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Archive for the ‘Horse Riding Safety’ Category

You may think that riding during the winter isn’t a good idea – after all, it’s freezing cold with ice, snow and wind… who’d want to go out in that? Your horse would! Those commercials you see with riders charging through snowbanks and snow-covered fields aren’t just “made for TV.” Taking your horse riding during the winter is an excellent way to get your horse some exercise and get you out of the house during those long winter months.

Snow is Best

When you’re horse riding in the winter, it’s best to go out when there is a few inches of snow on the ground. This gives the horse’s hooves some cushion, as opposed to riding over frozen or icy ground (and icy ground should be avoided to prevent falls and other accidents).

Snow also provides the horse a great workout for both its heart and leg muscles. In the winter, you don’t even need to ride your horse at a gallop – a walk or especially a trot will do just as well since your horse will be pulling his legs out of the snow as he goes. Even a nice, long, relaxed walk on a long rein can give him all the exercise he needs.

Some Winter Riding Safety Tips

When riding during the winter, be sure you’re only riding along paths and trails that you know well. If you’re riding in a new area, you risk stepping in or on something that can injure your horse or cause an accident because you are not able to see what is underneath the snow cover.

As we said earlier, it’s best to ride on snow cover only. Avoid riding on ground covered by rain, slush or ice, or plain frozen ground. These don’t lend themselves well to the kind of footing your horse needs during a ride, and can lead to injuries to your horse or an accident.

No jumping your horse outside during the winter months. Even if you’re riding in snow, the ground is still slick enough to not allow for proper footing on landing. The impact from landing on frozen ground or snow can also injure your horse’s legs. Make sure that if you will be doing any jumping during winter months, it is in an arena that allows for proper and appropriate footing.

The winter months are a great time to take your horse for a ride, and can provide a break from the indoors for both you and your horse. Taking the proper precautions and preparation will ensure you have a safe and enjoyable ride.

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Now that the weather is turning much colder for most, attention needs to be turned to taking proper care of your horse in cold weather. While riding is still possible in the winter as horses can handle the cold better than most animals, it’s important to adjust the care you take to keep your horses healthy and warm.

  • One of the most important things to do after a ride is cool down your horse, and it becomes even more important during the winter. However, in cold weather, you want to make sure you are also keeping your horse warm. Use a cooler after riding to prevent your horse from becoming chilled from the cold air while she’s cooling down from the ride, or to keep her muscles from stiffening up.
  • Trim your horse’s hooves more often than during the rest of the year. While out riding or just walking around outside, your horse will be walking on frozen, uneven ground. This can cause stress cracks or even breaks on the hooves. Trimming the hooves can help prevent these from occurring.
  • Put safety pegs on your horse’s shoes in the winter, or ask your blacksmith to do so. Safety pegs are plastic pieces similar to the tread on our winter boots. They will help your horse have better traction and make it easier for her to walk on slick, icy and snowy surfaces.
  • When you’re out riding, make sure you’re always carrying a hoof pick with you to clean snow out of your horse’s hooves. Putting petroleum jelly on the bottom of your horse’s hooves can also help keep snow from packing in her hooves.

Horses do well in the cold, and many prefer to be outside where they can roam rather then penned in inside a barn. Even if you are riding your horse during the winter and providing her with adequate exercise, she still enjoys being outside where she can run and play on her own. But while you are riding, make sure you follow the proper safety tips to enjoy your snowy, winter rides!

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Choosing a riding helmet is much more than finding one that looks cool or is the right color. Making sure you have a properly fitting helmet that is the right shape and size for your head can prevent serious brain injury in the event of a fall. Here is a checklist you can use to make sure you are choosing the right helmet for you:

  • Check the fit of your riding helmet. Make sure the helmet fits snugly all the way around. Wiggle it back and forth and side to side – when it moves, your scalp and eyebrows should move with it. Some helmets are equipped with an adjustable fit system, others have pads to insert inside to customize the fit and allow for growth. If it still slides freely after adjustment, you need a smaller size. If it squeezes your head and is uncomfortable to wear, go up a size and use the adjustments to get the right fit. Try a helmet that is one size smaller and one size bigger, even if the helmet you have on feels okay – you may find one that fits you even better.
  • Check the shape of your riding helmet. If the helmet squeezes your brow but rocks freely side to side, it’s too round for your head. If it fits at the sides but rocks back and forth, it’s too oval. Many helmets come with fitting pads you can slip into the inside hatband to solve these problems. For example, if the helmet is too round, put a pad on each side. Or try a different side that is more or less oval than the one you have on.
  • Check the brim of your riding helmet. The helmet’s brim should rest 1/2” to 1” above your eyebrows. If it sits higher, you’re not getting full protection for your head. If it sits lower, it could block your vision. Most helmets can be adjusted to rest lower or higher, or try a style with a deeper or more shallow crown. Your helmet should sit level and not be tipped up.
  • Check the fit of the chin strap. The chin strap should fit snugly under the chin. If there is a V harness the tip of the V should fit under the ear. Helmets are made to work with a snug harness. You should be able to fit one finger between  your chin and the strap. You should be able to chew comfortably or yawn while wearing the helmet.

