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Safety equipment:  tips from visitors

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  • Toe stops on stirrups
    Have toe stops on the stirrup so that your foot does not get caught in it. Note: There are many types of safety precautions for stirrups. Having your stirrup bar down, or a type of stirrup that allows for breakaway is a good place to start.
  • Safety stirrup
    The safety latch on my stirrup was too loose and gave away as I was about to mount a young horse. This spooked the horse. Be sure to tighten the screw on your safety lever to your weight so that it takes a good pull as if you had fallen and your foot was still in the stirrup.
    Note: Make sure you check your tack and equipment for safety and any needed repairs on a regular basis.  
  • Choosing the correct stirrup
    The horse tossed me and my foot stayed in the stirrup. I didn't pick the stirrup - someone else did - and it was too small and tight. Pick the right size stirrup for your feet.
    Note: Always make sure you are wearing proper footwear so that your foot comes out of the stirrup easily if you are to get thrown. Also, make sure the boots fits the stirrup like you said. Most western boots won't fit in English stirrups, etc.
  • Keeping your feet in stirrups
    I took my feet out of my stirrups while cruising along the river bed. When I turned to look where friends were I lost my balance, dislocated my right shoulder, and broke my arm. Keep your feet in the stirrup; that is why they are there.
    Note: Make sure you use riding equipment properly and have a balanced seat for the type of riding you will be engaged in. Seek professional instruction if needed.  


  • Footwear
    Wear appropriate shoes. Shoes such as sandals or athletic shoes are not appropriate.
    Note: Shoes should cover the ankle to prevent the stirrup from rubbing and should ALWAYS have a heel to help prevent the foot from going too far in the stirrup.
  • No-tie shoes
    Don’t ride with tie shoes so your foot will come out in case you fall and shoe in stirrups.
    Note: There are many ways to prevent getting your foot hung in the stirrup. On an English saddle, make sure the stirrup bars are down, and you can also use breakaway stirrup irons or peacock irons that will release if the rider gets hung. Always make sure you wear proper footwear (small tread and appropriate sized heels) that will prevent a foot from ever making it through a stirrup.  
  • Steel-toed boots
    While cowboy boots or ropers are often considered fashionable to wear when working with horses, consider wearing steel-toe safety boots when you’re doing groundwork. If you get stepped on, the steel toe cap will protect your toes. (Note however, that if the horse steps on the middle of your foot, between the toes and the hell, the steel cap my not prevent injury to the metatarsal bones that comprise the arch of the foot. Safety boots can be purchased with metatarsal guards in addition to the steel toes. Vendors of industrial shoes, carry these unique safety boots.)
    Note: This is good advice, but can be pricey. Wearing appropriate footwear, keeping yourself in safe areas around horses, and being able to predict a horses movements will keep you safe.  
  • Proper shoes
    I was wearing flip flops while leading a horse in from the pasture. The horse stepped on my foot. Always wear proper footwear, especially around the barn.
    Note: NEVER wear open toed shoes of any kind in a barn or around horses. Boots are a must.  
  • No treads
    While practicing transitions to the counter the horse started bucking. I fell off but my left foot was caught in the stirrup of my dressage saddle. I was wearing footwear with tread on the bottom, just enough to stick in the stirrup. I was kicked in the thigh, lower chest and abdomen before becoming free. My advice -- wear smooth-soled riding boots. Even a little amount of tread can cause you to get hung up on your horse.
    Note: Great advice. Just because you’re wearing a boot with a heel doesn’t mean it’s the best for the sport of riding.


