Like any sport, equestrianism is not without its risks. But as horse owners and riders it is up to us to identify these and, where possible, take precautions for the safety of both ourselves and our animals.
Of course none of us would dream to ride without proper head protection, but it isn’t just for when we are in the saddle. Really our hats should be worn to help keep us safe whenever we are around horses. To ensure the best protection, it is essential they are fitted correctly and comply with current standards (a full list can be found on the beta-uk.org website). Industry experts also advise regularly checking the fit and condition of a hat (especially for growing children) to make sure it is still providing optimum protection. Beta suggest that any hat which has suffered a servere impact or been repeatedly dropped on a hard surface should be discarded and a new one bought.
Most of us also choose to wear body protection which must be correctly fitted and chosen according to the level of activity. Reducing the severity of injury from falls or kicks, there is a wide variety available in terms of style and fit. Air vests are becoming increasingly popular as an extra step in protection. Offering varying body coverage, they have a mechanism to inflate the garment’s air bags when the rider is thrown from the horse.
Heads and bodies covered, feet can often be overlooked, but protective footwear can be a blessing, especially around the yard – a broken toe could mean weeks out of the saddle! Again ensuring footwear fits well increases both safety and comfort.
Asside from protection, arguably one of the most important aspects of safety is visibility. According to the British Horse Society, wearing high visibility clothing gives a driver travelling at 30mph three seconds longer to see you and take appropriate action! Beta advises flourescent coloured garments with reflective strips provide the best visibility in both light and dull conditions, and both horse and rider should be well covered. The British Horse Society produces a number of leaflets (for riders and motorists) with good advice on staying safe on the road and are well worth a read.
We know horses by their very nature can be unpredictable but with safety in mind we can help to prevent uneccesary injury and keep enjoying the sport we love.