Equestrian Blog

News and thoughts from around the equestrian community

Riding can often require a range of skills and owning horses is a massive responsibility. This is our resource to help you get the most from your passion with regular updates to deal with topical ...

Staying Safe in the Saddle

Following on from my previous blog about basic horse riding equipment, I have some more hints on extra gear that may prove helpful in your riding and help to reduce injury in the event of a fall. These aren't essential items of riding gear but can help your comfort in the saddle. It's always important to make sure your clothing and equipment fits correctly, otherwise they could prove inneffective or unsafe. Half Chaps - what are they? Half chaps or gaiters are basically a shaped piece of material, leather or suede, they fit around your lower leg and over your short boots. Wearing these can help to keep your lower leg more stable and help prevent it slipping against the saddle or horse's side. Half chaps usually have a reinforced, shaped panel designed to be worn on your inner calf. They often have an elasticated strip to allow a snug fit , this goes around the back of your leg and a full length zip fastens along your outer calf. Half chaps either made from suede or synthetic suede will help reduce the amount your legs slide against the saddle. Gaiters are very similar in design to half chaps but tend to be made from leather and give a slightly more refined look. When worn with jodhpur boots they are similar in appearance to long riding boots. Body Protectors - extra protection It is well worth considering investing in a body protector, these will help to reduce injuries sustained from a fall, however no body protector can prevent serious injury in certain accidents. Although there are 3 levels of protection available I would always recommend that riders choose the highest standard - level 3. These give a level of protection that is considered appropriate for normal horse riding, competitions and for working with horses. Protectors to this level should: Prevent minor bruising that would have produced stiffness and pain. Reduce significant soft tissue injuries to the level of bruising. Prevent a limited number of rib fractures. You must always be very careful to check that a body protector fits correctly, the red parts of velcro always need to be completely covered, this ensures the fastenings are secure. Gloves - not just for warmth Gloves will help to protect your hands if a horse pulls against you. Rubber reins especially, in small hands can hurt the delicate skin around your fingers often resulting in painful rubs. Invest in some specially designed riding gloves which are reinforced where the rein sits in the hand. Lightweight gloves are available for summer, which allow your hands to stay cool but still protect them from the reins. Training Reins - for even rein contact It can be very difficult to make sure your reins are the same length whilst riding. Multi coloured training reins have different coloured sections of rubber along their length, these make it much easier, especially for small children to see where they are holding each rein. Riding Jackets - more comfort in the saddle Although it will hopefully soon be warm enough to ride without a coat, there are often times in summer when you need an extra layer. As soon as you try to ride in an everyday coat you will find that they can cause some major problems when you are on a horse. A normal loose cuff can slide over your hands making it difficult to have full control of the reins. Any coat or zip more than waist length will immediately cause excess bulk around the saddle area. Hoods are potentially dangerous especially on a nervous horse if they flap suddenly. Specifically designed riding jackets allow for all of these issues. A two way zip will let you keep your jacket fastened just to the required height, Adjustable velcro or elastic cuffs keep your sleeves comfortably around the bottom of your wrist. Hoods if present at all can be secured away in your collar. Longer length riding jackets have vents in the lower portion letting you undo them whilst riding which allows your coat to fall comfortably over the saddle. Safety Stirrups - extra safety Whilst still learning to maintain their balance in the saddle, many novice riders struggle to keep their feet in a secure position in the stirrup. It's often tempting to push your foot as far in as possible in an effort to keep it in the stirrup, you may well then feel that there's one less thing to have to concentrate on. As soon as you do this though why does your Instructor start shouting at you to move them onto the ball of your foot again, is it just so you look pretty? The answer is simple, it is extremely dangerous. If you were to fall off with your foot in this position, you can easily trap your foot in the stirrup and then potentially be dragged along the floor by your horse. Although saddles do have safety features built in to release your stirrup these don't always function immediately possibly resulting in serious injury. Take heed of what you're told and constantly work to keep your stirrups in the correct position. There are specially designed stirrups which can help to ensure your foot is released as quickly as possible in an emergency. Children can ride with peacock safety irons, these have one metal side of the stirrup replaced by an elastic and leather strap secured on a hook, this releases when pressure is applied from the foot in the event of a fall. This type of stirrup is not suitable for adults though as the stirrup iron itself is not quite as strong because of its design; the metal can bend under the weight of an adult rider overstretching the elastic and making it more difficult to release when necessary. Adults should instead choose a bent leg iron, this is an all metal stirrup iron with a bend in one of the legs, this ensures your foot doesn't become trapped in a fall. Both of these stirrups need to be fitted so the safety feature is on the outside of the foot. Any stirrup should always have 1/4" clearance on each side of the foot to ensure the correct fit. Make sure you always check all your riding equipment on a regular basis to ensure there is no excessive wear or damage that could make it unsafe to use. Although safety equipment can help to reduce injury, qualified instruction is the most effective way to reduce accidents and falls. Riding in the correct position with thorough control of your horse at all times will avoid injury to yourself or your horse.

