Horseback riding or equestrian is a very popular sport in many different parts of the world. From children first learning how to care for and ride a horse to professional and semi-professional equestrians, no matter who you are or how experienced or inexperienced you may be, it is important to follow a handful of very basic, yet important horseback riding safety guidelines. Following these best practices will help to keep every horseback rider safe as they grow in this sport.
Proper Riding Gear
All riders, amateur or pro must wear horseback riding helmets. Just as we wear helmets when we ride bikes, wearing a helmet while horseback riding is key in preventing concussions and other common head injuries. It is also important to wear properly fitted footwear, sturdy riding boots with a small heel that covers the ankle can help a rider maintain secure footing in their stirrups as they ride. These specialized boots may help the rider avoid ankle sprains and provide the support needed to ride comfortably and safely. A protective vest is also recommended for inexperienced riders and should a rider fall off or be knocked to the ground, the vests can offer an additional layer of protection.
Proper Instruction and Supervision
Horseback riding requires learned skills, attention, and patience. Before getting on a horse, it is important that a beginner rider seek out the assistance of a learned instructor. The instructor will be able to key the rider in on the nuances of horseback riding and help them to connect more deeply with their horse. Horseback riding involves attention to detail and the demeanor of the horse. Knowing what signals to look for, especially the horses head movements and the position of their ears can help the rider better understand the horse’s reactions and perception of their environment.
The proper supervision of a trainer is also important when learning how to safely ride a horse. Whether learning to ride in a group setting or through individual instruction, it is always important to communicate clearly and practice safety. Keeping the rider safe and keeping the horse safe are the highest priorities of any riding instructor. As one’s horseback riding skills progress and they become increasingly comfortable, it is important that the rider has a clear understanding of their personal skill level and the limitations of their horse. Pushing one’s self or one’s horse too far, to the point of incident or injury, is never advised.
Basic Skills to Learn
Mounting and dismounting, getting on and off of a horse, are important. Riders should learn how to mount and dismount from either side of their horse. Every rider has a dominant or preferred side, but learning both helps to keep riders safe. Likewise, learning to safely and properly lead a horse is very important. Never wrap a lead or the reins around your arm or hand. Keeping your feet securely in the stirrups helps to keep the rider safe as well. It is important to treat horses with care and caution; they can spook unexpectedly, especially if they are in an unfamiliar barn or stall and if one isn’t careful a rider could be thrown or dragged by their horse as they make a run for it.
Once a rider has experience and proper training, they may enjoy riding alone. When doing so, it is important to do the following:
- Conduct a routine wellness and fitness check of the horse to make sure they are in stable riding condition.
- Tell someone where you will be riding and when they should expect you to be back.
- Bring a cellphone with you, but do not use the phone while riding.
- Bring a portable first aid kit.
- Wear a survivor’s whistle.