A horse trainer was sentenced and ordered to pay reparation of $372,000 at the Auckland District Court today following an incident which has left a teenage girl tetraplegic.

Stephen John McKee employed the victim, who was 19-years-old at the time, as a stable hand. While the girl had some experience riding horses she had never ridden a racing-fit racehorse.

In November 2016, McKee told the stable hand she would have her first ride. While riding the horse the stable hand lost control of the reins and the horse. She was thrown from the horse and broke her neck.

As a result of the incident the stable hand was left tetraplegic. A WorkSafe investigation found McKee had failed to ensure the stable hand was competent to ride a racehorse.

Head of Specialist Interventions Simon Humphries said McKee should have supervised and assessed the progression of the riding ability of the stable hand on more suitable horses.

He said McKee had been a horse trainer for more than 30 years and should have been aware of hazards and risks relating to the industry.

“In her role as a stable hand the stable hand undertook manual duties. There was no formal training to monitor, supervise and progress her from stable hand to riding a racehorse. This young woman’s life has been drastically affected and the incident serves as a reminder to employers that they must always ensure staff are capable of the job at hand.”


  • A fine of $30,000 was imposed.
  • Reparations of $110,000 were ordered, as well as $262,000 for consequential loss.
  • Stephen John McKee was charged under sections 36(1)(a), 48(1) and (2)(b) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
    • Being a PCBU, failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of a worker who worked for the PCBU, while she was at work in the business or undertaking, namely working at a racing stables, and that failure exposed her to risk of death or serious injury, arising from riding a racehorse.
  • The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $300,000.

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