Whoa One Minute, Let’s Think First

Last week I picked my daughter up from school with the horses in tow. This is such a thrill for an eight year old girl, she was so excited. We headed to our local fairgrounds to work on her riding skills.

After a short while, several other trailers pulled up. There were moms with kids coming to ride horses and have a good time.

As I observed the events that unfolded, it occurred to me that not everyone is conscious of basic safety around horses. We can all get away with a some bad habits, until one day our luck runs out.

There was a six year old girl riding with no helmet and wearing tennis shoes with ankle socks. A teenage boy entered the arena. He wasn’t going to close or latch the gate until I asked him, twice. There was an instructor giving a lesson in English, in methods I had never before seen. She had a novice rider going very fast over jumps, with no collection or rating.

Sure enough, just before we left the girl getting the lesson came off her horse while flying over the jumps. While engaged in the unexpected dismount, she held onto the reins. This pulled the horse towards her and her hand got stepped on.

These observations and habits reminded me that we all need to keep safety protocol in mind and apply it without leniency.  Most accidents happen when someone doesn’t know enough about horses and safety, doesn’t think, or gets careless about safety practices. Riding horses is about as safe as you make it. The consequences of wearing tennis shoes could be a foot going through the stirrup and getting dragged. The lack of ankle protection can at the very least cause raw sores, and if on the ground getting  stepped on with tennis shoes makes for smashed toes, ankle injuries or Achilles tendon damage.

Leaving a gate open when there are riders in the arena is a recipe for disaster. If some unforeseen incident happens, a horse could run out of the arena possibly dragging or further injuring a rider, or the horse could run out into traffic, slip on pavement or wreak havoc outside the arena.

Some adults and parents, don’t think wearing a helmet while riding is necessary. After all, we didn’t wear helmets growing up, did we? Wearing a helmet is good choice. Horses are large, powerful animals that move quickly and sometimes unexpectedly. We are often riding with head injury targets such as steel panels, rocks, logs, hard ground and fence posts. Protecting the head should be a top priority. Helmets are a no-brainer! Get the pun? No helmet, no brain protection

Some basic safety protocol reminders:

Tuck in your shirt. Traditional western fashion was a shirt with snaps, tucked in with a belt. This wasn’t just to look cool. When a horse spooks, bucks or a rider starts coming off, an un-tucked shirt, or any top with no buttons or snaps can get hooked on the saddle horn. Pullover type shirts and zippered jackets are especially bad. A rider can get stuck on a horse and can get injured in the saddle or the clothing catch during the dismount thereby hanging them up. This happened to a girl I know recently. She had her jacket unzipped but as she dismounted, the inside pocket got caught on the horn. I also had a friend who tied her rain jacket around her waist. She was on her horse riding over asphalt. The horse started bucking and the coat caught on the horse. When she finally was released she not only landed hard on the asphalt but had sustained injuries from the bucking.

Always wear boots with ankle coverage. Have you ever hit our ankle on the side of a chair? Have you ever had some one step on the back of your heel while walking? Imagine a steel horse shoe hitting you in either spot. Having solid boots on that cover that area can be the difference between a bruise and a hospital bill.

Never leave a gate open when riders are in the arena. Things happen. A horse spooks, a rider loses balance, one horse kicks another. Whatever happens, if the gates are all closed, the mayhem will stay in a controlled area inside the arena.

Lastly, don’t squat with your spurs on.

Thanks for reading ! Happy trails from southwest Colorado.

Images: (featured) Riding with tennis shoes and short socks creates the opportunity for serious injury. (embedded image) Riding with a coat tied around your waist in a western saddle can be have a bad end if the coat gets caught around the horn.