Last time, I stood on my soap box and urged everyone to consider the importance of wearing a helmet when riding.
While helmets are an extremely important part of safety around horses, they are not where safety ends. There are many, many important safety practices to consider when working with horses.
While I was growing up, my mom always worried about me riding alone.
We devised a plan, if I ever was alone at the barn, I should call her before I got on to ride and then again when I was finished.
In this day of cellphones, it’s fairly easy to find someone to have this set up with. This also is very important if you are going to be riding out. Someone should always know where you are riding and when you’ll be finished.
When you are riding in a ring, make it as safe as possible.
Be sure the gates are closed behind each person as they enter. Gates that aren’t closed flush to the fence can catch on your leg as you ride past. When entering or exiting the ring, be cautious and watch for other riders. Be sure to close the gate behind you. Gates left open are an invitation for a horse to leave, whether that’s your plan or not!
Remove all clutter and equipment that aren’t being used.
Be sure nothing is protruding into the ring. Trees should be trimmed back and the fencing should be kept in good repair. Footing should be level and even. Manure buckets and forks should be tucked away safely.
Jump material should be cleared away if not being used; poles should not be left lying around in piles.
Always remove unused jump cups from the standards. Be sure to leave room to get around jumps that are set in the ring. Always wear a helmet when jumping.
Rules for riding in the ring should be posted to be sure everyone is aware.
Remember to pass left shoulder to left shoulder when passing someone going the opposite direction.
The rider moving at the faster gait has the right of way.
Slower moving riders should stay off the track.
Riders working on a circle should stay off the track to allow riders to go around them.
Alert the other riders as to what you are planning to do, such as calling out “red vertical” before jumping the red vertical.
Respect each other’s space! Always stay at least one horse length behind the horse in front of you.
You should be able to see the heels of the horse in front of you, any closer than that is too close!
Riders working in a lesson should be given priority. Not that you shouldn’t be able to ride with them, but be considerate and stay out of their way.
If someone is having problems with their horse, give them space. There should be no dogs in the arena, for their safety and yours!
Most barns have a policy regarding lunging while others are riding. If the haorse is sensible and there is adequate room for horses to use the opposite end, it usually isn’t a problem.
Be very careful if you try to ride around a horse being lunged. If there are others riding and you need to lunge before riding, it is correct to ask if anyone minds that you lunge.
Most won’t but someone on a green or spooky horse may ask you to wait. Respect their wishes; they were in the ring first!
If someone falls off in the ring, everyone should stop immediately.
If the horse is loose, it’s a good idea to dismount quietly and either help catch the loose horse or make sure the fallen rider is OK. Know where the phone is and what the civic address for the property is (usually posted with the phone) in case it is necessary to call an ambulance. It is useful to have a boarders phone list by the phone is case parents or spouses need to be called.
Out of respect, always leave the ring better than you find it.
Clean up your horse’s manure (and don’t be afraid to clean up after others!) Put away any equipment you use.
One final important note about helmets. Helmets are meant to be replaced every five years, sooner if your helmet receives any sort of hard impact.
Hard impact includes falls, kicks or even dropping the helmet.
The integrity of the helmet may be compromised even though the damage may not be visible.
Many helmet manufacturers have a prorated replacement plan. Check with your favorite tack store regarding the replacement policies that each company has.
Until next time, happy riding!
Shelly Graham is a local rider, trainer, horse breeder and Equine Canada certified coach.