Safety rules for working around and riding horses
December 23, 2019
Riding and handling horses is one of life's biggest pleasures. They are powerful, often capricious animals that must be handled correctly to protect yourself, people around you and the horse from injury at all times. Follow these safety practices on the ground and in the saddle to handle your horse safely and with ease.
Here are 28 tips for safer horse handling:
- Put on durable hard-toed shoes or boots that will protect your feet — not steel-toed shoes; we'll get to that later — so if your pony or horse steps on your feet, you're protected from your toes being crushed. Absolutely do not wear sandals, flip-flops, mesh athletic shoes, or any light shoes in a stable or around horses.
- Before approaching a horse, get their attention first. Even if all you want to do is touch them, always be sure to approach a horse from their front. Speak to your horse, alert them of your presence before coming near. Doing this avoids provoking their startle reflex. Approach from the side to prevent from getting into his "blind" spots — directly in front of and behind him.
- Stay quiet and be calm. Loud noises and sudden moves can spook your horse or cause them to jump and kick sideways.
- Touch your horse first on their neck or shoulder, with a firm but soothing stroking motion.
- Feed your horse treats from buckets or tubs instead of from your hands. Horses have the tendency to become greedy and mistake their handlers fingers for carrots.
- Also, avoid taking grain or other food into an area with group of horses—this just entices them to crowd around you (horses are greedy when it comes to food) and could encourage a "food fight," with you getting caught in the middle.
- Be particularly careful when going inside a pasture or paddock with numerous horses because they could inadvertently push or step on you, or even kick you.
- The rule of thumb is to tie a horse "eye high and no longer than your arm," not your eye, the horse's eye. And the distance from the halter to the knot should be no more than the length of your arm.
- When tying horse to a post, use a quick-release knot or panic snap so that if your horse gets spooked and tugs on it, it can quickly free itself. The feeling of constraint can make a horse feel frightened, and they might panic to the point of hurting themselves or you.
- If you want to walk behind a horse, you should go either close enough to brush against him — enough that there would be no real force if a horse were to kick you), keeping a hand on his rear end as you pass around; or far enough from the horse that you're well out of kicking range.
- The safest place you could possibly stand is next to your horse's shoulder where you can see each other at eye level, or about ten or more feet away unless you are grooming, tacking up, or otherwise interacting closely with your horse.
- Avoid passing under the tie rope because you might cause your horse to pull back, and you'd be greatly vulnerable to injury if he did. Yikes!
- Never, ever, EVER stand directly behind a horse. If you so happened to be grooming its tail, stand on one side and pull its tail gently towards you.
- Horses are clumsy, they're not very mindful of where they step so you need to be mindful of yourself when you release a horse's foot after you've cleaned it. Ensure that your foot isn't in the hoof's spot as your horse returns to the ground.
- Don't squat or kneel when you're cleaning a horse's hooves or putting on leg bandages. Instead, stand and bend over the area so that if the horse moves and/or kicks you can easily get out of the way.
- There are three simple steps to blanketing a horse:
- (1) fasten their chest straps first,
- (2) fasten the girth strap, then
- (3) finally, fasten the hind-leg straps.
Reverse the order of unfastening the straps when it's time to remove the blanket. Doing this makes it improbable for the blanket to slip down and get tangled in their hind legs.
Also read: HORSE BLANKETING IN WINTER: TO BLANKET OR NOT?
- Tie your horse up when you're cleaning the stalls, saddling up, or grooming your horse. You don't want a loose horse in a barn causing trouble for the other animals. And you should never leave a tied horse unattended. While clearing the muck out, the safest thing to do is to put the horse in another stall until you finish.
- Reluctant horses are stubborn horses and stubborn horses have quite the temper. Never fight to get a reluctant horse into his trailer. Instead, seek professional help and retraining if absolutely necessary. Once your horse is inside the trailer, shut the back door or ramp before you hitch him to his trailer tie. When you unload your horse untie him before opening the tail of the trailer, so he doesn't have to back out on his own and hit potentially snag on the end of the rope, making him to panic and pull back.
- It's a bad idea to loop reins, lunge lines, or lead ropes, around your body (especially your hands.) Horses are much stronger than us and if he pulls away, you could potentially be dragged. Just avoid tying your horse to yourself in anyway.
- Wear short zip-up boots that are not steel-toed. Suppose your horse steps on your steel-toed boot; the metal could potentially slice into your toes. Ouch! Protect your feet from a horse by choosing boots constructed by firm leather. Soft leather boots or tennis shoes won't do you any good. It's an occupational hazard to be stepped on, so be prepared!
- Using a halter and a lead role is the safest way to lead your horse. Again, don't loop any equipment to your body. By that logic, don't hook your fingers through the halter straps, rings, or the bit. If the horse starts to gallop away, your fingers could be caught in the rope injuring them or trapping your hand and dragging you to where they end up. Not only will you have a spooked horse, but you'll have a pair of broken fingers too!
- Your riding boots should have a heel that's about two inches high. Avoid wearing lace-up boots because the hooks could get stuck in the stirrups when you need to dismount. Your horse's weight in proportion to your size varies greatly depending on their size and breed, but it typically falls between 880 to 1,870 lbs. Having a quarter of their weight on your toes is still pretty heavy, so make good choices in choosing safe boots.
- Open doors to their maximum capacity before a horse passes through it to make sure your horse doesn't hit itself. This can spook or startle your horse and cause you to get trampled, dragged, or squished against the doorway by an animal close to a ton. However, if the door happens to be narrow, pass through it first, make your horse wait outside, and then have it pass through after you as you stand to the side away from its legs.
- Sensible clothing should be worn when working around horses. A protective riding hat is vital when riding, and a body protector is extremely advisable. These items must be worn when working in a risky situation, such as when loading a horse into its trailer, training and schooling sessions, or when handling an easily excitable animal.
- Wear high visibility clothing when riding at night — this goes for both you and your horse. With the Illumiseen LED Horse Tack, whether you are riding on the road or a trail in the moonlight, your horse will be highly visible and, most importantly, SAFE from oncoming motor vehicles and hunters (when in season). It’s hard to find horse tacks that are an excellent fit for your horse which is why this LED breastplates have fully adjustable straps- they’re made with your equestrian needs in mind.
Also read: NIGHT RIDING SAFETY TIPS
- Always make sure that all tack is the correct measurement, and snugly fits your horse. Check for wear and tear. This includes cracking, stretching, or any damages in the leather and the condition of the stitching. Anything that looks like it is close to breaking or snapping is a safety risk for when you're riding. This should be done before you mount and once again after riding a short distance.
- Keep human and equine first aid kits within reach at all times. Have at least one extra in each of your stables, and one stashed away in the trailer if your horse is often on the road. Shell out a couple of extra bucks to have a "dog tag" engraved with your horses’ information, one that can easily be attached to their riding equipment for a nearby veterinarian or horse ambulance to take a look at. Before anyone handles the situation, make sure they are trained in both basic human first aid and equine first aid.
- All horses should understand basic commands and respond to them accordingly. They should stand still and walk clear of the handler when led from either side. Their handler must wear gloves when leading their horse, and lead ropes nor lunge lines must not wrap around their hand or be permitted to trail on the ground.
Remember that with these gentle giants, even the most trustworthy horse isn't 100% trustworthy. We're not saying that horses are bad creatures. They're just feisty and have a mind of their own. This point applies to working on the ground and in the saddles. The most valuable thing about matching a horse to its rider is finding an animal that's well-schooled and trusts their handler to take care of them. Be mindful of how they act and careful when you’re with them. Other than that, working with horse is a pleasant and enjoyable experience.
Watch your toes!