Equestrian Blog

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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:
  1. Prevent minor bruising that would have produced stiffness and pain.
  2. Reduce significant soft tissue injuries to the level of bruising.
  3. 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.

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