Horseback riding and injury prevention: 7 tips for equestrians
Has your child developed a passion for horses and wants to become a rider?
Are you new to the sport and dreaming of long trail rides in nature? Yet you hear about horseback riding and its risks… Whether you are a beginner or an expert, horses remain a living being with ideas of their own sometimes and everyone has the same risk of a severe injury that can change their life forever.
Prevention: the key to success
In horseback riding, the most frequent injuries are mainly due to falls and handling of the horse. All kinds of injuries can occur during this activity. Although most of the time the injuries are not life threatening or irreversible, the goal is to avoid they worst to fully enjoy the sport and this fabulous creature.
Your behavior next to and on the horse plays a key role. It is therefore obvious that prevention is the best way to limit the risk of injury. A well-informed person combined to a careful behavior are the top priority. But even then, you still cannot prevent everything. For those unpredictable times, here are our 7 top safety tips.
Tip #1: Wear a protective head gear (helmet)
In horseback riding, the protective head gear is called a “helmet“. Wearing a helmet is essential, no matter what level of riding you do or what discipline you practice. Although it is not always mandatory for adults in certain disciplines, it still should always be used. Wearing a helmet does not garanti you won’t have a concussion but definitely lowers the severity of the head injuries.
Tip #2: Never ride alone without anyone knowing you are going to ride
Whether you are a beginner or experienced rider, it is important to always have someone around, aware of the time you get on, and knowing where you are planning to ride, on or off property. Even if you don’t always have an instructor by your side, it is recommended that there is always a responsible person close to where you ride. This could save your life if you are severely injured or unconscious.
Tip #3: Inspect your equipment while preparing your horse
It is important to check the condition of the equipment before each session to spot a potential failure while you are riding. Do not underestimate the stitching coming apart from a girth, chewed up reins or old polo wraps that don’t stick properly anymore, as an equipment failure could lead to a dramatic accident, where you and the horse could get severely injured.
Tip #4: Proper foot gear is a must
In addition to wearing a helmet, proper foot gear is just as important. A short or tall boot should always be used and absolutely needs a small heal, to prevent the foot to slip entirely through the stirrups and get stuck. The boots need to be fitted and slim.
Think about the fact that big, wide, flat and bulky foot wear could easily remain stuck in the stirrups in the event of a fall. The last thing you want is to have your foot stuck in the stirrup and a scared animal cantering full speed while you are not sitting on his back anymore…
And this leads to our fifth tip.
Tip #5: Always use safety stirrups
Safety stirrups are made in a way where the foot can easily get free in the event of a fall. Avoid light and super grippy stirrups as they tend to follow your feet if you try to get your feet out fast to get yourself out of trouble sometimes… Magnetic stirrups could also be a problem for the same reason.
Tip #6: Wear a body protector and/or an airbag vest
Nowadays, we have body protectors and individual airbag vests for the equestrians to add to the safety equipment available. The body protectors can be used by small children and everyone else, they offer a basic protection for the chest and back.
The airbag vest offers a better protection. Some brands offer an optimal protection of the cervicales and spine. The world leader in the industry is Helite airbag technology, offering the best protection for the cervicales on the market as they invented and patented their technology.
Airbags are available for children that weigh 77 lbs or 35 Kg or more, to ensure they are big enough and old enough to safely take the impact of the airbag.
For an optimal protection, the body protectors should be worn under the air vest as an airbag still requires the rider to come off as it is activated with a mechanical action. It consists of a lanyard attached to the saddle on a special strap provided with the airbag vest by the manufacturer. In the event of a fall, the lanyard will remain attached to the saddle and will trigger the activation and inflation of the air vest.
Tip #7 always take your phone with you, but be careful how you carry it on you while riding
Ideally, you would like to have your phone in the ring but not on you. Carrying your phone on your belt could potentially hurt you if you fall off directly on it. Especially around your belt as you have quite a few vital organs located in various places in your torso. The safest place to carry your phone would be on the side pocket of your tights, as you have strong and thick bones and muscles.
You obviously would like to have access to a phone to call 911 or someone in the barn in case of an accident. Tip #2 should always be combined to tip #7.
Horseback riding is a wonderful sport. Horses are amazing and addictive, regardless of the risks of the sport. Passion and 25 years of experience as a professional rider, trainer and upper level competitor have inspired the author of this article. Unfortunately, a life changing and severe injury have motivated this equestrian to help raise awareness and support safer sport practice on a daily basis.