Riding Safety Tips
Staying safe whilst riding is especially important if you're going to be riding on the roads. This isn't the only time that you need to know basic safety rules though.
HeadwearWear a hardhat or helmet that meets current safety regulations. It might be more expensive but buying a new hat or helmet (rather than buying one that's already been used) is the safest option.
Road SafetyIt's best to stay on the left side of the road in single file. Horses can easily get scared by traffic noise on busy roads, so keep to quieter roads as much as possible. For this reason, you should keep a firm hold of your horse's bridle. If your horse does get scared and rear up, you'll be in a much better position to keep it under control.
Although you'll mostly be able to hear traffic approaching, this won't always be the case. Look over your shoulder regularly to stay aware.
Stay on the left as long as possible, even if you need to make a right turn. When you reach a junction, keep an eye out for approaching traffic, and stop if necessary. Signal with your arm in the direction that you intend to turn to let the traffic know what you'll be doing. Hold the signal for about three seconds to give everyone a chance to see this.
Sometimes, you'll run into problems and need to let drivers know. If your horse gets scared of the traffic, you can hold our your right arm and move it up and down slowly to indicate that they should slow down as they pass you. If you need them to stop altogether, you can hold your hand out with the palm of your hand facing upwards.
To make sure that you're definitely clued up on riding on the roads, you can take a Riding and Road Safety Test, which is offered by the British Horse Society (BHS). Alternatively, you can attend a Riding and Road Safety training day put on by several riding schools.
Saddle SafetyMake sure that the saddle is in a good condition and isn't cracked or worn. The tree of the saddle should also be in good condition, and you can check this by squeezing both sides of the saddle together to see if there's any movement. If it's in good condition, you shouldn't notice any movement. Check the girth straps, stirrup leathers and the bars that hold the stirrup leathers in place. The stitching should be tight and there should be no obvious wear and tear on the leathers.
Girth SafetyMake sure that the stitching on the girth buckles isn't loose. If the buckles are misshapen or loose, they'll need replacing. The girth shouldn't be worn or cracked.
Bridle SafetyAs with all other leather, check for signs of visible wear and tear. Make sure that the stitching is tight and not likely to come loose. Check the bit for any dirt that could get into the horse's mouth. There may also be jagged edges and so on that could cause damage and discomfort.
A lot of riding safety is really basic common sense, with a few rules of safety etiquette that enter the equation when you're riding on the roads. Knowing what to look for when checking equipment is important too, as it can be all too easy to spend years riding with equipment that actually isn't all that safe.