Horseback Riding – Stay Safe and Have Fun

Horseback riding is a high risk sport. Besides the obvious danger of falling off, horses are large animals weighing in excess of 1,000 pounds and should always be treated with respect and handled with safety precautions in mind. If you are smart around horses and observe safety precautions, it's no more dangerous than any other high-risk activity.

Keep Visitors and Children Safe

When visitors and especially children are around horses, they often do not have any idea about the nature of horses or how to remain safe. It's the owner's obligation to educate them on safety precautions around horses.

Because equines are prey animals, and large ones at that, they are naturally extremely aware of their surrounds at all times. They will, as a matter of instinct, protect themselves when things happen that surprise them or that they do not understand. One big mistake people who are unfamiliar with horses make is to stand behind the horse, usually about 6 feet behind, as a matter of fact. This is the perfect distance for getting nailed right in the head by a flying hoof. Explain to them that if they are going to stand or walk behind a horse it should be directly behind it, with a hand on its rump so the horse knows they are there.

Horse are like any other beings – they have different personalities and temperaments. Some will bite, others would not dream of it. Did you know a finger has about the same crunchiness ratio as a carrot? It's way too easy to get a finger in the way when offering a carrot if a person does not know what they're doing. If your visitors want to offer treats, teach them how to hold it before offering it to the horse.

Remind parents that riding stables are not playgrounds, and children should not be allowed to run around startling the horses, which may then rear, bolt, or kick. A few friendly words of explanation about proper behavior around horses will go a long way in avoiding trouble.

Riding Helmets

Although Western riders in particular fight wearing them, it's only sensible to wear a helmet when riding. We are only given one brain, and when that one has been injured it can be a long road to recovery, if recovery is even possible. To truly abide by the safety rules, they should be worn at all times when around horses.

Helmets come in a variety of designs and styles, for both English and Western riders. It's important to find one that fits correctly and is comfortable. Ask for help at the tack shop, as they will hopefully have attended a hat fitting course and can advise you. Although a helmet will not always prevent serious injury or death, it will certainly put the odds in the rider's favor.

If the helmet ever suffers a severe impact it is very important that it be replaced. Some manufacturers will replace them free of charge or for a lower price if one of their helmets has been impacted in an equine mishap. Prices start at around $ 35 and go up from there. This is a small price to pay to keep your brain safe.

Over time the protective padding in a helmet compresses with use, and the helmet will become looser. If this happens, the helmet should be replaced as soon as possible, as it will not protect the head as well as it should in an accident. It's often a legal requirement that children must wear a riding helmet that conforms to standards when riding a horse.

Riding Boots

It's extremely important to wear proper footwear when riding or working around horses. The fact is a rider can sustain serious injuries or even death when falling from a horse if a foot gets stuck in the stirrup. Riding boots or shoes are essential … they are designed so that the heel will stop the foot from sliding through the stirrup.

There are a number of different types of riding boots and shoes available. Riders can choose from short boots (jodhpur boots), full length boots, lightweight riding shoes, and cowboy boots. Often it's most comfortable to wear a short pair of boots or riding shoes along with half chaps, which prevent stirrup leathers from rubbing and bruising the rider's legs. Riders should never ride a horse in trainers or running shoes – with no heel they can slip right through the stirrups. They are no protection when a the horse steps on a human foot, either. Ouch!

Buy Quality Tack

Buying quality tack from the outset will means you will get good leather that will stand the test of time. Cheap tack means poor product quality and an increased chance of failure. No one wants to fall from a horse or have an accident because of poor quality equipment. It should be checked and cleaned on a regular basis so problems can be spotted immediately. Leather tack needs to be kept supple and strong with regular cleaning and conditioning. The stitching should be check to make sure there are no weak points.

Adhering to safety standards, buying good quality tack and equipment, and keeping your wits about you at all times will go a long way towards ensuring that the time you spend around horses will be enjoyable.