Safety is a key issue at any time of year, but particularly so during the winter months when potential hazards tend to me more prevalent! Read our guide to keeping you and your horse safe this winter…
Remember that horses are prey animals, so it is a natural instinct of theirs to be alert and on the look out for danger. The automatic response is generally to flee from danger and some horses seem to have a more heightened sensitivity than others. Gloomy days, fading light, slippery conditions and chilly temperatures all combine to create a slightly more hazardous environment to ride in, so winter riding can be a slightly riskier affair. There are ways to help stay safe in the saddle though…
What to wear
No matter what time of year it is, and whether you are riding in the school at home or out on a hack, a riding hat that meets the latest safety guidelines is imperative. Riding hats come in all shapes and sizes now so you can find one that is comfortable, well ventilated and suited to your head – no excuses! In addition to a riding hat we always advise correct footwear that has been designed for riding in, good quality gloves with grip and the option of a body protector and/or air vest.
When hacking out it is of utmost importance that both you and your horse are highly visible. Even on a sunny day motorists can find it hard to see a horse and rider and the further away they spot you, the greater chance they have of slowing down and not causing an accident. At the very least you should wear a high visibility vest, but it is also advisable to incorporate something on your horse – whether it is an exercise sheet, bridle reflective or boots – or of course a combination of all!
While we know you can’t predict the weather, always check the forecast before embarking on a long ride out as you don’t want to be caught in a sudden storm or gale force winds. Make sure you tell someone where you are planning to ride and always have a mobile phone on hand.
A few more handy winter riding tips…
- Be mindful of the ground and weather. Snow and ice are not safe surfaces to ride on and can hide a multitude of things. Think about the depth of puddles and give your horse time to pick his way through un-level footing.
- Consider using road nails if your horse is shod and you are hacking on roads – this will aid grip on wet or slippery surfaces.
- Plan your timing carefully according to when the light goes. Always give yourself plenty of time to return safely home.
- Make sure your tack is well fitted and in good condition. Particularly if it has got damp or muddy – check there are no weak spots, which could potentially break while out riding.
Winter riding is a fabulous time to put training in place for the forthcoming season, so use your riding time wisely and safely.