Horse back riding is a risky sport with many injuries each year. Lots of those injuries happen to backs and heads, as the rider falls down and suffers from impact blows. Horses always often step on their riders by accidents as they fall in under the horse after a crash.
Horse back riding accidents can be severe, especially if the rider isn’t equipped properly. Horse back riding gear isn’t just designed for a better experience while training (although that of course is also a major plus), but also to improve safety, comfort and control for the person holding the reins.
Many injuries also happen from the ground, when horses run off, kick, bite, or jump to the side. That’s why the right equipment just not only be in place when you’re actually in the saddle – it’s also essential to know what to wear and keep with you when handling the horse on the paddock and in the stables.
The horse is a herd animal, so it has a strong panic instinct. When frightened, it’s in a horse’s nature to run for it, not minding who might be in the way or what will happen to the rider on top of it. So although the horse doesn’t intend to harm the rider, it oftentimes just can’t help it. The herd instinct in it is too strong to fight.
That’s why it’s always important to have the right safety gear, no matter how docile and calm your horse normally is. Let’s take a look at the different equipment, their purpose and how to research what you should purchase for yourself.
Horse riding helmet
Head injuries are the most common reason for death and serious injury for both mounted or dismounted horse people. That’s why the helmet is arguably the most important gear when spending time around horses. Lots of injuries and fatal accidents can be less severe if the rider would just wear a helmet.
Which helmet to choose
It does matter what helmet you choose to some extend. You can’t for example go horse back riding with a bicycle helmet. Bicycle helmets are designed to protect you when you crash on your bicycle – they are not designed to protect your head from a high fall from horse back, or the impact of a horse’s hooves.
You should choose a horse riding helmet that has been approved for horse riding. Each country has a different name for their standards, although most standards are decided upon similar factors.
If you’re in the USA you should look for the standard SNELL E2001. In GB, the standard is called PAS 015, and in Australia it’s ARB HS 2012 and AS/NZS 3838. No matter where you live, it’s a good idea to look up what standards are accepted by your country, so you know which horse riding helmet are safe for you to use. It’s important that they meet the standards, because it means they have been tested specifically to protect from horse related injuries. As mentioned above, a fall from a horse often needs a stronger helmet than a fall from a bicycle.
Does price matter?
A more expensive helmet might be more comfortable, have better adjustments or ventilation. However expensive horse riding helmets aren’t safer than cheap ones – provided they meet the official safety standards.
Do you really have to wear a body protector for everyday horse back riding? Isn’t it just something used in jumping, because you’re more likely to fall off or crash in that particular discipline? Well, yes and no. Horse jumping can sometimes be more dangerous than for example dressage, but that doesn’t mean that the body protector can’t be a good idea no matter what.
While head injuries is the major cause of horseback riding related deaths, chest injuries is the second most common reason.
That’s generally speaking, and doesn’t just apply to horse jumping! That’s why body protectors is an obvious choice when it comes to staying safe on horseback for all horseback riders.
Which safety vest is best?
The days are over where body protectors looked chunky and inelegant. Now you can find some very comfy kinds that sit snugly on your body and look great. Many equestrians don’t even notice that they are wearing it. The most important thing when choosing your body protector is to make sure it fits properly. Go to a store and try on many different kinds, so you find out which one is good for you.
Stirrups is something that many riders tend to forget about until they have an accident that almost went terribly wrong because their foot got stuck in the stirrup. I remember one of my friends once telling me about how she had watched her daughter horse riding. Her daughter fell off and her foot got stuck in the stirrup for just a moment before her foot thankfully slid through. She came out of the situation with just bruises and scratches. After that, my friend bought a pair of safety stirrups for her daughter.
There are many different safety stirrups on the market. Some have a rubber band that falls off on impact while others have a more technical mechanism that opens up when pushed. What they all have in common is that they allow the foot to easily escape the stirrup when the rider falls off, so they aren’t dragged after the horse as that can be very dangerous.
Many riders like the more expensive safety stirrups because they don’t tend to open up or get stuck at the same rate as the cheap ones – however the most important thing is to have a stirrup that can do it in the first place.
Horse riding boots
The right pair of horse riding boots can also help you stay safe on horseback for some of the same reasons as the safety stirrups. Riding boots are designed so your foot doesn’t slip through the stirrup as easily, which prevents the stirrup in catching your ankle. This is also very important, as it prevents you from being dragged after the horse if you have an accident.
Horseback riding is a risky sport, but you can stay safe with the right gear
Most horseback riders agree that horseback riding wouldn’t be as much fun without the risk. The beauty of the sport, after all, is that we work together with an animal. This is completely unique as no other sport can boast of a similar accomplishment.
We can decrease much of the risk by behaving correctly around the horse, and training the horse well so that it’s safe to be around. However, it’s impossible to eliminate the risk completely, as the horse is a herd animal that can panic and otherwise behave unpredictably. That’s why it’s so important to also have the right gear to keep you safe. The helmet is the most important thing here, but a body protector, safety stirrups and good boots are definitely also worth considering.
Did you enjoy this article? Read more about horse equipment here.