Next, we’ll look at some things to look out for when purchasing a new riding helmet. In the meantime, if you need help to find the helmet with the best fit, come in to Hawkeye Tack & Western Wear. We can help you find the helmet that fits you best or check the fit of your current helmet to see if it fits properly.

Photo courtesy of Tank Photography.

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Helmets are essential to horse riding. It is the one thing standing between you and serious injury in the event of a fall off of your horse. Did you know:

  • Horseback riding, along with motorcycle and auto racing, are the activities with the highest risk of head injuries.
  • Falling from as little as two feet can cause permanent brain damage. When you’re riding your horse, you can be elevated from the ground to a height of eight feet or more.
  • When an equestrian rider falls, most of the impact from the fall occurs at the back of the head. Riding helmets are designed to cover that area… bicycle helmets are not. NEVER use a bicycle helmet for horseback riding.
  • Always purchase a riding helmet that is ASTM-SEI certified. If it’s not, it will not protect you in case of a fall.
  • Research has proven time and time again that riding helmets save lives and prevent serious brain injury! Even the most experienced rider should wear one every time they go riding.

Riding helmets come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. The best way to choose a helmet is to find one that fits your head shape, which may require trying on several styles. Let’s look at two ways to ensure you have the correct riding helmet:

  • What size do I wear? Helmet manufacturers size helmets in XS, S, M, L & XL or by your hat size number. To find your approximate hat size, use a tailor’s tape measure and measure the circumference of your head just above your eyebrows. Divide the measurement by 3.14 (pi) and then round to the nearest eighth of an inch. This is your hat size. If the helmet manufacturer uses letter sizing, use the conversion listed on the box. For example, a circumference of 22′ divided by 3.14 equals 7.006, which would round to a size 7.
  • Put your helmet on the right way. Yes, there is a wrong way to wear your helmet! Make sure your helmet is level – the visor should not tip up or down. If you have long hair, tie it back at the nape of your neck. If you shot it under the helmet or don’t tie it back, you’ll get a poor fit. Fasten the harness, making sure it’s comfortably snug. When trying on a new helmet, wear your hair in the same style that you’ll wear for riding.

Tune in next time for a checklist that can help you when you’re choosing your riding helmet!

Photo courtesy of sskennel.

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Last time we looked at horse riding safety, we talked about ensuring the safety of your tack and equipment as well as staying alert at all times while riding (if you haven’t checked it out yet, Part 1 covered basic safety tips, especially for beginners). Today we’re going to look at some safety tips for a very popular horse riding activity: trail riding. By following just a few safety and etiquette rules, you can make sure your trail ride is safe and enjoyable.

  • Never ride alone. Always ride with someone you know is experienced and thoughtful in their riding. You don’t want to ride with someone who is easily distracted along the trail. Instead, you want to make sure those you ride with are focused not just on enjoying the ride, but also on their safety and the group’s safety.
  • Make sure to have your cell phone with you at all times. Carry it somewhere on your body where it will not be easy to lose it or have it slip out and fall to the ground. If you are dumped and the phone is somewhere on the horse when it takes off, it’s of little use to you.
  • Wait until all riders are mounted to move off. You want to be sure your group stays together.
  • If you will be returning after dark, wear reflective clothing and carry a small flashlight. This ensures that others will see you and help you navigate your way back.
  • Horses prone to kicking should wear red ribbon on their tails. Your group’s safety is of the utmost importance, so this is a precaution you will want to take to make sure only experienced riders ride these horses.
  • In larger groups, elect someone who knows the trails as trail boss. The trail boss knows the trails, maintains the pace and is considerate of others when increasing speed.
  • Do not pass the trail boss. You don’t want to run the risk of being left behind, especially if you are unfamiliar with the trails.
  • When riding during hunting season, make lots of noise and wear visible clothing such as a fluorescent vest. Using rhythm beads on your horse is a good way to alert hunters that you are not a deer.
  • A pocket knife and baling twine can be very useful for emergency tack repair. Make sure at least one group member has these in the event of a repair needed.
  • Take a hoof pick. This will come in handy to remove any debris from the horse’s hooves, ensuring a safe ride for you.
  • Do not leave the trail. Holes and unsafe surfaces, sharp objects and hornets nest may exist in unknown areas such as open fields.

