There is no beating around the bush - horse riding is a
risk sport. Apart from the obvious dangers of falling off
when mounted, these large animals have always got to be treated
with respect when handling them on the ground and in the stable.
Riding need not be any more dangerous than any other risk
sport, as long as certain precautions such as those listed
on this page are followed. Horse Rider Safety should always
be borne in mind when riding or near horses.
Safety for Visitors on the Yard
Horses are large prey animals and have been designed through
evolution to protect themselves from things they do not understand!
Anyone standing behind them is in danger of being kicked.
Horses characters can vary greatly - some can bite (either
if they are in a bad mood, or if they genuinely believe the
hand reaching out to stroke their nose is actually a carrot!)
Visitors to a Riding Stables or Livery Yard, especially with
young children, are asked to remember this, and keep their
children under control at all times! Riding stables are not
playgrounds, and children running round corners unexpectedly
can cause a horse to rear.
Riding hats or helmets MUST be worn at all times when riding,
and are paramount to horse rider safety. They are also advised
to be worn at other times when handling horses. Riding hats
come in various designs - some designs suit one shape of head
better than another, and of course some designs are more appropriate
to your favoured riding discipline.
The most important thing about a riding hat is that it much
be fitted correctly ideally by someone who had attending a
hat fitting course. It must also conform to standards PAS
015 or EN 1384. Hats cannot prevent serious injury in all
circumstances, but help in the majority of cases. Your skull
is fragile - it is not worth taking a risk with.
If the hat suffers a severe impact, either as a result of
a fall or a drop onto a hard surface it MUST be replaced.
Riding hat prices start from around the mid £30s, and you
can spend up to over £100.
Hats do not last forever as the protective padding gradually
compresses with use, and the hat becomes looser on your head.
You should purchase a replacement hat as soon as this happens.
Riding Hats and the Law
It is a legal requirement that children under the age of
14 MUST wear a riding hat which conforms to the appropriate
standard when riding a horse on the road.
Horse rider safety can be helped by a body protector which
can give protection to the chest and back area if you fall
from your horse. These are particularly useful if you fall
onto a hard surface (such as a jump), or if your horse stands
on you after a fall. Body protectors can help prevent serious
There are three standards of protection, and each has a different
coloured label in the shops to identify the level of protection
Level 1 Black label
Protectors providing a lower level of protection that is
only considered appropriate for licences jockeys.
Level 2 Brown label
Protectors providing a lower than normal level of protection
that is only
considered appropriate for use in low risk situations. These
DO NOT include riding on roads or other hard surfaces, riding
over jumps, riding young or excitable horses, or riding while
Level 3 Purple label
Protectors providing a level of protection that is considered
appropriate for normal horse riding, competitions and for
working with horses. Protectors to this level should:
Prevent minor bruising that would have produced stiffness
Reduce significant soft tissue injuries to the level of bruising.
Prevent a limited number of rib fractures.
When first using a body protector it will feel very strange
and restrictive. Most protectors mould to your body's shape,
and do so more easily in warm weather than in cold. Although
the body protector feels uncomfortable at first you really
must persevere with wearing it. After a few times of wearing
it when riding you will find you feel naked without it, and
it will become second nature to put it on and use it every
time you ride.
Body protectors cost from £60 up - a good investment for
something that may save your life!
Body Protector Fit
Fitting is of paramount importance and a visit to a properly
trained retailer is recommended, for example anyone displaying
the BETA Safety course attendance certificate.
Ensure that you are wearing the correct size of body protector
and that it is adjusted to give a close fit to the body, and
that no RED VELCRO is exposed at the shoulder or waist closures.
If RED VELCRO is visible the protector is too small or is
The body protector should be tried on over light clothing.
Check that is comfortable to wear in all simulated riding
positions. The garment should fit securely and reasonably
tightly to avoid movement during activity and to ensure that
it is in place in the event of an accident.
It is essential that you ride in appropriate footwear. Serious
injuries can be caused if you fall off and your foot gets
stuck in the stirrup. Proper riding boots are recommended
- these have a heel to stop your feet sliding through the
stirrups. Boots can be short (jophur boots) or full length.
The most comfortable footwear is often short boots and half
chaps - chaps keep the stirrup leathers from chaffing and
bruising your legs. However, what you choose to wear is personal
choice and how much you can afford (long leather riding boots
can set you back around £100 up).
It is not appropriate to ride in trainers as they have no
heel and can be dangerous.
You are now equipped with riding hat and body protector,
and proper footwear. Now it is time to turn to your horse!
The object of riding and of horse rider safety is to stay
on top of your horse - your riding apparel may help protect
you if you fall off, but really you want to avoid doing this
at all costs! You do not want to part company with your horse
due to faulty tack!
Tack needs to be checked regularly so you can spot a problem
before it occurs.
Leather tack needs to be kept clean and well conditioned
so that it remains supple - stitching needs to be checked
to ensure there are no points of weaknesss. Buying quality
tack in the first place is essential. You may find bridles
costing little more than £20, and wonder why you should pay
over £100 for the similar item. However, the more expensive
bridle is undoubtably going to be made of better leather,
and with good care will last you longer and be more reliable.
The last thing you would want is for your reins to break when
your horse is in mid gallop!
Tack can be repaired, but don't skimp here. If it is in bad
condition, replace it! If your girth breaks you will fall
off your horse and may suffer serious injury - is it really
worth risking it?
Buy the right tack for your riding discipline. Also make
sure the tack fits your horse properly for the comfort of
both of you.
Finally it is good if you can develop a relationship with
your tack supplier - for example, having the person who provides
your saddle come out and check the fit regularly. They will
be able to advise you on things that you may have missed.
Visibility on the Road
Wearing hi viz protective clothing when riding on the road
can make you more visible to a car driver approximately 3
seconds earlier than would otherwise be the case. These seconds
could be vital in saving the lives of you and your horse.
It is not always in poor or dark conditions that hi viz equipment
is necessary - on a bright summers day the driver's vision
may be hampered by bright sunlight!
Slogans on tabards, such as 'Pass wide and slow' also help
remind drivers of the need to take care when passing horses.
Unfortunately too many drivers nowadays seem unaware that
horses cannot be depended upon in the same way as bicycles,
and often come far too close and too fast.
Equestrian Road safety also includes thanking drivers who
show consideration for horses and their riders - this encourages
them to be as thoughtful in future. Sometimes riders do not
help themselves if they ignore couteous behaviour! A simple
'thank you' can go a long way - so remember every time!
At any time in your horse riding career you may part company
with your mount when you least expect it (or less politely
get dumped!). Being prepared can help you get back into the
saddle as quickly as possible, with little or no serious damage!
Horses weight half a ton or more – they must be respected!
About The Author
Trish Haill is the Webmaster for Limebrook Farm Riding School
and Livery Yard. This ever growing website is a great resource
for riders and horse lovers everywhere. Check out the site