Horse Sense

Park staff driving a team a horses.

Park staff driving a team of horses.

NPS Photo

Quick Facts


A Call to Action
Action Item:
Play it Safe
Year Accomplished:

Draft and saddle horses are used at Grant-Kohrs Ranch on a near daily basis for ranch work and visitor programs.  Operation Leadership (OL) attendance by all permanent and returning seasonal staff gave new tools for re-invigorated safety around horses.  Using OL tools, activities around horses were looked at by both those using the horses and those managing the programs.

 A Green Amber Red (GAR) assessment was conducted on more complex activities like the annual historic haying demonstration where volunteer teamsters and teams gather to mow, rake, and stake hay with horses.  It was also used to look at the annual branding demonstration where volunteers used their horses to gather, sort, and rope calves.  As a result, hazards were identified and corrected or mitigated.  For example, stepping over a cable used to stack hay was seen as risky and all were instructed to walk around. 

A Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) was written for more routine tasks involving horses - interpretive programs, using draft horses, and riding saddle horses.  Teamsters worked with safety and management staff to list risks associated with catching, grooming, harnessing, hitching, and driving draft horses.  All staff, including volunteers, that work around the draft horses now read and sign off on the JHA annually.  Mitigation of risks include "have an escape route at all times . . . driver ensures verbally all riders are ready to move and stop before giving command to horses." 

Detailed Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) have been written for horse programs and events.  A large component of the SOPs addresses safety.  They outline required training and skills that riders, drivers, and handlers must possess.  Various types of training for safety around horses have been used by ranch staff including bringing trainers on-site and attending other park safety programs.   

The GARs, JHAs, and SOPs are reviewed annually and by all involved.  After special events, participants are asked if they saw any safety issues or near misses.  This input has been invaluable improving safety around our horses.

Situational awareness - something taught in OL training - has really made a difference in how we approach safety - especially with routine work.  Drafts are hitched every day in the summer.  What might be different this day?  It could be the weather, a special group of visitors, or a cranky horse.  The concept of situational awareness keeps folks around the horses on their toes and watching for what's different this day that could cause a wreck and how can it be avoided. 

Horses are unpredictable.  Operational leadership has provided the tools to help keep our visitors and both our 2-legged and 4-legged staff safe.