Even the most docile, well-behaved horses can have those moments when they pose a danger to themselves or those around them. Because horses are prey animals, their instinct when frightened is to enter fight or flight mode. Unfortunately — as most riders know — it doesn’t always take much to send a horse into fight or flight mode. A blowing piece of paper, a backfiring car or even pain caused by improperly fitting equipment can all trigger a horse’s natural reaction to protect itself.
Horse Riding Safety Tips
Because horses can be such unpredictable creatures, it is important to always wear the appropriate safety equipment. At most riding facilities, it is mandatory for a rider to wear a helmet. Even if it’s not required at the barn or stable where you ride, you should think twice before ever sitting astride a horse without a helmet. Why? Because medical examiner reports have shown that approximately 60 percent of deaths related to horses were caused by a head injury.
Your choice of footwear is also important. Always wear a boot with a heel, such as a cowboy or paddock boot, while riding. That heel will prevent your foot from slipping through the stirrup. Cowboys learned the hard way that if they fell off and their foot got caught, there was a good chance that they could get dragged behind a frightened, running horse.
You should also wear clothing that will give you maximum visibility while you’re riding on the roads or in the woods. While it’s hard to believe that a person might not see an animal as large as a horse, distracted drivers are all too common today. Thus, wearing a reflective vest or arm bands can help drivers see you — especially when visibility is low — such as during the evening or on a foggy day. Also, always make sure to wear a bright-orange vest during hunting season so that you won’t be mistaken for a deer.
In addition to wearing the proper clothing, the following are other horse safety tips to keep in mind before and during your ride:
- Learn basic emergency techniques for stopping an out-of-control horse. Many riders on a runaway horse will just haul back on the reins in an attempt to stop it, basically pitting their strength against that of a 1,200-pound (often terrified) animal. In almost all cases, that will not work. Instead, experts recommend that you use a pulley rein. Start by shortening your reins, then place one hand on the horse’s withers to brace yourself, while pulling one rein sharply upward and backward with your other hand. Repeat until you can get your horse back under control.
- Always look over your tack to make sure that it is in good condition and that everything is fastened and tightened properly. For instance, double check that your cinch is tightened before mounting, since many horses will bloat during the saddling process.
- Keep your distance from other horses. Even a normally well-behaved horse might kick at another if it is approached suddenly from behind or if it feels crowded.
- Make sure your equipment fits your mount properly. A horse will sometimes buck or exhibit other dangerous behaviors if an ill-fitting saddle causes it pain. Horses that are used in working events such as roping may also need specially designed saddle pads that will help cushion the shock of stopping a calf.
If your current saddle pad is not providing adequate protection for your horse’s back, it’s time to invest in a customized one that will give your mount the comfort it deserves. Here at Best Ever Pads, we offer a number of options so that you can design the perfect pad for your needs.