March the 24th is National Equestrian Safety Day, and here at Ride Away we know just how important it is to be safe when riding, particularly now that spring has arrived. With the clocks going forward bringing longer evenings, as well as the equestrian season kicking off, more and more riders are returning to the saddle.
National Equestrian Safety Day is championed by the Mark Davies Injured Riders Fund, a charity set up by Mark’s family following his tragic death as a result of an accident which took place at Burghley Horse Trials in 1988. The charity helps injured riders, as well as their families and carers, and has proven to be a lifeline for many in need.
Horse riding is a wonderful and rewarding activity, however it is dangerous, and horses are temperamental animals who are easily spooked.
You are 20 times more likely to have an accident while riding a horse than a motorcycle, and on average two people are left paralysed following a fall per month. There is also the risk of severe head injury, and of course the dangers posed when handling horses from the ground.
To ensure you stay safe around horses, here are our top things to keep aware of this riding season:
Equipment and handling
- Take your time. Rushing when handling your horse can cause your horse to become anxious, or cause you to make mistakes, so don’t rush.
- Ensure your helmet fits correctly and complies with safety standards. Get your helmet fitted by a qualified fitter.
- Wear a riding hat at all times when riding, handling, or leading your horse.
- Wear appropriate footwear whenever you are riding or around horses. A reinforced toecap can help prevent injury should you be stood on. Boots should have a small heel to prevent the foot slipping through the stirrup.
- A Body protector can absorb the impact of being kicked or stood on, or falling from your horse. Check the garment fits well and meets BETA’s body protector standards.
- Should you drop your helmet or have a fall, always have it replaced even if it does not look visibly damaged.
- Be aware of your own capabilities and those of your horse, and do not push yourself or your horse physically.
- Keep physically fit, and take regular lessons to maintain core strength and improve reaction times, as well as increasing your confidence.
- Tiredness can affect you mentally or physically, causing you to make mistakes. The same applies to your horse.
- Carry a first aid kit if you go out riding.
- Always wear fluorescent/reflective clothing when out riding on the roads.
- Read and become familiar with the highway code.
- Always keep to the left, even when you are making a right turn.
- Give clear signals to road users.
- Don’t ride on roads where there is still a risk of snow or ice in the early spring.
- Don’t ride if visibility is poor, for example if there is fog.
- Don’t ride on the pavement.
- Don’t take a nervous horse on the road without a confident companion.
- Always ride in single file when approaching bends or along narrow roads.
- When using a horse box or trailer, always make sure you fit the correct type of tyres and ensure the pressure is correct for the load. Check condition and tread depth of tyres regularly.
The British Horse Society offer training around road safety, which you can find more information about here, as well as useful leaflets.
- Avoid spooking horses, by being considerate and not using your horn or revving your engine
- Slow down when approaching horses, and make sure there is plenty or room when passing.
- Pay attention to the rider’s signals, as they may ask you to stop or slow down, or indicate that they intend to turn.
However cautious you are, accidents do still unfortunately happen. If you or your horse are involved in an accident or a near miss, the British Horse Society urges riders to get in touch and report the incident, which you can do by visiting horseaccidents.org.uk. You should also report any accidents to the police.