General Safety Tips
COMMUNICATION SAFETY TIPS
I am always looking at everything and if I see anything that may be unsafe while riding, I mention it. 90 percent of the time people are receptive and say thank you.
Note: Communication is key, especially when out on the trail or in a large group. No one should ever be upset if you're attempting to prevent an accident.
- Safe groups
Set yourself and your horse up for success. Are the groups you ride with safe? Are their horses safe?
Note: Know the company you’re in. Never put anyone in a sticky situation, even if it means quelling some fun every once in a while.
When going out on a trail ride, write your name and names of riding buddies, departure time and anticipated return, cell phone number(s). In case you don't return, someone can call or summon assistance.
Note: Always a good idea when you are trail riding, in a group or alone. This way someone knows where you are located.
TRAINING SAFETY TIPS
- Staying fit
Keep fit. I have a buddy who is pretty overweight and has a large gut. He was badly injured when his horse fell. Normally a horse will recover from a stumble but if you are overweight it is hard on the horse.
Note: Good horsemanship is about balance and being able to stay in the middle of the saddle.
- Dismounting both ways
Teach yourself and your horse to accept mounting and dismounting from both sides, in case the preferred side is unsafe.
Note: Excellent point. Each side of a horse is different as well, so something that is perfectly comfortable to them on one side might be a monster on the other. Desensitize your horse equally.
- Knowing your skill level
I was riding my horse at a gallop and cued her to turn when she slowed faster than I expected. I lost my balance and fell. I fractured three vertebrae. Don't over estimate your ability. If your balance is not skilled enough to ride at a gallop, then canter or walk.
Note: Your horse will usually take care of himself before he will take care of you. If your horse thinks something is dangerous (like taking a turn at too fast a speed) he will adjust to eliminate the dangers. Be prepared for a horse that thinks on its own.
- Have a trainer near by
I fell off a horse jumping an over that was too big for my level of riding. When jumping a larger more complex jump, have your trainer with you to teach you how to correctly ride the jump. Don't just go for it.
Note: Always set you and your horse up for success. Overestimating a horse can not only be dangerous for both of you but can also seriously affect their confidence and make it more difficult in training later.
TIPS WHEN RIDING ALONE
- Riding plans
Always make sure someone knows where you are riding.
Note: You should also let them know the time you started and the time you expect to finish.
- Notifying a friend
If you are going alone, always tell someone where you are going, when you’re going and when you plan on being back. Also tell them that if you haven’t called to let them know you're back, they should call you or come looking.
Note: This is an extremely good practice to have if you don’t have the luxury of always riding with others.
- Having a partner
Avoid tacking and riding alone. Even if there is only one person within earshot, they can call an ambulance if you are hurt.
Note: Always make sure someone knows you are going to ride, what time you left, and what time you should be back. That way if no one is with you and you have been gone a while they know where to start looking.
- Riding alone
Never ride alone. Carry a cell phone.
Note: This is a rule you should always obey. Just be sure your phone is secured and not a distraction.
Take off all jewelry before riding.
Note: This rule also applies when you are working with horses on the ground.
- Routine check of your horse
Check your horse for a sore back, etc. before saddling a horse to avoid bucking or being slammed into the wall of a stall.
Note: It is good to always check over your horse on a regular basis for soreness, injuries or illness.
- First aid
Have a first aid kit for both you and your horse and have a medical information band that includes all contact information in the event of an injury.
Note: This is a good way to help emergency personnel in case you need it. It is also helpful to have ICE (in case of emergency) phone numbers programmed in your cell phone in case you cannot communicate with rescuers.
- Survivor whistle
I carry a survivor’s whistle. It is very loud and I know Morse code for SOS, three short, three long, three short.
Note: In a tight situation this is a good resource to have. Just be aware that it might frighten your horse.
- Cell phone on you
When you’re carrying a cell phone during your ride (in case you need to notify others of an emergency), be sure the phone is in your pocket and not in a saddlebag or otherwise carried by the horse. If you should be thrown, you will still have the cell phone in your possession.
Note: Its always good to keep your phone on your person in case you and your horse are to be separated.
- Staying off cell phones
I answered my cell phone as I was approaching a tunnel and hit my head on the concrete ceiling. Wait to answer your phone if you are in an unsafe environment.
Note: It's not good practice to EVER be talking on your cell phone while riding.
- Reins and lead rope
Never wrap the reins or lead rope around your hand or arm while leading your horse so that if he rears or takes off, your arm won’t go with him.
Note: Always use folds, not loops. Even the loosest of loops become tight quickly in the event of an emergency situation.
- Feet in stirrup
Keep your feet in the stirrups the whole time you are on a horse.
Note: Horses can spook at very inopportune times - make sure you don’t get caught off guard.
- Leading Horse to Riding Area
We placed our 3-year old brother on a pony but didn’t lead the pony to the riding area. The pony took off and my brother fell of and hit some big rocks in the ditch beside our driveway.
Note: Never put a small child on a horse that isn’t of the age or ability level to ride without proper and strict supervision (i.e. a lead line with a competent adult who is knowledgeable about horses).
- Wearing a vest
My horse spooked and I bruised my back. I have started wearing a protective vest every ride, in addition to my helmet.
Note: Vests are a very good investment not only for competitors, but all riders.