BEFORE YOU SADDLE UP
- Safety check
Everything you do with your horse before you put the saddle on will result in “Saddle Up SAFELY.” Do a safety check of your equipment before each ride and during a lengthy one.
Note: No matter who helps you tack your horse, you as the rider are ultimately the one responsible and at risk. Take a few seconds to eliminate any potential problems.
- Checking your horse
Before saddling, brush your horse and pick his hooves. Many times I have found burrs under the belly in the cinch area and a stone in a hoof.
Note: Daily grooming is good basic horse care and will keep your horse happy and healthy.
- Warning your horse
When mounting your horse bareback from a higher place like a porch, horses can spook. Warn your horse by rubbing him on his back to make him aware you are planning to mount.
Note: You should always use a proper mounting block if possible. Getting on from random objects can be dangerous for you and your horse, ALWAYS make sure your horse is aware of where you are and what you’re doing.
- Relearning to ride
If you haven’t ridden in a long time, take lessons at a local stable under the guidance of a professional instructor.
Note: It’s always good to seek the help of a professional no matter what your riding skill level. It is, however, extremely important when working with a new, young, or green horse, or if you are a beginner.
- Reasons not to ride
Never ride if you feel uncomfortable with the horse, the activity, the environment, or the riding partners.
Note: Never put yourself or your horse in an unsafe position.
- Benefits of an instructor
Take horse riding lessons if you have no experience on a horse.
Note: It is always good to seek professional instruction when beginning to ride. It is better to establish correct habits and keep both you and your horse safe.
- Riding holiday
When on a riding holiday, always underestimate your experience when horses are being assigned and request a quiet horse. It is better to be given a slow horse and switch up later than to get a horse you can't handle and be badly scared or hurt.
Note: You want your riding holiday to be enjoyable and every country/discipline trains differently. What may be considered a "beginner" horse in one place could be more of an intermediate or advanced horse in another. Play it safe and have a good time.
- Coccyx injuries
Make sure you get good instructions on how to avoid coccyx injuries before you start to ride. During one ride, the horse galloped most of the time. I did my best to stand up in the stirrups, but was knocked in the buttocks frequently by the saddle. My coccyx hurt for nine months.
Note: Make sure you have the strength to endure the type of riding you will be doing. If you are not able to physically last then it is better to back off a little until you and your horse are physically fit enough for that type of workout.
- Planning ahead
Make sure you have a plan in case of an emergency.
Note: It is always good to ride with a friend if at all possible. Discuss the actions that would need to be performed in case of an emergency.
- Horse in the field
Always catch the horse and secure it with a lead and halter before handling or changing tack.
Note: It is always good practice to have your horse restrained when working around it.
I fell off after my horse fell forward into a hole. Try to analyze the area you will be riding in ahead of time.
Note: It's your responsibility as a rider to check the environment you're riding in. Make sure you are extremely aware of things like holes.
- Brushing horse before ride
Take time to brush and care for a horse before riding. This routine alerts the rider to injuries that may have gone unnoticed. The extra time in the stall helps create a safer environment for both you and your horse.
Note: This is great advice on many levels. Getting to know your horse, while checking for injuries or abnormalities, is a great way to becoming a better rider.
- Horse ID tag
Horse and rider can be separated. Securely attach an engraved brass identification tag to the saddle or bridle with contact information to ensure the lost horse is reunited with rider. Include the name of horse, owner's name and telephone number(s), stable address and telephone number(s).
Note: This is a very good practice, especially if you are a long way from home on a ride, or if you have traveled away from your barn. This is will also prove helpful when you travel to shows, etc. and want to keep tabs on your equipment.