Personal safety

  • Never ride alone
    The thoroughbred I was riding ran off bucking. I do not know why. I broke a hip socket and had a pelvic fracture. Never ride alone so that if you get hurt, someone is there to get help.
    Note: You always ride with someone nearby. If that's not possible, let someone know you're riding, give an estimated time you'll be finished and call as soon as your ride is over.  
  • Mounting
    Always explain to the person handling the horse for you the specific way to hold a horse for mounting. Never hold or pull down on the reins as this will pull the bit down in the horse’s mouth and can cause them to rear up.
  • Tall horses and mounting
    On large or tall horses, have someone hold your horse or engineer a safe mount.
    Note: Using random objects as mounting blocks is handy, but dangerous. Set yourself and your horse up for success. 
  • Use Approved Mounting Block or Platform
    I used a step ladder because the horse was large. I got caught in-between when the horse moved forward, I dove into the saddle, the horse panicked and the rest was up to my orthopedic surgeon.
    Note: Always use appropriate equipment and never make sudden movements around horses, especially if it means jumping at them from their side or behind.   
  • Mounting blocks
    When getting on the saddle, try to stand on a platform that raises your feet to the level of the stirrup so you don’t have to pull yourself up over the horse.  This will also allow you to step back more easily if the horse gets startled.
    Note: This is also good to help prevent a sore back for your horse.  
  • Spurs
    Mounting a horse can be a dangerous time. If you have spurs on be careful how you throw your foot over your horses back. I scraped my spur over the back of the horse when I was getting on, causing it to buck me off.
    Note: If mounting properly, spurs or a crop should not come in contact with your horse. Make mounting, and therefore riding, enjoyable for your horse. 
  • Finger safety
    Do not wrap the lead, lunge, or reins around your fingers; it is a very good way to break your fingers or hand.
    Note: ALWAYS use folds, not loops. Even the loosest of loops become tight in an emergency situation.  
  • Protecting your fingers
    When jumping, keep your hands angled to the horse’s shoulder to avoid jamming or dislocating your thumbs.
    Note: When riding normally, a basic balance seat includes having your “thumbs on top”, simulating carrying a bowl of soup with both hands. This will not only make you a better rider but protect your wrist and fingers from injury. 
  • Mounting block
    While my mom was trying to hold my horse and boost me up at the same time, the horse spooked. We have now trained the horse to use a mounting block.
    Note: This is a good example of learning from a problem and rectifying it. Make sure your horses are versatile when it comes to situations like mounting. You should be able to get on your horse from the ground or mounting block from either side. 
  • Jumping
    A horse may refuse to jump. Make sure you wear a good, certified helmet every time and every ride.
  • Looking up
    When jumping, look up. I was jumping a stone wall and looked right down at it as my horse took off and fell. 
    Note: This is one of the most important rules of jumping. Eyes up, heels down, and thumbs up. Make sure you work with a competent jumping trainer when participating in this sport. 
  • Safety zone
    Never let any horse push into your space. Your space is 3-5 feet around you. You can invite them into your space, but they can’t enter without your permission. If they try, chase them off. Practice moving horses away from you with your voice, hands and lead rope.
    Note: If a horse doesn’t respect you on the ground you will have way bigger problems in the near future. Make sure you solidify the basics before moving on. 
  • Awareness
    Horse riding, especially jumping, can be dangerous no matter how experienced of a rider you are. Always wear all the protective gear available and never get too relaxed.
    Note: Just like you should always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle or motorcycle, horseback riding is a sport that always requires protective gear.  
  • Riding near others
    Always ride near other people so you can get help if something does happen.
    Note: This is always a good practice to go by. Riding without someone else present is always playing with fire. However, sometimes it is not possible to have someone there. In those instances always call someone before you begin working with the horse. Tell them the approximate time you will be finished and then call them immediately upon completion of your ride. This way someone will be aware of a possible problem if they don’t hear from you in the designated amount of time.  
  • Never riding alone
    You wouldn’t go diving in the ocean alone, so riding shouldn’t be any different no matter your age, discipline or confidence level.
    Note: If riding alone always make sure someone always knows where you are and when you’ll be back. 
  • Height of fences
    Be aware of your limitations. It is easy to misjudge the height of a fence while jumping.
    Note: Always learn on higher fences than you will be jumping in competition or on the trail. This way you and your horse are confident in any situation.  
  • Green horse
    When mounting a colt that is green, it is always good to have a person stand by and head your horse for you.
    Note: Always set yourself and your horse up for success. Don’t expect too much out of a green horse.
  • Checking girth after warmup
    After you have warmed up your horse, check to make sure the girth is tight before you continue your ride.
    Note: Many horses will suck air when you first saddle them, so a few minutes under saddle will cause them to exhale that air. Always a good tip to check the girth after warm up and right before jumping/running barrels/etc.
  • Understanding your riding ability
    I was jumping a small fixed jump when the horse veered right on landing and I kept going straight. I broke my arm in 2 pieces. Although exhilarating prior to the injury, in hindsight I wasn't ready to do this from a skills perspective. Be honest with yourself about your readiness to tackle something requiring a higher level of skill.
    Note: Its good to realize what your limitations are and stick to them. Enlist a qualified trainer/instructor to help set a plan for training for both you and your horse. 
  • Let Go of Runaway Horse
    My daughter was leading a young horse who became spooked and she was scared to let loose of the rope – afraid he would run in to traffic so she tried to hang on. She fell into the blacktop on her outstretched arm, breaking her wrist.
    Note: Always make sure the handler and/or rider is comfortable and capable in a situation before it unfolds. Just because someone can handle a horse in the best of situations doesn’t mean they can if something were to go wrong.  
  • Respect Horse's Space
    I was up too close to the horse's face and in his space. He jerked his head up and hit my chin. Stitches to my tongue.
    Note: Always be aware of your horse and their actions. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time can be disastrous.  
  • Be Careful after It Rains
    My friend and I were riding ponies and we were galloping in an arena, racing. It had rained the night before, and there were wet spots in the arena. I had just pulled ahead of her when my pony went over one of the wet spots, his fell over sideways and I broke my collar bone. Note: Always be aware of the ground you are riding on, whether it is in the arena or out in the open. It is a rider's responsibility to keep their horses safe on footing.   
Page last updated: 4/6/2015 2:26:10 PM