Just get on and go: I DON'T THINK SO!!
Published 08-09-2011 4:04 PM | Fernanda Camargo
This blog post was written by Polly Haselton Barger, CHA Program Director and CHA Master Instructor and Clinician! To learn more about CHA, go to www.cha-ahse.org
Horseback riding can be made much safer by many things, and a pre-ride safety check is one of the important ones. I see so many people just get on their horse without any effort to ensure that everything is in order for as safe a ride as possible. This goes for getting on a horse yourself, or helping someone else.
First to check is the rider. Do they have on appropriate apparel? Long pants, boots with a heel and an ASTM-SEI approved helmet are the minimum. Look for long, dangling earrings, loose clothing, pens in the pocket, etc. Anything that could get hung or penetrate someone in the case of a fall should be removed. Also check the mental state. Anger, nervousness, depression, hyperactivity, over excitement, distraction, etc. are all important to take note of. In some cases a person should not be getting onto a horse if they are experiencing extreme emotions or are unable to focus.
The behavior of the horse is also important to take note of. Is he acting normal? Does he seem more nervous than usual, or calmer than is typical? Any change in the general mood of the horse might signal a problem. Hopefully a soundness check happened before the horse was tacked.
Checking the horse’s tack should be more than just sticking a hand under the girth/cinch. Fit, adjustment and condition are the things to be checked. Hopefully a horse has his own tack which has been fitted to him, so the pre-ride safety check probably needs to focus on adjustment and condition. On the bridle the bit should rest comfortably on the corner of the mouth, the chin strap of a leverage bit should make contact when the shank is pulled back 45 degrees, the noseband should allow for one or two fingers under it and be about 3 to 4 fingers below the cheek bone, the throat latch should have 3 fingers space, the brow band should not be touching the ears. Anyplace that metal touches leather is susceptible to wear, so check under buckles and all connections.
On the saddle the girth/cinch should be checked at the horse’s midline (since if his side is flat it might be inadvertently tightened too much), there should be adequate clearance between the gullet and horse’s withers, the stirrup safety bar should, in most cases, be in the open position and all leather straps (billets, rigging, stirrup leathers, etc.) need to be carefully checked for wear. Be sure to check both sides.
Lastly, a quick check of the riding environment should be done. If in an arena, check to see if the gate(s) is closed, there is not anything hanging on the rail, there is no junk in the corners, and any dogs in the area are outside of the ring. Whether in an arena, open space or trail, a quick check of the weather is in order. Extreme heat or cold each have their own challenges, and if a thunderstorm seems likely a change of plans might be considered. It is never appropriate to ride in lightening.
Remember, many unfortunate incidents can be prevented by taking the time to do a complete safety check before mounting. It sounds like a long process, but actually only takes a few minutes, and is well worth the effort. Here’s to a safe ride!