  • Helmets
    Always wear your helmet.
    Note: Every time, every ride.
  • Helmet replacement
    If you have a fall and damage your helmet, replace it before riding again. Most companies have a replacement policy where they pay a portion of the price for a replacement helmet.
    Note: Even without noticeable evidence, helmets can be compromised on the inside. It’s better to replace a helmet after a fall then have it be ineffective for the next one.
  • Helmets on the ground
    The mare I was riding was barn sour and when I tried to move her past the barn her mother was in, she wouldn’t listen and rode through me. Luckily, I was wearing my helmet. Always wear a helmet as you never know when you will be in an accident.
    Note: Being barn sour is a condition that needs to be taken care of immediately. Work with your horse away from other horses and stable them separately as well if possible. A distracted horse (because of missing buddies, strange surroundings, etc.) can be a dangerous one.  
  • Wear a helmet
    My horse stepped on a nest of ground bees and took off in a full gallop on a paved road. I put too much pressure on the breakaway stirrups, which did their jobs and broke off. I lost my balance and hit the pavement with my head. I was unconscious in the middle of the road on a very blind bend and almost run over by a car. Luckily I was wearing a helmet. Always wear a helmet.
    Note: Always wear a helmet. Avoid riding on pavement or other unsafe surfaces as much as possible.  
  • Jumping and brims
    When jumping, wear a helmet or hard hat without a brim. Once, I fell over my horse’s head on a jump and the brim broke my nose.
    Note: This can go either way, depending on the accident. In certain situations, brims may actually prevent a more serious head injury.  
  • Always wear helmet
    I ride dressage and it is not fashionable at the upper levels to wear a helmet. Don’t sacrifice your safety to look fashionable. Wear that helmet always—even on a short walk.
    Note: Wear a helmet. Every time.
  • Helmets always
    A helmet is like a seat belt. Always wear one. It is a small price to pay for bad helmet hair.
    Note: Wear a helmet. Every time.
  • Wearing a helmet when on the ground
    I was on the ground with my horse and was knocked down by my friend’s horse. Her horse stepped on my head four times but I was wearing a helmet.
    Note: This is a great rule for all levels of horsemen.
  • Being cool and helmet use
    I was tossed into a fence. I walked away with only a few bruises and strained shoulder as my helmet protected my head. Many riders think it is uncool to wear a helmet; it’s like a right of passage to turn 18 and ditch the helmet. Always wear a helmet.
    Note: Teach your children and/or students the principle of every ride/every time. Make rules if necessary.
  • Helmet fit
    Find a helmet that fits your head and your style so you want to wear it.
    Note: Wear a helmet. Every time.  
  • Forgetting the hairstyle
    I was bucked off my horse twice. There really wasn’t any way to know this would happen. Forget the hairstyle and always wear a helmet.
    Note: Work with a reputable trainer to fix problems with an unruly horse. It's not always necessary to get rid of a horse with problems, but always make sure you approach the situation safely, including wearing a helmet.  
  • Wearing helmet properly
    Make sure you always use the safety strap on your helmet even if you are just cooling your horse. I was thrown from my horse and the helmet came off right before I hit concrete door corner.
    Note: A helmet is no good to you if it is not properly fitted and secured. If you're going to use one, use it properly.  
  • My children saved me
    My children saved my life by insisting I wear a helmet. I was thrown off my horse and received a head injury, but the helmet probably saved my life. I also broke 10 ribs which punctured my spleen and liver. Now I wear a chest protector.
    Note: Wear a helmet. Every time.  


  • Emergency contact information
    Wear a fanny pack that contains emergency contact information for you and your horse. List your vet and insurance information, as well as allergies to medications. Put your cell phone and car keys in your fanny pack, not a saddlebag or horn bag. If you fall off your horse and it takes off, you’ve lost your phone.
    Note: Be mindful that fanny packs and backpacks may become easily entangled in brush and low tree limbs.  
  • Glasses
    If you wear glasses, make sure they have shatterproof lenses.
  • Breaking a horse to saddle
    Wear long pants (no shorts). It is also a good idea to wear chaps over pants, a vest and an approved helmet. Keep to the arena, riding ring or round pen. Have someone nearby in case you get into trouble.
    Note: Safety precautions are of utmost importance when working with young horses. Always prepare for the unexpected.
  • Gloves
    To avoid finger cuts when opening and closing gates or lifting chains, wear gloves.
    Note: Gloves are great tools when working, and they help keep your hands safe and warm during the winter.  
  • Eye glasses
    Use safety or sunglasses to protect your eyes from branches while on a trail ride.
    Note: Although visors on helmets help protect against this to some degree, it's a good idea to have more protection.
  • Riding gear
    Make sure you wear proper riding pants, boots, and a helmet every time you ride.
    Note: Just like in many other hazardous jobs, proper "work" gear is the first step towards preventing accidents.  
  • Vest
    Wear a safety vest during cross country jumping.
    Note: There are many times when a vest is a good idea (starting young horses, first time on a trail ride, etc), but while schooling and riding cross-country (and fox hunting) it is an absolute must.
  • Correct clothing
    Wear fitted clothing that is not too loose, such as western shirts.
    Note: You should never wear clothing or jewelry that could get caught up in tack, trees etc.  
  • Vests and safety
    Some horse people think wearing a safety vest is overkill when practicing jumping at home. I see vests as a piece of basic safety equipment standard.
    Note: It is never silly to wear protective gear. If a rider feels comfortable in a helmet and vest, no one should ever fault that person for taking precaution.

Page last updated: 3/20/2014 3:02:50 PM

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