During the activity, all adult supervisors:

  • must be readily identifiable
  • must closely monitor students with health support needs
  • must ensure inexperienced children are led 1 rider at a time by a qualified supervisor on a lead rope (either riding a horse or on foot). This adult supervisor cannot be included in the ratios for the supervision of the ride
  • must comply with control measures from the CARA record and adapt as hazards arise
  • must suspend the activity if the conditions become unfavourable (e.g. poor visability, extreme temperatures, thunderstorms).

Supervisor qualifications

Principals make final decisions in determining supervisor capability (competence, relevance and currency) and are responsible for encouraging and enabling school-based activity supervisors to raise their qualifications to improve safety standards.

All adult supervisors must comply with the working with children authority—blue cards procedure and be able to identify, and respond to, risks or hazards that may emerge during the activity.

A registered teacher must be appointed to maintain overall responsibility for the activity.

At least one adult supervisor is required to be a registered teacher, or an adult supervisor working under the direct supervision of a registered teacher, with demonstrated competence (knowledge and skills) either in:

Facilities and equipment

The qualified adult supervisor of the activity, in consultation with the principal, determines the requirements for facilities and equipment appropriate to the local context.

Location must be suitable for the activity being undertaken to ensure safe participation and that safety rules and procedures can be followed. Ensure environments are suited to the experience of all riders (e.g. arena riding surface is level and well drained and trail riding terrain is suitable). Consider the rider ability, resources, services and facilities when choosing a trail (e.g. campsites, drinking water, toilets and shelter from extreme weather). Undertake a reconnaissance of new or infrequently used locations to ascertain suitability.

All horses must be inspected by a competent adult supervisor before commencing the activity. The adult supervisor must be satisfied the horse complies with Safe Work Australia—guide to managing risks when new and inexperienced persons interact with horses (fit for purpose horse) (PDF, 2.9MB).

Participants must wear personal protective equipment as relevant (e.g. enclosed footwear that stops the foot sliding forward through the stirrup iron and allows easy removal in case of emergency (e.g. a solid raised heel with smooth soles or only lightly indented tread), helmets, full-length trousers, sleeved shirts and back protection, if relevant).

All equipment (e.g. helmets, footwear) must comply with the current Australian Standard (or an equivalent American, British or European standard) and be properly secured and fitted.

A process for checking for damage for all equipment used in the activity must be established and employed (e.g. no cracks, splits or worn stitching on saddles/bridles, appropriately sized breakaway stirrup irons).

A maintenance schedule (e.g. checking for damage, repairing) must be established and enacted for all equipment used in the activity (e.g. helmets, reins, saddles).

A retirement schedule must be developed to replace equipment by manufacturers' nominated expiry date or when significant wear causes a hazard.

If privately owned equipment (including horses) is being used, principal approval and owner consent/insurance details must be obtained prior to the activity.

Ensure separate, designated areas for spectators and horses are available.

Access must be available for emergency vehicles.

 Common hazards and controls

Further to those listed, include any additional hazards and control measures considering the local context of the activity.

Environmental hazards Control measures

Animal diseases
Stings, poisoning, infection

Follow hand hygiene practices established in the infection control guideline after working in and around animal environments and after handling animals.

Adhere to established practices regarding the use of insect repellent, outlined in insect viruses and allergies.

Environmental conditions
Weather, surfaces, surrounds

The school's sun safety strategy must be followed.

Avoid riding on roadways or other traffic areas. Obey road rules, keep left and only 2 riders riding side-by-side.

Follow the managing excessive heat in schools guidelines when participating in very hot or extreme heat conditions.

Ensure drink breaks occur regularly. Make water available for individual participants between drink breaks.

Facilities and equipment hazards Control measures

Faulty or dangerous equipment

Conduct a girth check before mounting and again 15 minutes after mounting to ensure the saddle is not slipping.

Falls from heights

Supervise mounting and dismounting in a safe area. Horses must be untethered when mounting and dismounting.

Consider use of mounting block.

Student considerations Control measures


Students aware of the location of emergency and first-aid equipment.

Physical exertion
Exhaustion and fatigue

Continuously monitor students and horses for signs of fatigue, illness, hunger, dehydration and slow progress during trail rides to avoid situations becoming serious.

Student issues
Student numbers, special needs, high risk behaviours, medical conditions, separation from the group

Adopt system of signals to clearly communicate the need for assistance if in difficulty.

Check riders’ ability to start, stop and turn a horse prior to trail ride departure.

Match the horse to rider ability and the task expected of it.

Match the riding pace to the skills of the least experienced rider and/or behaviour of horses.

Lead inexperienced riders on a lead rope by qualified supervisor when trail riding.

Ensure safe distances are maintained between horses when riding.

Ensure students dismount under supervision following an established protocol (e.g. at a safe distance of other horses, toward the inside of the area away from fences, not onto a freestanding mounting block).

Ensure an adult supervisor accompanies students in horse enclosures. Limit the number of students in the enclosure at any one time.

Remove accessories (e.g. jewellery, lanyards) before participating.

Ensure fingernails, hair and clothing do not interfere with the activity.

Implement procedures (e.g. buddy system, roll marking mechanisms) to account for all participants.


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Last updated 15 August 2023