Wherever there are people riding horses, there’s a horse trainer concerned with their health and safety. That’s because every time someone laces up their horseback riding boots and hops on the saddle, they’re putting themselves at risk of injury. Thankfully, you can reduce the chances of that happening by a lot if you practice even just the foundations of riding safety.
If you, like all horse people, want to be able to enjoy riding your horse for years to come, you’ll need to take health and safety seriously. Not only do the right precautions keep you in riding shape, but they’ll also help your horse avoid getting hurt, themselves.
In this article, you’ll learn the basics about:
Keep in mind that any medical advice in this article—whether for you or your horse—are just the basics; it is not meant to replace the words of your doctor or your horse’s veterinarian.
Prioritizing You and Your Horse’s Health and Safety
As beautiful as it is to see people riding horses, we need to remember that horseback riding involves putting people on top of 1,000 pounds of horse muscle traveling at 30 miles per hour—or faster. A single mistake can lead to a major injury, both for the rider and their horse. Having health and safety precautions while riding allows us to enjoy the ride with minimal risk.
At the same time, we also need to practice safety when working with horses outside of riding. Every situation comes with a different set of risks we need to look out for. For example, a horse may not be as comfortable with strangers as they are with their horse trainer, and could end up hurting someone if they are spooked.
Practicing safety before, during, and after a ride also goes a long way towards making sure your horse enjoys a good quality of life for as long as possible. Horse injuries sustained during accidents could have a long-term effect on their health, such as chronic pain, trouble eating, and greater susceptibility to other injuries. Horses being transported from one stable to another encounter a variety of new health and safety risks that they normally wouldn’t face at home because of the smaller spaces in their trailers.
When safety is a priority, you’re able to keep your partnership with your horse at its very best for as long as possible. Everybody wins when both of you stay healthy.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
The majority of horseback riding accidents can start from small, easy-to-avoid mistakes. Knowing what these day-to-day riding problems are will be a huge help towards your safety since avoiding them doesn’t take much effort.
The most common mistake people make, for example, is allowing themselves to get distracted while riding. Your horse trusts you to keep them out of harm’s way, so if you stop paying attention to what’s in front of you during a ride, there’s a chance that they could stumble over something in the way. It’s up to you to make sure that you steer them down a clear path.
Another mistake that riders often make is gripping their horses with their legs. While you think it might feel more secure, it lifts your body a smidge too high. This, in turn, messes up your balance on your horse and makes it more likely for you to fall off. Instead, just relax and let proper posture do the work of keeping you on your horse.
Finally, many beginner riders tend to pull tighter on the reins when they feel unsure, nervous, or imbalanced. The issue here is that your horse receives your instructions based on the pressure created by pulling the reins on their bit. If you’re inconsistent with how you apply that pressure, there’s a chance that your horse gets confused by all the mixed signals. This can lead to situations where your horse might run or turn when you aren’t prepared for it, throwing you off and possibly causing your horse to get into an accident.
We go a little more in-depth on these and other common mistakes in this article.
The Value of High-Quality Tack and Equipment
When it comes to health and safety, investing in high-quality tack is always worth it. Gears like saddle pads and horse boots not only help prevent injuries but also reduce the risk of both you and your horse developing chronic problems.
Gel pads, for example, are tucked under your saddle to both improve the saddle’s fit and absorb shock while you’re riding. A properly fitted saddle keeps you more securely positioned on your horse while keeping them as comfortable as possible. The shock absorption qualities of a good gel pad, on the other hand, reduce the stress that riding can put on your lower back, as well as on your horse’s back. This helps prevent the recurring back pain that many riders and horses struggle with after years of horseback riding.
Other pieces of tack, like bit accessories and horse boots, also contribute to your horse’s long-term health. Properly fitted bits will prevent pain and tooth grinding, which can affect your horse’s eating habits and temperament, while horse boots provide extra support for their joints while running.
Of course, having a good riding helmet, horseback riding boots, vests, and other pieces of personal equipment will protect you from any serious injury. Falls are possible no matter how skilled you are, so it’s always best to wear your protective gear whenever you go for a ride.
For more info on horse tack and how it could save your horse’s life, check out this article.
Getting Harmed, Injury Recovery, and Rehabilitation
Learning what to do after an accident can be just as important as knowing how to avoid them. The way you react to a bad fall plays a huge part in whether or not any injuries get worse, and managing your expectations about injury recovery helps you stay patient during rehabilitation.
One of the most common injuries among people riding horses is a collarbone fracture. This often happens because we instinctively use our arms to break our fall, and this results in a large amount of force hitting our collarbones. Injury recovery for collarbone fractures usually involves keeping your arm in a splint for a few months, until the bones heal.
Because we break our falls with our arms, wrist injuries are also fairly common. The recovery period for these depends heavily on how bad the injury was—sprains generally just need a few weeks in a cast or wrap, while some bone breaks might require surgery. This typically means a few months of injury recovery, plus a few more for rehabilitation.
Concussions can also happen during accidents, and these need to be taken very seriously. These occur when the force of an accident causes the brain to crash into the skull, which means there’s a real risk of brain damage. If you suffer memory loss, vision problems, nausea, confusion, headaches, or general discomfort after hitting your head, you’ll need to see a doctor immediately to check for any serious issues. In most cases, however, getting a concussion just means you’ll have to sit back and take it easy for a few weeks until you’re sure all the symptoms are gone.
You can learn more about these injuries and a few others in this article. You’ll also find tips on how to prevent these injuries through proper falling and choosing the right gear for you and your horse.
Be on the lookout for injuries on your horse, too. It always pays to play it safe after a fall and have your horse checked out by their vet, especially if you notice symptoms like limping or grumpiness.
In milder cases, you might be able to DIY their injury recovery. You can check out this article for some home remedies you can try for wounds and small breaks. If an injury is serious, however, don’t attempt to treat it without your vet’s guidance; you wouldn’t want to accidentally make the injury worse.
As a final piece of advice, try to incorporate the idea of health and safety into your day-to-day interactions with your horse. The next time you saddle up, for example, take some time to do a health and safety checklist. Make sure that the weather conditions are safe, and that both you and your horse are feeling well enough to ride. Even though horseback riding is meant to be fun, make sure that you’re alert enough to keep your eyes on the trail. Remember all the tips your horse trainer taught you for riding safely.
Lastly, make sure you and your horse have got all the necessary equipment on. For riders, the ideal setup would include a riding helmet, horseback riding boots, and a crash vest. For horses, that would mean properly-fitted tack, a gel pad under the saddle for comfort, and horse boots for more intense rides. If you’re in the market for high-quality tack, check out our collection of gear and accessories.