Campers’ experiences with horses run the gamut: There are those who are very comfortable and have been riding since they can remember, and then there are those who are experiencing riding for the first time.
Whatever the case, it’s never a waste of time to remind campers how to stay safe around their equine friends.
1. Make sure campers wear ASTM/SEI-approved riding helmets–not bike or ski helmets–and that they are fitted correctly.
2. Require campers to wear boots when they groom, tack, and ride a horse. This keeps toes safe and feet from going through stirrups when riding.
3. Campers should wear pants! Shorts can cause all types of sores on campers’ legs, and that extra protection is great on trail rides through brush.
4. Gloves should be worn while leading, grooming, and riding a horse. These will prevent blisters or burns, and help riders to get a better grip.
5. Campers should not duck under the lead rope or in front of a horse if it is in cross ties. This can cause an injury if the horse comes forward on top of someone.
6. Campers should lead a bridled horse with the reins over its head and in a figure 8 (not wrapped around a hand).
7. The irons on an English saddle should be put up when a horse is not being ridden so that it cannot get a hind leg caught in them, and also so the stirrups do not get stuck on a fence when one is leading a horse.
8. A rider should dismount by sliding down on the right hip facing the head of the horse, and not by facing the saddle. One could get a shirt caught on the saddle horn or scrape the saddle leather with a belt buckle or jeans button.
9. A horse should be fed treats out of a bucket. Feeding by hand can cause a horse to nip at someone, and also teaches the animal to be disrespectful and try to push for treats even when there aren’t any available.
10. If a horse pulls back while it’s tied, one shouldn’t try to stop the animal! One can just move away until the lead rope or halter breaks, or until the horse stops pulling. Then the horse can be untied. (If a horse pulls, campers can merely wrap the lead rope to tie the horse if students have learned to groom and saddle as part of the camp program.)
For videos on horse safety–including how to fit a riding helmet–visit cha-ahse.org/store/pages/212/CHA-Horsemanship-Videos.html, or www.youtube.com/chainstructor.
Christy Landwehr is a Master Instructor for the Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA). She can be reached at email@example.com.