Beginner's Basics

There is an amazing selection of equestrian clothing available now, however if you are a more novice rider how do you know what to buy? I often get asked why can't I buy a cheap second hand hat, why do my legs slide on the saddle as I ride, why can't I ride in wellies they look like riding boots, why do the reins hurt my hands? This and many other questions may seem extremely silly and have an obvious answer to the seasoned horse owner or experienced rider. For someone new to riding though, the equestrian world is daunting and often appears unfriendly. The obvious person to ask for advice is your Instructor, unfortunately it is often the case especially with children, that you are slightly scared of that person who stands in the middle of the school shouting at you at the top of their voice! Don't be, they are only being loud so their instructions are clear and easy to understand. Try speaking to them after your lesson to get any extra tips or advice you feel you need, whatever problem your having, someone else will have had it too. Any good Instructor should be able to give you advice on equipment and clothing that will help your riding. How do you know what to buy when the time comes to get your first full riding kit though? The answer's simple, request a Robinsons catalogue or browse online and buy jodhpurs, boots, and hat. That's all isn't it? If that was the case the Robinsons catalogue would be very small indeed! How on earth then can an enthusiastic new rider know what to select from the huge selection of riding gear on offer. Here's how... THE BASICS Why can't I buy a second hand hat? Riding Hat This is possibly the most important item of kit, but is often one of the last things a new rider will buy. Although jodhpurs and boots can make you look more like a rider I would always advise that the first item of equipment you buy is your own riding hat. When you learn that it is advisable to replace a riding hat after any fall that has involved the rider's hat sustaining any significant impact, you start to realise that a borrowed hat from your riding school is not quite as suitable as you first thought. You don't know anything about how many falls that hat has sustained, it is vitally important that the shell of a hat is not damaged in any way, as this can affect the protection it offers. Invest in your own hat as soon as you possibly can when you take up riding so you know its complete history. Check before buying your hat though to see what level of protection you will need as various organisations have different rules. Any hat you buy should have a three point under the chin harness with NO chin cup, it should meet at least one of the following safety standards; EN1384, PAS015, ASTM F1163/SEI and may also need to have a Kitemark. It is worth knowing that although riding hats are a recognised piece of safety equipment they are still subject to VAT, although interestingly cycling helmets no longer are. The BHS are trying to change this, if you'd like to add your name to this campaign please write to BHS Safety Department, Stoneleigh Deer Park, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, CV8 2XZ, or email S.Hardy@bhs.org.uk with VAT in the subject box. Why do my legs slide on the saddle as I ride? Jodhpurs/Breeches Jodhpurs are designed to be worn with short jodhpur boots, they tend to be long in the leg and have a small turn up at the ankle which stretches over the top of your jodhpur boot. They will also often have an inbuilt elastic underfoot stirrup to help prevent the jodhpurs rising up. Jodhpur clips will also stop the leg of your jodhpurs slipping above your boot, this can be very uncomfortable, often resulting in rubbed and chafed ankles. Breeches are shorter in the leg, normally mid to lower calf length, they should be worn with long riding boots. The shorter length means you don't have excess material around your ankle which can be uncomfortable with long boots. For a more novice rider I'd always recommend that they choose a pair of jods or breeches with a full clarino or 'sticky bum' seat. All this means is the seat area is made from a special material that does not slide on the saddle quite as much as normal material. For someone learning to ride this extra little bit of security in the saddle is invaluable. Why can't I ride in wellies, they look like riding boots? Boots Although wellies and standard boots can look very similar to riding footwear there are some fundamental differences which seriously affect their safety. The main reason why these aren't suitable riding wear is the depth of tread on the sole, riding footwear should have a fairly thin sole, with a small amount of tread to prevent the foot getting caught in the stirrup in the event of a fall. Also avoid any boots with buckles or velcro as the same can happen with these. Although a heel is required on riding boots, it should be no more than about 1/2" in height. You initially need to decide between long riding boots and jodhpur boots, this is mainly your own personal preference. Long boots offer more support to your leg but some people find them uncomfortable and too restrictive. Jodhpur boots allow more ankle movement but you may find you need some extra protection from the stirrup leather. Long riding boots are available in economical rubber or quality leather. Both have advantages and disadvantages, rubber are cheap, hard wearing and waterproof but they can be inflexible and hot. Leather are expensive and high maintenance, but they allow easy flexion of the ankle. Jodhpur boots are particularly useful in summer months as they tend to be cooler than long boots. However the lack of support around the calf and lower leg can result in bruising and pinching from stirrup leathers. This can eased by wearing half chaps or gaiters. Technical stirrup systems have been developed which include the SCS3 system from Mountain Horse, this is a system of grooves built into the sole of the boot and on the SCS3 stirrup tread. When these grooves interact, they prevent the foot slipping forward in the stirrup but allow the rider to pull their foot back easily. Four grooves in the sole give a choice of foot position depending on exactly where you prefer the foot to sit in the stirrup. There are many other items of riding kit available and I'll go into these in more detail in my next blog but I hope this has helped you in your choice of essentials. Remember to always make your equestrian purchases based on the highest protection you can afford rather than the prettiest product. Whilst horse riding is an enjoyable hobby it can also be a high risk sport. �