Practicing safe riding principles can mean many years of happy, health riding enjoyment for you and your horse

We have several copiers of the Weaver DVD on Ride Safely on the Trial featuring Stacy Westfall at Hawkeye Tack & Western Wear. You can check them out for FREE and watch yourself or show to a group.

Image courtesy of Kissimmee – The Heart of Florida

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horse safety

In our last blog post, we focused on beginning rider safety when you are out for those fall horse rides. Today we’re going to look at a few more safety tips – in particular, tack and equipment safety.

  • Check your tack and equipment regularly. Start with a thorough check of all of your tack and equipment. Then, make it a habit every few weeks to keep looking at all of your equipment and giving your tack a thorough safety check. Look for worn, broken, damaged or missing parts, and be on the lookout for worn leather or fabric and rust. Pay particular attention to fasteners, such as Chicago screws. This is also a great time to make sure that your horse’s bit is fitting properly. Bit fit can change over time as leather expands and contracts. There should not be any space between the bit and the corner of the horse’s mouth, and no more than two creases inside the corner of the mouth. If there are ever any questions about your tack or its condition, you can always check in with the experts at Hawkeye Tack & Western Wear.
  • Stirrup Safety. Not being able to get your foot free during a mishap is a terrifying experience and can result in the rider being dragged and injured. Wearing boots with a good heel helps prevent your feet from slipping in the stirrups. You can use safety stirrups to prevent a mishap from occurring. Peacock stirrups, break away stirrups or tapaderos can keep your foot from slipping through the stirrup. If you’re having trouble mounting your horse, using a mounting block or stirrup extenders, such as Easy Up Stirrup Extenders, can help.
  • Stay Alert. While you’re out on the trail enjoying the beautiful scenery and chatting with your riding buddies, it can be easy to forget that you need to be actively “riding” your horse. Becoming a backseat passenger rather than active rider can be very dangerous and delay your reaction time by critical seconds. Staying alert and attentive, but not tense, the entire time you are riding is important. Be constantly aware of the environment, your riding surface, peripheral vision, distance in relationship to the other riders and the horse’s response to your cues as much as you would (or should) be while driving.

Keeping your tack and equipment in top form and staying alert while you ride are very important in staying safe while out for a ride. Next time, we will cover some safety tips to use when you are trail riding. Until then, if you have any questions or would like to discuss the safety of your tack and equipment with an expert, come visit us at Hawkeye Tack & Western Wear – our experts will make sure your rides are as safe as they can possibly be!

Photo courtesy of The U.S. Army

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Horse Riding

Picture via Flickr courtesy of nsyll

With fall upon us, it’s tempting to try to be outside as much as possible to enjoy the last few days of beautiful weather before winter is upon us. With the cool, crisp air (and the last few warm days that sneak in) and the leaves changing to bright, bold colors, it’s tempting to want to take the horses for rides to see the beautiful scenery. But those rides can only be enjoyed completely and safely when the proper safety steps are taken. Today we tackle some beginning tips for equestrian safety that will help minimize the risks and let you enjoy your fall horse rides:

  • Match the horse to the rider’s ability. When you first start riding horses, it’s best to choose a horse with a calmer, more gentle disposition. A horse with a temper or skittish personality may not react favorably to a rider that is not yet experienced or confident in her abilities. Choosing a horse that is also experienced with riders can help lessen the chances of an accident or unfavorable riding experience. An experienced horse already “knows the ropes” and will be able to react calmly to a newer rider. If when you are riding you feel “over mounted,” you probably are. As your experience grows, which it will as you continue riding, you can tackle the more difficult horses to ride. The best thing to do is consult with a riding instructor on the best horse that fits your skill level.
  • Get professional instruction. Inexperienced riders should always receive lessons from a professional. While riding lessons can be pricey, they are essential and well worth the cost when it comes to riding safety. Some instructors may offer reduced rates for groups of two or more students to lessen the cost. You may also be able to find a riding partner that is at your skill level to lessen the costs and boost your experience.
  • Always wear a helmet. This goes for both experienced and inexperienced riders. The proper helmet to wear is an ASTM/SEI certified equestrian riding helmet that has been fitted specifically for you to wear. A bicycle helmet is not a good choice. Bicycle helmets and equestrian helmets differ in their design and protection. While bicycle helmets tend to have more protection for the front and sides of the head, equestrian helmets have more protection at the back of the head where most horse riding injuries tend to occur. Hawkeye Tack & Western Wear can help you choose the best equestrian helmet for your needs and make sure it is properly fitted for you.

With the proper precautions, the fall rides you take can be both enjoyable and safe. Stay tuned for the next post in our series where we will look at horse tack and equipment safety. Until then, visit our store in person or online at www.hawkeyetack.com.

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